Advancement and Responsibilities of Navy and Marine Corps Officer Ranks

The Navy and Marine Corps Officer Ranks

Unlike the lower enlisted ranks, advancement into these ranks requires a significant amount of leadership ability. The promotion process into the Chief Petty Officer grade also carries with it more specific responsibilities and insignia.

Commissioned officers are college graduates that accept a commission in the name of the president after passing Officer Candidates School and The Basic School. They command at sea commands such as amphibious ships, carrier air wings and major shore installations.


Captain is the third rank of commissioned officers in the Navy, Coast Guard, Army and Marine Corps. It is a field grade position and ranks above commander and below rear admiral in all the uniformed services. Captains command small, self-contained units such as ships, squadrons and weapons companies, serve as instructors at advanced school and combat training centers and mentor junior officers.

Promotion to major is a step up from captain, with more responsibilities and future chances for higher promotions. Majors act in key decision-making roles as battalion executive officer or weapons company commander. They also command large, specialized units such as aviation maintenance department divisions. Master sergeants (E-8) and master gunnery sergeants provide technical leadership as occupational specialists in their MOS. The sergeant major of the Marine Corps is the senior enlisted advisor to the commandant.


The rank of major in the Navy and Marine Corps is a field officer position above captain but below lieutenant colonel. This rank is similar to the Army rank of major general and the Air Force rank of lieutenant colonel.

Those seeking to become majors must complete the Warrant Officer Basic School, which is a rigorous training program for sergeants and staff noncommissioned officers who are considered warrant officer candidates. They must also have extensive expertise and years of service in their specific technical specialty. Upon graduation from warrant officer training, these Marines serve as senior enlisted leaders and advisors to commanding officers. Their duties include discipline, administration and morale, and they work with superior NCOs to ensure the proficiency of junior ranks in their units.

Lieutenant Colonel

The second rank commissioned officers reach after completing the 10-week Officer Candidates Course, or OCC, at the United States Marine Academy or other service academies. Those who pass the OCC receive a commission from the President of the United States.

First lieutenants are responsible for individual companies of Marines, acting as company commanders of 62-190 enlisted Marines, and leading tactical operations with the assistance of junior commissioned officers and senior enlisted noncommissioned officers. They may also serve as weapons company commanders or battalion executive officers.

Majors are promoted from lieutenants and are considered field-grade officers. They often serve as regimental, brigade or division staff officers and are key decision-makers. They wear a metal rank insignia device on the left collar-point of their blue NWUs.

Lieutenant General

The rank of lieutenant general is the second highest in the Marine Corps. Officers are nominated for promotion by the service secretary and the joint chiefs of staff, and the President selects those to serve in this position from a list of eligible officers. The number of appointments for this rank is limited by statute. Those appointed will retire the month after their 64th birthday unless the Secretary of Defense or the President approves an honorary extension.

Marines who do not qualify for promotion to a general officer rank may become warrant officers, commissioned in the same way as sergeants and noncommissioned officers, but with additional duties and responsibilities. Warrant officers are subject matter experts in their specialty. They also act as mentors to junior enlisted Marines and other warrant officers.

Chief Petty Officer

The Chief Petty Officer position is one of the most important positions in the Navy. It requires a high level of leadership, excellent communication skills and a thorough understanding of naval operations.

Senior chief petty officers have considerable power to solve problems quickly and effectively. They often operate as a kind of back channel between commands, cutting through bureaucracy to get things done.

Advancement into these ranks requires time in service, superior evaluations and specialty examinations. They also serve as mentors to junior enlisted personnel. Chief petty officers wear collar devices, uniform rank insignia and rating badges. They also have access to separate dining and living areas. This is the highest enlisted rate in the Navy. It is equivalent to Master Chief Petty Officer in the Marine Corps.

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