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Military Officer Advancement

Are you interested in a military career? How do officers advance through the ranks?

Officers can progress through 10 pay grades. As an officer in the pay grade of O-1, you would advance by the action of your local commander. Commanders ensure that all necessary qualifications are being completed and that officers have spent the required time in grade.

Officers are continually evaluated by senior officers. Individual performance is compared with the performance of all other officers in similar pay grades. A selection board thoroughly examines career performance to select only the best qualified officers for promotion.

Factors for promotion include:

  • Career-long performance of job duties, leadership, and management
  • Pursuit of, and success in, positions of increasing responsibility
  • Successful completion of required qualifications and professional military education
  • Appearance and behavior

Officers: Rank and Pay Grade by Service

Pay Grade Air Force Army Coast Guard Marine Corps Navy
O-10 General General Admiral General Admiral
O-9 Lieutenant General Lieutenant General Vice Admiral Lieutenant General Vice Admiral
O-8 Major General Major General
(Upper Hand)
Rear Admiral Major General
(Upper Hand)
Read Admiral
O-7 Brigadier General Brigadier General
(Lower Hand)
Rear Admiral Brigadier General
(Lower Hand)
Rear Admiral
O-6 Colonel Colonel Captain Colonel Captain
O-5 Lieutenant Colonel Lieutenant Colonel Commander Lieutenant Colonel Commander
O-4 Major Major Lieutenant Commander Lieutenant Colonel Lieutenant Commander
O-3 Captain Captain Lieutenant Captain Lieutenant
O-2 First Lieutenant First Lieutenant Lieutenant Junior Grade First Lieutenant Lieutenant Junior Grade
O-1 Second Lieutenant Second Lieutenant Ensign Second Lieutenant Ensign

Source: Today's Military online guide of the U.S. Department of Defense.