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How Many Military Ranks Do You Know?

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One of the first things you discover in basic training is the different ranks you can achieve as a service member. At a basic level, this system tells you who you need to be saluting (and who should salute you), which can come in handy when you’re just learning the ropes of military life. 

Your rank signifies not only your experience level, but your status as an enlisted service member or officer. The higher your rank, the more likely you’ve been in for multiple years and possess the leadership qualities and work ethic needed to advance in your branch of service. The lower your rank, the more likely you’re still pretty new at the whole military thing and eager to climb the ladder. 

Military ranks are different for each branch of service — the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force. This can make it confusing for new recruits or civilian family members who are just trying to get their titles straight. 

For simplicity’s sake, here’s a compiled list of military ranks for each of the five branches. See how many you already know! 

 

List of Military Ranks

Army Ranks

In the Army, you can serve as an enlisted member, warrant officer, or officer — the difference is usually your level of college education or expertise. As such, there are three different systems of ranks you can achieve. You can also start off as an enlisted member and later go to Officer Candidate School (OCS) to qualify as an officer, or similarly meet qualifications to become a warrant officer

Enlisted ranks: 

  • E-1 / Private / PVT
  • E-2 / Private Second Class / PV2
  • E-3 / Private First Class / PFC
  • E-4 / Specialist / SPC
  • E-5 / Sergeant / SGT
  • E-6 / Staff Sergeant / SSG
  • E-7 / Sergeant First Class / SFC
  • E-8 / Master Sergeant / MSG
  • E-8 / First Sergeant / 1SG
  • E-9 / Sergeant Major / SGM
  • E-9 / Command Sergeant Major / CSM
  • E-9 Special / Sergeant Major of the Army / SMA

Warrant officer ranks: 

  • W-1 / Warrant Officer / WO1
  • W-2 / Chief Warrant Officer 2 / CW2
  • W-3 / Chief Warrant Officer 3 / CW3
  • W-4 / Chief Warrant Officer 4 / CW4
  • W-5 / Chief Warrant Officer 5 / CW5

Officer ranks: 

  • O-1 / Second Lieutenant / 2LT
  • O-2 / First Lieutenant / 1LT
  • O-3 / Captain / CPT
  • O-4 / Major / MAJ
  • O-5 / Lieutenant Colonel / LTC
  • O-6 / Colonel / COL
  • O-7 / Brigadier General / BG (One-Star General)
  • O-8 / Major General / MG (Two-Star General)
  • O-9 / Lieutenant General / LTG (Three-Star General)
  • O-10 / General / GEN (Four-Star General)
  • Special / General of the Army / GA (Five-Star General) 

Navy Ranks

Like the Army, the Navy has three different rank systems: for enlisted members, warrant officers, and officers. The rank you achieve depends on whether you’re enlisted or commissioned as an officer or warrant officer — which you can do by entering the military after college or enlisting and then meeting qualifying standards later on. 

Enlisted ranks:

  • E-1 / Seaman Recruit / SR
  • E-2 / Seaman Apprentice / SA
  • E-3 / Seaman / SN
  • E-4 / Petty Officer Third Class / PO3
  • E-5 / Petty Officer Second Class / PO2
  • E-6 / Petty Officer First Class / PO1
  • E-7 / Chief Petty Officer / CPO
  • E-8 / Senior Chief Petty Officer / SCPO
  • E-9 / Master Chief Petty Officer / MCPO 
  • E-9 / Fleet/Commander Master Chief Petty Officer
  • E-9 Special / Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy / MCPON

Warrant officer ranks:

  • W-2 / Chief Warrant Officer 2 / CWO2
  • W-3 / Chief Warrant Officer 3 / CWO3
  • W-4 / Chief Warrant Officer 4 / CWO4
  • W-5 / Chief Warrant Officer 5 / CWO5

Officer ranks:

  • O-1 / Ensign / ENS
  • O-2 / Lieutenant Junior Grade / LTJG
  • O-3 / Lieutenant / LT
  • O-4 / Lieutenant Commander / LCDR
  • O-5 / Commander / CDR
  • O-6 / Captain / CAPT
  • O-7 / Rear Admiral (Lower Half) / RDML
  • O-8 / Rear Admiral (Upper Half) / RADM
  • O-9 / Vice Admiral / VADM
  • O-10 / Admiral Chief of Naval Operations/Commandant of the Coast Guard / ADM
  • O-11 Special / Fleet Admiral (FADM) 

Marine Corps Ranks

Like the Army and Navy, the list of military ranks in the Marine Corps is split into three: for enlisted members, warrant officers, and officers. There are many more enlisted Marines than officers, and to become either an officer or warrant officer you either need to commission directly into the Marines with a college degree, or enlist and meet qualifying standards down the line. 

Enlisted ranks:

  • E-1 / Private / Pvt 
  • E-2 / Private First Class / PFC
  • E-3 / Lance Corporal / LCpL
  • E-4 / Corporal / Cpl
  • E-5 / Sergeant / Sgt
  • E-6 / Staff Sergeant / SSgt 
  • E-7 / Gunnery Sergeant / GySgt
  • E-8 / Master Sergeant / MSgt
  • E-8 / First Sergeant / 1stSgt
  • E-9 / Master Gunnery Sergeant / MGySgt
  • E-9 / Sergeant Major / SgtMaj
  • E-9 Special / Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps / SgtMaj MarCor

Warrant officer ranks:

  • W-1 / Warrant Officer / WO
  • W-2 / Chief Warrant Officer 2 / CWO2 
  • W-3 / Chief Warrant Officer 3 / CWO3
  • W-4 / Chief Warrant Officer 4 / CWO4
  • W-5 / Chief Warrant Officer 5 / CWO5

Officer ranks:

  • O-1 / Second Lieutenant / 2ndLt
  • O-2 / First Lieutenant / 1stLt
  • O-3 / Captain / Capt
  • O-4 / Major / Maj
  • O-5 / Lieutenant Colonel / LtCol
  • O-6 / Colonel / Col 
  • O-7 / Brigadier General / BGen (One-Star General)
  • O-8 / Major General / MajGen (Two-Star General)
  • O-9 / Lieutenant General / LtGen (Three-Star General)
  • O-10 / General / Gen (Four-Star General)

Coast Guard Ranks

You’ll notice the Coast Guard’s list of military ranks is very similar to the Navy’s. Positions in the Coast Guard and the Navy are very much parallel to each other, except the Coast Guard mostly takes care of duties on the homefront, is much smaller than the Navy, and operates under the Department of Homeland Security. 

Enlisted ranks:

  • E-1 / Seaman Recruit / SR
  • E-2 / Seaman Apprentice / SA
  • E-2 / Fireman Apprentice / FA
  • E-2 / Airman Apprentice / AA
  • E-3 / Seaman / SN
  • E-3 / Fireman / FN
  • E-3 / Airman / AN
  • E-4 / Petty Officer Third Class / PO3
  • E-5 / Petty Officer Second Class / PO2
  • E-6 / Petty Officer First Class / PO1
  • E-7 / Chief Petty Officer / CPO
  • E-8 / Senior Chief Petty Officer / SCPO
  • E-9 / Master Chief Petty Officer / MCPO
  • E-9 / Command Master Chief Petty Officer / CMC
  • E-9 / Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard / MCPOCG

Warrant officer ranks:

  • W-2 / Chief Warrant Officer 2 / CWO2
  • W-3 / Chief Warrant Officer 3 / CWO3
  • W-4 / Chief Warrant Officer 4 / CWO4
  • W-5 / Chief Warrant Officer 5 / CWO5

Officer ranks:

  • O-1 / Ensign / ENS
  • O-2 / Lieutenant Junior Grade / LTJG
  • O-3 / Lieutenant / LT
  • O-4 / Lieutenant Commander / LCDR
  • O-5 / Commander / CDR
  • O-6 / Captain / CAPT
  • O-7 / Rear Admiral (Lower Half) / RDML
  • O-8 / Rear Admiral (Upper Half) / RADM
  • O-9 / Vice Admiral (VADM)
  • O-10 / Admiral Chief of Naval Operations/Commandant of the Coast Guard / ADM

Air Force Ranks 

The Air Force ranking structure stands out the most from the other branches, as it doesn’t include warrant officers. It does include enlisted and officer ranks, in order of least- to most-accomplished. 

Enlisted ranks:

  • E-1 / Airman Basic / AB
  • E-2 / Airman / Amn
  • E-3 / Airman First Class / A1C
  • E-4 / Senior Airman / SrA
  • E-5 / Staff Sergeant / SSgt
  • E-6 / Technical Sergeant / TSgt
  • E-7 / Master Sergeant / MSgt 
  • E-7 / Master Sergeant (with Diamond) / MSgt
  • E-8 / Senior Master Sergeant / SMSgt
  • E-8 / Senior Master Sergeant (with Diamond) / SMSgt
  • E-9 / Chief Master Sergeant / CMSgt
  • E-9 / Chief Master Sergeant (with Diamond) / CMSgt
  • E-9 / Command Chief Master Sergeant / CCM
  • E-9 Special / Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force / CMSAF

Officer ranks:

  • O-1 / Second Lieutenant / 2d Lt
  • O-2 / First Lieutenant / 1st Lt
  • O-3 / Captain / Capt 
  • O-4 / Major / Maj 
  • O-5 / Lieutenant Colonel / Lt Col
  • O-6 / Colonel / Col 
  • O-7 / Brigadier General / Brig Gen (One-Star General)
  • O-8 / Major General / Maj Gen (Two-Star General)
  • O-9 / Lieutenant General / Lt Gen (Three-Star General)
  • O-10 / General Air Force Chief of Staff / Gen (Four-Star General)
  • Special / General of the Air Force / GAF (Five-Star General)

So, there you have it — the full list of military ranks. How many did you know? 

 

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