Army Enlisted Ranks and Promotions

The Army is the largest military service which translates to a higher demand for soldiers at all levels and an increased need for Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs). For those not familiar with the Army promotion system, you may first want to learn about TIS and TIG as well as the difference between primary and secondary zone promotion consideration.


Army Enlisted Ranks and Promotion Requirements

Paygrade E-1
No Rank Insignia
Private (PVT)

PVT Rank Description: The lowest rank in the Army is Private with the paygrade of E-1. Privates do not have rank insignia to be worn on the military uniform. It is the initial starting rank for those attending basic combat training (BCT) unless the soldier has prior college education or military training.

PVT Promotion Requirements: No TIS or TIG requirements are needed for this rank.


Paygrade E-2
Army PV2 Rank
Private (PV2)

PV2 Rank Description: The PV2 rank is a step up from Private (paygrade E-1) but is still addressed as Private (not Private Second Class). Completing the Delayed Entry Program (recently renamed Future Soldiers Program) can allow a soldier to start their military service with this rank, bypassing Private E-1. Prior military training or college credit can also allow a soldier to enter service as a PV2.

PV2 Promotion Requirements: Automatic promotion with 6 months TIS or 4 months TIS with a waiver. Advanced Enlistment as an E-2 possible.


Paygrade E-3
Army Private First Class Rank Insignia
Private First Class (PFC)

PFC Rank Description: For soldiers entering the Army as a Private E-1, the rank of Private First Class is usually earned at your first duty station after completing basic combat training and advanced individual training. Some outlier military occupational specialties can have training that lasts over a year however, especially if it involves the Defense Language Institute (DLI). Prior military training or college credit can allow a soldier to join the Army immediately with the rank of Private First Class.

PFC Promotion Requirements: Automatic promotion with 12 months TIS and 4 months TIG. With waiver, Six months TIS and two months TIG. Advanced Enlistment as an E-3 possible.


Paygrade E-4
Army Specialist Rank Insignia
Specialist (SPC)

Army Corporal Rank Insignia
Corporal (CPL)
SPC Rank Description: After getting promoted to Specialist, the soldier may increasingly be called upon to manage lower ranked soldiers and take on more responsibility. Those with a four year college degree can enter the Army immediately as a Specialist. See Advanced Enlistment Opportunities.

CPL Rank Description: The rank of Corporal was established in 1775 with the birth of the United States Army and is one of only two ranks (along with Sergeant) to never disappear from the Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Corps. Although not as common today, the Corporal still fills the role as a leader of a small team and is responsible for his team's training, personal appearance, and cleanliness. Serves as the base of the NCO ranks and receives a Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report (NCOER).

SPC Promotion Requirements: Automatic promotion with 24 months TIS and 6 months TIG. With waiver, 18 Months TIS and 3 months TIG.

CPL Promotion Requirements: For advancement to Corporal most units require the soldier to hold a leadership position, such as a team leader. A promotion to Corporal can occur directly from Private First Class to Corporal or laterally for Specialists.


Paygrade E-5
Army Sergeant Rank Insignia
Sergeant (SGT)

SGT Rank Description: The rank of Sergeant is a significant increase in responsibility in which a soldier is usually placed in a leadership position such as team or squad leader. A Sergeant will often be assigned soldiers that he or she is directly responsible for and must counsel periodically on DA Form 4856. Training, cleanliness, personal appearance, and accountability of subordinates are the Sergeant's responsibility and reflects on the Sergeant's leadership ability.

SGT Promotion Requirements: Primary Zone — Board appearance at 34 months TIS and six months TIG as an E-4. Earliest Promotion can occur is at 36 months TIS with at least eight months TIG.
Requirements for Secondary Zone — Board Appearance at 16 months TIS and four months TIG. Earliest Promotion can occur is at 18 months TIS with six months TIG.


Paygrade E-6
Army Staff Sergeant Rank Insignia
Staff Sergeant (SSG)

SSG Rank Description: The rank of Staff Sergeant is associated with an increasing level of leadership and responsibility, often being assigned as a Squad and/or Section leader. The Staff Sergeant serves as a mentor for new Sergeants and is expected to be more experienced and able to lead soldiers more effectively than newly promoted NCOs. Often, the Staff Sergeant is directly responsible for Privates, Specialists, and lower ranked NCOs. The Staff Sergeant must conduct periodic Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Reports (NCOERs) for subordinate NCOs and mentor them for success. As with any leadership rank, the accountability, appearance, and training of subordinates reflects on the Staff Sergeant's leadership ability and may be disciplined for the misconduct of subordinates if their leadership is found to be lacking.

SSG Promotion Requirements: Primary Zone — Board appearance at 72 months TIS and eight months TIG. Earliest Promotion can occur is at 72 months TIS with 10 months TIG.
Requirements for Secondary Zone — Board appearance at 46 months TIS with five months TIG. Promotion can occur at 48 months TIS with seven months TIG at the earliest.


Paygrade E-7
Army Sergeant First Class Rank Insignia
Sergeant First Class (SFC)

SFC Rank Description: The rank of Sergeant First Class is often assigned as a platoon sergeant who assists the platoon leader and leads the platoon in their absence. Also commonly assigned as a section Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC). Usually placed in charge of Staff Sergeants and Sergeants and often must delegate authority to complete the mission by assigning authority to lower ranked NCOs. Often directs subordinate NCOs to be in charge of Privates and Specialists and conduct periodic counselings of their assigned soldiers while the SFC counsels the NCO. A Sergeant First Class is the first NCO rank to be considered a senior NCO.

SFC Promotion Requirements: Primary Zone consideration starts to occur at around 35 months TIG as an E-6.
Requirements for Secondary Zone — varies based on the needs of the Army but for 2010 required a minimum of 23 months TIG as an E-6. The Sergeant First Class board memorandum of instruction (MOI) has not been released for 2011 as of early September. Last year's board occurred in February.


Paygrade E-8
Army Master Sergeant Rank Insignia
Master Sergeant (MSG)

Army First Sergeant Rank Insignia
First Sergeant (1SG)

MSG Rank Description: The Master Sergeant serves as a principle staff NCO at the battalion and higher levels. Although not assigned with the same amount of leadership responsibility as the First Sergeant, the Master Sergeant still effectively leads soldiers directly under his charge. It is still appropriate to address a Master Sergeant as "Sergeant" when speaking to them although some may prefer to be addressed as "Master Sergeant."

1SG Rank Description: The First Sergeant is an integral part of a successfully functioning company level unit. They are charged with holding formations, directing the platoon sergeants, and advising the commander of the company. They also assist in the training of all enlisted soldiers. When speaking to a First Sergeant, address them as "First Sergeant."

MSG Promotion Requirements: Primary Zone consideration starts at around 41 months.
Requirements for Secondary Zone —varies based on the needs of the Army but usually requires 30 months TIG as a minimum for consideration.

1SG Promotion Requirements: In addition to the required TIS and TIG for the Master Sergeant, the First Sergeant must be filling a slotted role as First Sergeant of a unit.


Paygrade E-9
Army Sergeant Major Rank Insignia
Sergeant Major (SGM)

Army Command Sergeant Major Rank Insignia
Command Sergeant Major (CSM)

SGM Rank Description: The Sergeant Major and Command Sergeant Major distinction is similar to MSG vs. 1SG. The Sergeant Major is the principle staff NCO at levels higher than the battalion. Although given less leadership responsibility than a CSM, a Sergeant Major still exercises leadership for those placed directly under their charge.

CSM Rank Description: The Command Sergeant Major advises the unit commander and gives recommendations when appropriate. A CSM also ensures policies and standards are being met, such as for training, appearance, performance, and the conduct of enlisted soldiers.

SGM Promotion Requirements: Must have 10 years TIS minimum.
Primary Zone consideration usually starts at 34 months TIG.
Requirements for Secondary Zone —varies based on the needs of the Army but usually requires 24 months TIG minimum for consideration.

CSM Promotion Requirements: In addition to the required TIS and TIG for the Sergeant Major, a Command Sergeant Major must be filling a slotted CSM position in a battalion or high level unit.


Paygrade E-9
Army Sergeant Major of the Army Rank Insignia
Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA)

SMA Rank Description: Sergeant Major of the Army is held by a single person at all times. The current Sergeant Major of the Army, sworn in on March 1st, 2011, is Raymond F. Chandler III. The Sergeant Major of the Army is the top enlisted rank charged with overseeing all Noncommissioned Officers and serves as the senior enlisted advisor and consultant for the Chief of Staff of the Army (4 Star General position).






Time in Service / Time in Grade

Army promotions are controlled by time in service (TIS) and time in grade (TIG). Time in service is the total accumulated military service of the soldier and time in grade is the amount of service in their current paygrade. TIG and TIS is used in the table above to describe promotion criteria. Note that TIS and TIG are the base requirements. Variations within the Army start to occur for promotions to E-5 and up as the soldier's military occupational specialty (MOS) will start to control promotion potential based on NCO positions that need to be filled for that specific MOS but can never be below base TIS/TIG requirements (waivers are possible but have limits as well).






Difference between Primary Zone and Secondary Zone Promotions

For promotion to E-5 and above, there is no longer automatic promotion. The only exception is for promotion to E-5 for Star MOSs (those military occupational specialties that lack enough promotable E-4s to fill the E-5 manning requirements). Excluding Star MOSs, promotion to E-5 through E-9 involves a board process. The Primary Zone is the regular timeline in which a soldier can be considered for promotion at a promotion board. For soldiers without a history of misconduct or poor duty performance, they should not be denied the opportunity to appear before the promotion board if they qualify for Primary Zone consideration in most cases. Secondary Zone consideration is reserved for exceptional soldiers that stand out and are deemed worthy of being considered for promotion at an earlier timeframe than most soldiers. However, the recent demand for Army NCOs has often meant that a greater proportion of soldiers are allowed to be considered for promotion under the secondary zone.




Article Last Modified: March 10, 2011

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