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What Are the US Army Ranks from Lowest to the Highest?

About the US Army

The United States Army is one of the most prestigious military organizations in the world with 470,519 workforce as of October 2022, according to the occupational outlook handbook of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The US Army is highly respected for its professionalism, discipline, and dedication to service in defending the United States and its interests around the globe.

In this article, we take a look at the US Army from the highest to the lowest rank, and what it takes to be promoted from a lower US Army rank to a higher rank.

What are the ranks in the US Army from the lowest to the highest?

United States of America

To have a clear understanding of the ranks in the US Army, it is very important to divide the ranks into two major categories:

  1. Enlisted ranks
  2. Commissioned officer ranks

What are the enlisted ranks in the US Army?

There are 13 enlisted ranks in the United States Army. The ranks are held by soldiers who have not been commissioned as officers.

In terms of workforce, enlisted soldiers make up the majority of the US Army, and they are responsible for carrying out the day-to-day tasks and missions of the Army.

The 13 enlisted ranks in the US Army are as follows, from lowest to highest:

  1. Private (PV1)
  2. Private (PV2)
  3. Private First Class (PFC)
  4. Specialist (SPC)
  5. Corporal (CPL)
  6. Sergeant (SGT)
  7. Staff Sergeant (SSG)
  8. Sergeant First Class (SFC)
  9. Master Sergeant (MSG)
  10. First Sergeant (1SG)
  11. Sergeant Major (SGM)
  12. Command Sergeant Major (CSM)
  13. Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA)

What are Commissioned officer ranks in the U.S. Army?

There are 11 commissioned officer ranks in the US Army and are the ranks held by officers who have been commissioned through a military academy, Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), or Officer Candidate School (OCS).

Commissioned officers are responsible for leading and training a team of soldiers, and they often serve as the primary officer in their unit.

The 11 commissioned officer ranks in the US Army are as follows, from lowest to highest:

  1. Second Lieutenant (2LT)
  2. First Lieutenant (1LT)
  3. Captain (CPT)
  4. Major (MAJ)
  5. Lieutenant Colonel (LTC)
  6. Colonel (COL)
  7. Brigadier General (BG)
  8. Major General (MG)
  9. Lieutenant General (LTG)
  10. General (GEN)
  11. General of the Army (GA)

Note that these ranks apply to the Army, and the ranks in other branches of the military (such as the Navy, Air Force, and Marines) may be slightly different.

Insignia of the U.S. Army

How do you distinguish the ranks of the U.S. Army? Below are the signs to differentiate between one rank from the other.

Private (PVT)

Private (PVT) is the lowest rank in the United States Army. Privates are typically responsible for performing a variety of tasks as directed by their superiors.

These tasks may include setting up and maintaining equipment, handling and transporting supplies, and assisting with various administrative and logistical tasks.

In order to be promoted to the next rank, Privates must demonstrate the ability to follow orders and complete tasks to the satisfaction of their superiors, as well as display good conduct and a commitment to the Army.

Private Second Class (PV2)

Private Second Class (PV2) is one step above Private (PVT) and one step below Private First Class (PFC).

Private (PV2) insignia
Photo credit: U.S. Army

In order to be promoted to the rank of Private First Class (PFC), soldiers must demonstrate a level of proficiency in their MOS and a willingness to take on additional responsibilities.

Private First Class (PFC)

Private First Class (PFC) is one step above Private Second Class (PV2) and one step below Specialist (SPC).

Private First Class (PFC) insignia

Soldiers who hold the rank of Private First Class (PFC) have typically completed basic training and have some experience in their military occupational specialty (MOS).

In order to be promoted to the rank of Specialist (SPC), soldiers must demonstrate a high level of proficiency in their MOS and the ability to take on additional responsibilities.

Specialist (SPC)

Specialist (SPC) is one step above Private First Class (PFC) and one step below Corporal (CPL).

Specialist (SPC) insignia

In order to be promoted from SPC to the rank of Corporal (CPL), soldiers must demonstrate a high level of proficiency in their MOS and the ability to take on additional responsibilities.

Corporal (CPL)

Corporal (CPL) is one step above Specialist (SPC) and one step below Sergeant (SGT).

Corporal (CPL) sign

Corporals may also be responsible for maintaining equipment and supplies and assisting with administrative and logistical tasks.

Sergeant (SGT)

In the United States Army, a sergeant is a non-commissioned officer (NCO) ranking above a corporal and below a staff sergeant.

Sergeant (SGT) sign

The rank of sergeant is typically held by a team leader or squad leader in a company-sized unit, such as a platoon.

Sergeants are responsible for training, counselling, and leading a team of soldiers, and they often serve as the primary NCO in their unit.

Staff Sergeant (SSG)

A Staff Sergeant (SSG) is a non-commissioned officer (NCO) ranking above a sergeant and below a sergeant first class.

The rank of Staff Sergeant is typically held by a team leader or section leader in a company-sized unit, such as a platoon.

Staff Sergeant (SSG) sign

Staff Sergeants are responsible for training, counseling, and leading a team of soldiers, and they often serve as the primary NCO in their unit.

Sergeant First Class (SFC)

A Sergeant First Class (SFC) is a non-commissioned officer (NCO) ranking above a Staff Sergeant and below a Master Sergeant.

Sergeant First Class (SFC) sign

Sergeants First Class play a critical role in the Army, as they are responsible for the training and development of junior soldiers, and they serve as the primary link between the junior enlisted ranks and the commissioned officers.

Master Sergeant (MSG)

A Master Sergeant (MSG) is a non-commissioned officer (NCO) ranking above a Sergeant First Class and below a First Sergeant.

Master Sergeant (MSG) rank sign

They are also responsible for the maintenance and accountability of equipment, and they may be called upon to perform additional duties, such as acting as a platoon sergeant in the absence of a higher-ranking NCO.

First Sergeant (1SG)

First Sergeant (1SG) insignia

A First Sergeant (1SG) is a non-commissioned officer (NCO) ranking above a Master Sergeant and below a Sergeant Major.

Sergeant Major (SGM)

A Sergeant Major (SGM) is a non-commissioned officer (NCO) ranking above a First Sergeant and below a Command Sergeant Major.

Sergeant Major (SGM) insignia

Sergeant Majors play a critical role in the Army, as they are responsible for the training and development of junior soldiers.

Command Sergeant Major (CSM)

Command Sergeant Major (CSM) insignia

A Command Sergeant Major (CSM) is a non-commissioned officer (NCO) ranking above a Sergeant Major and serving as the senior enlisted advisor to a commander.

Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA)

The Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) is the highest-ranking non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the enlisted rank category.

Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) sign

SMA serves as the senior enlisted advisor to the Chief of Staff of the Army. The SMA is responsible for representing the concerns and interests of all enlisted soldiers to the highest levels of Army leadership, and for advising the Chief of Staff on matters related to the welfare, discipline, and training of enlisted soldiers.

The SMA is a highly respected and influential figure within the Army, and serves as a role model and mentor for all enlisted soldiers.

The SMA is appointed by the Chief of Staff of the Army and serves a four-year term.

Second Lieutenant (2LT)

Second Lieutenant (2LT) sign

First Lieutenant (1LT)

First Lieutenant (1LT)

Captain (CPT)

Captain (CPT)sign

Major (MAJ)

Major (MAJ) logo

Lieutenant Colonel (LTC)

Lieutenant Colonel (LTC)

Colonel (COL)

Colonel (COL) logo

Brigadier General (BG)

Brigadier General (BG) sign

Major General (MG)

Major General (MG) sign

Lieutenant General (LTG)

Lieutenant General (LTG)

General (GEN) 

General (GEN) insignia

To be eligible for promotion, an officer or enlisted soldier must meet the following criteria:

Time in service:

To be eligible for promotion, an officer or enlisted soldier must have served a minimum amount of time in their current rank.

The specific time requirements vary depending on the rank and the branch of service, but generally, the longer an officer or enlisted soldier has served in their current rank, the more likely they are to be considered for promotion.

Performance: To be eligible for promotion, an officer or enlisted soldier must have demonstrated exceptional performance in their current position.

This includes meeting or exceeding the expectations of their superiors, completing tasks and missions successfully, and displaying leadership skills and ability.

Education:

To be eligible for promotion, an officer or enlisted soldier must meet the education requirements for their current rank and the rank they are seeking.

These requirements vary depending on the rank and the branch of service, but may include completing military education courses, earning degrees, and obtaining professional certifications.

Leadership potential:

To be eligible for promotion, an officer or enlisted soldier must demonstrate the potential to take on increased responsibility and lead others effectively.

This includes displaying leadership skills, such as the ability to motivate and mentor others, as well as a strong work ethic and a commitment to the mission.

What is the highest rank in the US Army?

The rank of General of the Army (GA) is the highest rank in the United States Army and is typically held by only a handful of officers at any given time.

US General of the Army (GA) insignia

The rank of General of the Army is equivalent to the rank of Admiral in the U.S. Navy and the rank of General of the Air Force in the U.S. Air Force.

The rank of General of the Army is typically only held by officers who have served in the Army for many years and have distinguished themselves through exceptional leadership and service.

Summary:

There are 13 enlisted ranks in the U.S. Army while there are 11 officer ranks.

Enlisted soldiers are responsible for carrying out the tasks and missions assigned to them by their superiors, and they are expected to maintain discipline and order within their unit.

In the U.S Army, promotion to higher ranks is based on a combination of factors, including time in service, performance, education, and leadership potential.

Commissioned officers are responsible for leading and training a team of soldiers, and they are expected to set a good example for their subordinates and to maintain discipline and order within the unit.

The highest Army rank in the U.S. is the General of the Army (GA).

References:

  1. US Army. “U.S. Army Ranks”. army.mil
  2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Military Careers”. bls.gov
  3. US Department of Defense. “Our Forces”. defense.gov

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