April 11, 2018

Military Ranks in Order

Military ranks for military members are based on their experience and the number of years they’ve been enlisted. These ranks affect their earnings and the benefits they receive. It also affects the medals and ribbons, as well as the authority and responsibility you have.

Though rankings are similar, the various branches of the military do have differences. For instance, Members of the armed forces who are lieutenants don’t outrank officers, but lieutenants in the Navy are the same rank as a Captain in the Army. It’s possible for petty officers, chiefs, sergeants, and petty officers be at the same pay grade and rank, but have different medals and ribbons if they are in different branches of the service. The Coast Guard and Navy don’t even use the term rank and instead call it a rate. The term “military occupational specialty” or MOS is also used to denote the responsibilities of a given member.

In general, military ranks are divided into three general categories.

Enlisted members enter the military with little to no experience and move up the ranks with experience and time. They are trained to perform a specific duty. Enlisted members who have reached a certain grade might receive a rank called “non-commissioned officer” or NCO. In the Navy and Coast Guard, NCOs are called petty officers, while in the Marines those who reach a rank of E-4 are NCOs, which is the rank of corporal.

Warrant officers are highly trained in a technical field and are in every branch of the service except for the Air Force. Warrant officers remain in their specialty once they are in it and are able to provide instruction and education to other service members.

Commissioned officers are the highest ranking military members. They might focus on a specialized area like a warrant officer or move up through the ranks like an enlisted member. In some cases, commissioned officers must earn their bachelor’s degree or even master’s degree to achieve their rank.

How Military Ranks Affects Earnings

A military member’s rank affects their pay grade. This means the higher a member rises in the ranks or the more specialized they are in a given field, the more they earn. The base pay for military members across all branches receive the same base pay based on rank and the length of time they’ve been enlisted.

For example, an airman basic in the Air Force—the lowest of all the ranks—is an E-1 (E for enlisted) grade and receives the same pay as someone who is in the Army and is in the E-1 category. In the army, this person would be called a private. The lowest ranking officer would be a pay grade of O-1. Warrant officers fall into a pay grade categorized with a W.

As you might expect, the higher the number in the pay grade the higher the salary. So, for instance, someone who is ranked E-4 earns more than someone who is an E-1.

Rank in the military does not affect other benefits, including the time off you receive or the health benefits you receive. Everyone receives the same number of days off per year and the same medical and other benefits, regardless of the time they’ve served or the rank they’ve achieved.

Specific Ranks and Names in the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, and Air Force

Marine Corps

marine corps image

Enlisted rankings include:

  • Private E-1
  • Private First Class E-2
  • Lance Corporal E-3
  • Corporal E-4
  • Sergeant E-5
  • Staff Sergeant E-6
  • Gunnery Sergeant E-7
  • Master Sergeant E-8
  • First Sergeant E-8
  • Master Gunnery Sergeant E-9
  • Sergeant Major E-9
  • Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps E-9

Warrant officer rankings include:

  • Warrant Officer W-1
  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 W-2
  • Chief Warrant Officer 3 W-3
  • Chief Warrant Officer 4 W-4
  • Chief Warrant Officer 5 W-5

Officer rankings include:

  • 2nd Lieutenant O-1
  • 1st Lieutenant O-2
  • Captain O-3
  • Major O-4
  • Lieutenant Colonel O-5
  • Colonel O-6
  • Brigadier General O-7
  • Major General O-8
  • Lieutenant General O-9
  • General O-10
  • Commandant of the Marine Corps O-10

US Air Force Enlisted Ranks

us air force image

Enlisted rankings include:

  • Airman Basic E-1
  • Airman E-2
  • Airman First Class E-3
  • Senior Airman E-4
  • Staff Sergeant E-5
  • Technical Sergeant E-6
  • Master Sergeant E-7
  • First Sergeant E-7
  • Senior Master Sergeant E-8
  • Chief Master Sergeant E-9
  • Command Chief Master Sergeant E-9
  • Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force E-9

Officer rankings include:

  • 2nd Lieutenant O-1
  • 1st Lieutenant O-2
  • Captain O-3
  • Major O-4
  • Lieutenant Colonel O-5
  • Colonel 0-6
  • Brigadier General O-7
  • Major General O-8
  • Lieutenant General O-9
  • General 0-10

US Army

us army image

Enlisted rankings include:

  • E-1 Private
  • E-2 Private
  • E-3 Private First Class
  • E-4 Specialist Four
  • E-4 Corporal - Junior NCO
  • E-5 Sergeant - NCO
  • E-6 Staff Sergeant - NCO
  • E-7 Sergeant First Class - NCO
  • E-8 Master Sergeant - NCO
  • E-8 First Sergeant - NCO
  • E-9 Sergeant Major - NCO
  • E-9 Command Sergeant Major - NCO
  • E-9 Sergeant Major of the Army - NCO

Warrant officer rankings include:

  • W1 - Warrant Officer
  • W2 - Chief Warrant Officer One
  • W3 - Chief Warrant Officer Two
  • W4 - Chief Warrant Officer Three
  • W5 - Master Warrant Officer

Officer rankings include:

  • O-1 - 2nd Lieutenant
  • O-2 - 1st Lieutenant
  • O-3 - Captain
  • O-4 - Major
  • O-5 - Lt. Colonel
  • O-6 - Colonel
  • O-7 - Brigadier General
  • O-8 - Major General
  • O-9 - Lt. General
  • O-10 - General
  • O-10 - General of the Army


us navy submarine image

Enlisted rankings include:

  • Seaman Recruit E-1
  • Seaman Apprentice E-2
  • Seaman E-3
  • Petty Officer Third Class E-4
  • Petty Officer Second Class E-5
  • Petty Officer First Class E-6
  • Chief Petty Officer E-7
  • Senior Chief Petty Officer E-8
  • Master Chief Petty Officer E-9
  • Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy E-9

Warrant officer rankings include:

  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 W-2
  • Chief Warrant Officer 3 W-3
  • Chief Warrant Officer 4 W-4
  • Chief Warrant Officer 5 W-5

Officer rankings include:

  • Midshipman (Cadet Rank - Annapolis)
  • Ensign O-1
  • Lieutenant Junior Grade O-2
  • Lieutenant O-3
  • Lieutenant Commander O-4
  • Commander O-5
  • Captain O-6
  • Rear Admiral Lower Half O-7 (Formerly Commodore)
  • Rear Admiral Upper Half O-8
  • Vice Admiral O-9
  • Admiral - Chief of Naval Operations O-10
  • Fleet Admiral (Wartime commission)

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