Many people considering joining the United States Marine Corps may be interested in Marine Corps Ranks. This article will discuss marine enlistment ranks and how to become a marine officer. Read this article and take our free ASVAB practice test to prepare for your ASVAB test.
Junior Enlisted, Non-Commissioned Officers, and Staff Non-Commissioned Officers are the three levels of Marine Corps ranks. These levels are subdivided further as follows:
New recruits are given the title of Private after completing basic training. Most people stay at this rankingfor 6 months before being advanced to Private 1st class (promotion is typically automatic).
Private 1st Class (PFC/E-2)
A Private 1st Class can be advanced to Lance Corporal when they have been serving as a Marine for at least 9 months and have been a Private First Class for at least 8 months.
Lance Corporal (LCpl/E-3)
Lance Corporal is the highest Junior Enlisted ranking. So as to become an NCO (E-4 or E-5), Lance Corporals are advanced based on a “composite score” system that seeks to find the most qualified recruits. Recruits are scored based on factors such as duty performance, conduct performance, physical fitness, and rifle marksmanship.
The rank of Corporal is known as a leadership position within the Marines. Corporals, such as Sergeants, are supposed to train, supervise, and discipline their subordinates, as well as maintain property and equipment. To get promoted to Sergeant, the E-4 must have been a Marine for at least 2 years and a Corporal for a year.
The responsibilities of a Sergeant are the same as a Corporal, but a Sergeant is typically responsible for larger numbers of Marines, equipment, and property. To be advanced to a Staff NCO, a Sergeant must be vetted by a centralized NCO staff selection board and have four years serving as a Marine, at least two of which are at the Sergeant level. Recruits must also complete the Professional Military Education course (PME).
Marine Corps Ranks – Staff Non-Commissioned Officers
Staff Sergeant (SSgt/E-6)
Staff Sergeants are typically in charge of platoons of 30 or more Marines. They assist with training and administrative duties and serve as the top tactical advisor to the platoon commander in the wars.
Gunnery Sergeant (GySgt/E-7)
The rank of Gunnery Sergeant only appears in the Marine Corps. In this role, a Marine is supposed to coordinate the weapons and logistics for a company of at least 180 Marines. In the year 2016, the starting pay for a Gunnery Sergeant was around $2600 a month.
First Sergeant (1Sgt/E-8)
A First Sergeant is the senior enlisted advisor to the commander of a unit, such as a company or a platoon. They serve as the “middle man” and advocate between Marines and the commander. Those in this role must display a great deal of integrity, leadership, and professionalism. In 2016, a First Sergeant with eight years of service could expect to earn around $3800 a month.
Master Sergeant (MSgt/E-8)
Master Sergeants are high-ranking Marines who are specialists in an assigned MOS, like logistics or fire control. As such, they are supposed to assist the commander in tactical and administrative duties related to their specialty. Like First Sergeants, in 2016 a beginning Master Sergeant could expect to earn about $3800 a month.
Master Gunnery Sergeant (MGySgt/E-9)
A Master Gunnery Sergeant is the highest technical rank in the Marines. They are specialists in a MOS like aviation or artillery and serve in a leadership role in larger units, such as companies or battalions. The starting salary of a Master Gunnery Sergeant is currently over $4600 a month.
Sergeant Major (SgtMaj/E-9)
Sergeant Major is the highest ranking that is available to non-commissioned officers following a general command path. They are the seniors who enlisted advisors for large Marine Corps units such as companies or battalions, and typically earn a starting salary of around $4600 a month.
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps (SMMC/E-9)
The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps is chosen by the Commandant of the Marine Corps and typically serves four years. In this role, a Marine is considered the Commandant’s right-hand man when it comes to enlisted affairs.
Marine Corps Ranks – Warrant Officers
Warrant Officers are specific assignments that a Marine must apply to, but the fact is it’s a highly competitive field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, only 1% of military personnel are Warrant Officers.
Warrant Officer 1 (W-1)
Enlisted Marines who wish to further their careers in specialized fields must go through an application process, which is considered for Warrant Officer 1 rank. Eligible recruits have a number of years in service as determined by the route of choice (For example, a minimum of 8 years experience as a Sergeant or 16-year as a Gunnery Sergeant for the Machine Gunner program.)
An ideal candidate meets professional and fitness standards, can provide a record of good standing, and gets a score of 110 or more on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Electrical Composite test. Upon acceptance, the recruit must go for 13 weeks of training on Warrant Officer Basic Course before making rank and receiving the first assignment duty.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 (W-2)
Chief Warrant Officer 2 is the second lowest Warrant Officer ranking appointed by the Secretary of the Marine Corps. The W-2 assumes their first duty assignment usually at a Batallion level. Higher-ranking officers have authority, but the W2’s purpose is to lend their expertise at an intermediate level. For example, a special position in Infantry Companies called the “The Gunner” are masters of all weapons in the USMC and train Marines in tactics development and major combat operation.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 (W-3)
Chief Warrant Officer 3 is the third rank in the Chief Warrant Officer chain. Promotion depends on the decision of selection boards and record review opens for eligibility after two years. The W3 fulfills a supervisory and support role in technical and tactical operations. Their expertise is considered advanced at this point and works in a team or brigade.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 (W-4)
Chief Warrant Officer 4 is considered a senior-level expert appointed by the Secretary of the Marine Corps. Mentorship to other junior Warrant Officers is a significant aspect of their role. They also work as a counsel between commanders about WO issues that may arise at a battalion, brigade, division, or corps.
Read more >> Joining the Marines – Enlistment Requirements
Chief Warrant Officer 5 (W-5)
At the rank of Chief Warrant Officer, they are known as experts in their field. They serve as superintendents and commanders at marine bases or installations with a large staff.
Commissioned officers are made up of 3 levels: company-grade officers, field-grade officers, and generals. Obtaining any of the 3 levels requires a “commission” issued officially by the President of the United States.
The second Lieutenant is the lowest officer rank in the USMC. All new O1s attend The Basic School (TBS) in Quantico, TBS involves six months of combat training such as weapons and fire team training, land navigation, practice landings, and ride-in military-grade vehicles. The assignment lasts approximately two years before being eligible for the promotion.
First Lieutenant (O-2)
First Lieutenant is the second-lowest rank amongst Officers in the USMC. At this point, the O2 is established in the Fleet with up to two years of experience and one deployment. They share the same leadership duties as O2 within the Platoon or move onto a Company Executive Officer position (second in command of up to 250 Marines.)
The marine rank is the THIRD officer rank in the USMC and all are trained as leaders to direct tactical fire teams under volatile conditions. They provide exceptional mentorship and guidance to Junior Officers, as well as manage leadership and training for the unit. At some point in the two-year position, a Captain will need to attend advanced school to become a Company Commander, Battalion-level staff Officer, or Platoon Commander of Special Forces.
Major is the fourth rank in the Officer chain and is designated as a Field-Grade Officer. The Maj role requires them to be consistently striving for the best by learning, leading, and mentoring.
Read more >>What Do the Marines Do?
Lieutenant Colonel (O-5)
Lieutenant Colonel is the fifth Officer rank in the USMC. Advancing to the next step is steadfast at this status. Lieutenant Colonels typically assume roles such as Battalion Commanders, Regimental Executive Officers, or Brigade Staff Members.
Colonel is the sixth Officer rank before eligibility to Brigadier General. Colonels have similar duty expectations as an O5 but will lead at higher positions such as Regimental Commanders, Brigade Executive Officers, or Division Staff members.
Brigadier General (O-7)
A Brigadier General holds one star as a General Officer in the USMC. In order to make promotable, an O7 candidate must be screened by a promotion board and nominated by the Defense Secretary and President of the United States. O7s usually, lead as Brigade Commanders or Division Executive Officers, sometimes overseeing up to 20,000 Marines. Currently, Brigadier Generals serve approximately 5 years or 30 years.
Major General (MajGen/O-8)
A Major General is a two-star General Officer and the highest permanent peacetime rank in the USMC. Major Generals may take on leadership roles like Division Commanders or staff Officers at Combatant Commands. O8 can serve up to 5 years or 35 years, whichever comes first, before mandatory retirement or appointment of higher ranks.
Lieutenant General (O-9)
Lieutenant Generals hold a three-star General Officer rank and is a temporary position appointed by the President. They either lead the highest Marine Corps Commands or are deputies of Combatant Commands.
A four-star general is the highest military rank in the USMC. When an O10 begins a tour, they have over 30 years of experience. When a General’s term expires, he or she may choose to retire with four stars if they have served three years of exemplary service.
Marine Corps Ranks – FAQs
What rank do most Marines retire at?
It is reasonable to suppose that the average enlisted member will be capable of retiring at the rank of E-7 after 20 years, while the average officer will be able to retire at the rank of O-5 after 20 years.
What is harder Marine or the Navy?
Understanding the distinctions between the Marine Corps and the Navy can assist you in making the best decision. Even though Marines are highly respected and regarded to be one of the most elite fighting forces, the training for Navy SEALs is much more strict and demanding than that of the Marines.
How long do most Marines serve?
Marines are now stationed all over the world, ready to deploy whenever and wherever they are needed. The total length of service commitment ranges from four to six years.
Can you make sergeant in 4 years in the Marines?
It takes at least 24 months in the service and 12 months as an E4- to advance to sergeant (E-5). In practice, most individuals spend far more time than the minimum amount of time to reach these levels. A typical Marine Corps sergeant has between five and eight years of service.
You now have a firm grasp on the Marine Corps Ranks. Take the free Marine MarineASVAB practice test 2023 now to make your dreams a reality!