U.S. Army Ranks and Insignias

Updated: February 9, 2023
In this Article

    Founded in 1775, the Army is the oldest branch in the U.S. Armed Forces. 

    U.S. Army ranks and insignias are divided into three categories: enlisted personnel (E-1 through E-9), warrant officers (W-1 through CW-5) and commissioned officers (O-1 through O-10). 

    A service member’s rank and insignia indicate their pay grade, as well as the level of responsibility they should hold.

    Enlisted Personnel

    The Army relies heavily on its enlisted soldiers. They learn specific skills and job functions and apply that knowledge to their unit’s mission to ensure its success. 

    Enlisted personnel are further divided into junior enlisted, non-commissioned officers and senior NCOs.

    Junior Enlisted Personnel

    Private (PVT/E-1)

    Newly enlisted service members begin their Army careers as Privates. They participate in basic combat training, or boot camp, to learn the basic skills and the culture of the Army. They do not wear insignia.

    Private (PV2/E-2)

    Most soldiers are promoted to Private Second Class automatically after six months of time in service (TIS). These soldiers continue developing their skills while applying them to their new roles.








    Private First Class (PFC/E-3)

    Soldiers are usually promoted to Private First Class within a year of enlistment. PFCs continue to develop their skills and carry out orders while completing training or unit missions.








    Specialist (SPC/E-4)

    There are two E-4 ranks, Specialists and Corporals. Specialists are considered junior enlisted personnel as they have fewer responsibilities. They may have enlisted soldiers in their command, but their main role is technical rather than management.








    Non-Commissioned Officers

    Corporal (CPL/E-4)

    While corporals share the same pay grade (E-4) as specialists, they are classified as junior non-commissioned officers due to their leadership responsibilities.







    Sergeant (SGT/E-5)

    Sergeants oversee the day-to-day tasks of their immediate subordinates (normally privates to specialists). The sergeant’s job is to mentor and train these lower ranking service members on their duties and responsibilities within the unit. They instill discipline, lead by example and ensure tasks are completed properly and according to orders.







    Staff Sergeant (SSG/E-6)

    While Staff Sergeants and Sergeants have similar responsibilities, SSGs command larger groups of soldiers (usually squads of about 5 to 10 soldiers), as well as one or more Sergeants. They generally have more equipment and property to maintain than the SGT/E-5. Their main duties involve leading and mentoring their soldiers’ development.








    Senior Non-Commissioned Officers

    Sergeant First Class (SFC/E-7)

    A soldier typically has 15 to 18 years of military service before being promoted to Sergeant First Class. The SFC acts as the platoon leader’s key assistant and advisor and is sometimes referred to as the platoon sergeant. 







    Master Sergeant (MSG/E-8)

    The Master Sergeant does not have as much leadership responsibility as the First Sergeant, who is also an E-8.  They acts as the principal experts in their fields in higher-level units, such as battalions or brigades. MSGs are planners and used as a resource to provide insight into properly conducting unit operations and missions.







    First Sergeant (1SG/E-8)

    First Sergeants play a critical role in the oversight of mentoring, training and discipline of the soldiers in their units. They also conduct formations and advise the unit commanders. They serve as the ultimate expert on enlisted matters at the company level.







    Sergeant Major (SGM/E-9)

    The role of Sergeant Major is largely administrative. Army. They may act as the chief administrative assistant at Army headquarters or be an important staff member at the battalion level or higher.







    Command Sergeant Major/CSM (E-9)

    The Command Sergeant Major serves as the enlisted advisor to the commanding officer of a battalion-level unit or higher. They lead and mentor the soldiers in their command and carry out policies and make recommendations regarding their organization’s support and well-being.







    Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA/E-9)

    The Sergeant Major of the Army acts as the chief advisor to the chief of staff of the Army. Only one soldier is appointed to this special rank.










    Warrant Officers

    Warrant Officers are tactical and technical experts. Their responsibilities include training soldiers, organizing and advising on missions and serving as technical experts and trusted counsel.

    Warrant Officer One (WO1)

    Warrant Officer One is the base-level rank technical expert in their field. They primarily supports their teams through battalion-level operations.








    Chief Warrant Officer Two (CW2)

    Chief Warrant Officer Two has similar duties and responsibilities as a WO1. They also generally serve at the battalion level. This is an intermediate-level role.








    Chief Warrant Officer Three (CW3)

    The Chief Warrant Officer Three has honed their technical and tactical expertise. They serve up to the brigade level, which may include 5,000 soldiers.







    Chief Warrant Officer Four (CW4)

    The Chief Warrant Officer Four is a technical and tactical expert with strong leadership skills. They serve at the brigade up to the echelons level.







    Chief Warrant Officer Five (CW5)

    The Chief Warrant Officer Five supports higher-level operations up to the command level. They provide technical and tactical expertise as well as leadership and mentoring.







    Commissioned Officers

    Commissioned officers hold the highest ranks in the military. They lead enlisted soldiers in all situations. Their duties include planning missions, giving orders and assigning tasks and duties to complete missions. Their posts require a bachelor’s degree, and then a master’s degree for promotions. 

    They are separated into three tiers: company-grade, field-grade and general officers.

    Company-Grade Officers (O-1 to O-3)

    Second Lieutenant (2LT/O-1)

    Second Lieutenants usually begin their new roles as staff officers before taking on the more tasking assignment of platoon leader of up to 44 soldiers.








    First Lieutenant (1LT/O-2)

    Second Lieutenants who have served at that rank for 18 to 24 months are usually promoted to First Lieutenant. They generally serve as platoon leaders, often in more specialized units. They may also serve as staff officers to prepare for their next promotion.








    Captain (CPT/O-3)

    A Captain commands a larger unit, usually a company of 62-90 soldiers. They may also serve as battalion-level staff officers or as instructors.


    Field-Grade Officers (O-4 to O-6)

    Major (MAJ/O-4)

    Majors often serve as primary staff officers at high-level commands, such as battalions or brigades. Their key responsibilities are operational.







    Lieutenant Colonel (LTC/O-5)

    Lieutenant Colonels may serve as staff officers in a task force or at the brigade level or higher. Typically, they command larger units, usually battalions with up to 1,000 soldiers.







    Colonel/COL (O6)

    Colonels typically command brigades with up to 5,000 soldiers, including a Command Sergeant Major and other NCOs. They may also fill other roles, such as chief of divisional-level agencies.





    General Officers

    Brigadier General (BG/O-7)

    Generals normally serve directly below the Major General of large commands, such as brigades or divisions. As deputy commander to the commanding general, they are integral to the planning of missions.







    Major General (MG/O-8)

    The Major General is a two-star general who is typically given the command of a division of up to 15,000 soldiers.





    Lieutenant General (LTG/O-9)

    Lieutenant General is a three-star general. They often command corps-size units of up to 45,000 soldiers. They may also serve as staff officers or in specialty positions.




    General (GEN/O-10)

    The four-star general is the most senior-level commissioned officer in the Army. With over 30 years of military experience, Generals are entrusted with the command of all operations within a geographical area.



    General of the Army (GOA)

    This rank of general of the army is only conferred in wartime, with the last being appointed during World War II.

    Army Ranks Chart

    Pay GradeRankAbbreviation
    E-2Private 2PV2
    E-3Private First ClassPFC
    E-6Staff SergeantSSG
    E-7Sergeant First ClassSFC
    E-8Master SergeantMSG
    E-8First Sergeant1SG
    E-9Sergeant MajorSGM
    E-9Command Sergeant MajorCSM
    E-9 SpecialSergeant Major of the ArmySMA
    W-1Warrant OfficerWO1
    W-2Chief Warrant Officer 2CW2
    W-3Chief Warrant Officer 3CW3
    W-4Chief Warrant Officer 4CW4
    W-5Chief Warrant Officer 5CW5
    O-1Second Lieutenant2LT
    O-2First Lieutenant1LT
    O-5Lieutenant ColonelLTC
    O-7Brigadier GeneralBG
    O-8Major GeneralMG
    O-9Lieutenant GeneralLTG
    SpecialGeneral of the ArmyGA

    Written by Tamila McDonald

    Tamila McDonald is a U.S. Army veteran with 20 years of service, including five years as a military financial advisor. After retiring from the Army, she spent eight years as an AFCPE-certified personal financial advisor for wounded warriors and their families. Now she writes about personal finance and benefits programs for Veteran.com.