Advanced Enlistment Rank

Join The Military As An E-2 or E-3

Marine Cadets Standing in Line
Anna Clopet/Getty Images

Depending upon your pre-military training or schooling, a recruit can actually join the military at a higher rank than the typical E-1 ranking that most members of the military begin.

Certain categories of enlistment entitle the recruit to enlist at a paygrade higher than E-1. Except as noted below, advancement (and pay) is effective the first day of active duty. However, while individuals are paid at the rate of the advanced grade, they do not wear the rank (rating) until basic training graduation.

All recruits in boot camp are considered to be E-1s for administrative and training purposes.

Only one of the following advancements is authorized for each applicant:

Vocational/Technical School:

Many of the skills you learn at a local VoTech School can lead to advanced pay and ranking upon entering the military.  Often, the military will offer further on training in the vocational and technical skills as you advance with your time in the military.  If a recruit spends a year or two in classes and training programs he or she can graduate boot camp as an E-2 or E-3.  Here are the details of the VoTech training for advancement options:

E-2 -- Authorized enlistment in, or advancement to, paygrade E2 having satisfactorily completed one academic year or 1080 classroom hours at an accredited vocational/technical school beyond high school level.

E-3 -- Authorized enlistment in, or advancement to, paygrade E3 having satisfactorily completed two academic years or 2160 classroom hours at an accredited vocational / technical school beyond high school level.

College Credits:

Having a year or two of college can also help you advance into the E-2 and E-3 ranks immediately after boot camp.  Some branches and jobs allow for the advancement to E-4 after secondary schools if a full college degree is obtained before boot camp / basic training.  Here are the details of the college hours you must obtain prior to boot camp to achieve a higher rank after your initial military training:

E-2 -- Authorized enlistment in, or advancement to, paygrade E2 having completed 24 semester hours or 36 quarter hours of college credits at an accredited degree granting college or university listed in the AIPE* or NACES*

E-3 -- Authorized enlistment in, or advancement to, paygrade E3 having completed 48 or more semester hours or 72 or more quarter hours of college credits at an accredited degree granting college or university listed in the AIPE* or NACES*
E-4 – You can obtain the rank of an E-4 only six months after graduating boot camp.  In the Navy, those members who enlist with a college degree, then attend additional training (Like Nuke, SEAL, Medic training) will typically be wearing E-4 by the time they graduate their A-schools.

High School Military Academy:

There are many high schools that are affiliated with the military or reserve units and provide Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) or an equivalent training program for its members.  These participants are granted advanced ranking after two or three years of attending such a school.  Here is the exact language explaining the details of such a program:

E-2 -- Authorized enlistment in, or advancement to, paygrade E2 having successfully completed two years at, and subsequently graduated from, an accredited High School Level Military Academy.

E-3-- Authorized enlistment in, or advancement to, paygrade E3 having successfully completed three years at, and subsequently graduated from, an accredited High School Level Military Academy.

Navy Sea Cadet Corps:

If you are considering the military – especially the Navy – consider joining the Sea Cadets.  The Sea Cadets, or USNSCC, is a non-profit program that works with many local military bases to provide military training for ages 11 through completion of high school.  Many summer training programs allow for Naval Academy Training Visits as well as locally arranged training that include:

  • Seabee and SEAL challenges
  • Ship visits
  • Honor Guard competitions
  • Field operations

E-2 -- Authorized enlistment in, or advancement to, paygrade E2 having provided conclusive evidence of advancement to paygrade E2 while serving in the Naval Sea Cadet Corps.

E-3 -- Authorized enlistment in, or advancement to, paygrade E3 having provided conclusive evidence of advancement to paygrade E3 while serving in the Naval Sea Cadet Corps.

JROTC:

Many high schools across the country also offer Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC).  Learning the basics of uniform etiquette, marching, honor guard events, as well as training trips to nearby military bases allow for JROTC students be advance in rank upon completion of boot camp / basic training.  

E-2 -- Authorized enlistment in, or advancement to, paygrade E2 having provided evidence of successful completion of two years of a Junior ROTC Program.

E-3 -- Authorized enlistment in, or advancement to, paygrade E3 having provided evidence of successful completion of three years of a Junior ROTC Program.

Eagle Scouts/Girl Scouts:

E-3 -- Authorized enlistment in, or advancement to paygrade E3 having provided evidence of successful completion of requirements for Eagle Scout or the Girl Scout Gold Award.

Civil Air Patrol:

If you know you want to become a pilot or involved in aviation in your future, join the Civil Air Patrol (CAP).   Youth aged 12-18 may join CAP as cadets and remain cadets until age 21. Learning to become pilots, licensed in gliders are a few of the opportunities available to members of CAP.

E-2 -- Authorized enlistment in, or advancement to, paygrade E2 having provided evidence of receiving the Civil Air Patrol Billy Mitchell Award.

Several Navy enlistment programs, such as enlistment in the Nuclear Program, enlistment in the SEAL Challenge Program, and enlistment in the AEF/ATF programs offer accelerated advancement to the grade of E-4. In general, these applicants enlist at the grade of E-1, then receive accelerated promotion to E-2 after graduating boot camp. After minimum time-in-grade (9 months as an E-2), they are promoted to the grade of E-3. After completion of A-School, they may be promoted to the grade of E-4. These programs do not preclude enlistment at paygrade E-2 or E-3 under the above programs.

Young Marines:

Another non-profit program allows for advancement to E-2 after serving three years, graduating high school, and reaching the rank of Young Marine / Sergeant if the recruit enlists into the military.

eferrals:

E-2 -- Authorized enlistment in, or advancement to, paygrade E2 having referred one Nuclear Field individuals or two non-Nuclear Field individuals for Naval Service to a Recruiter. These referred individuals have enlisted in a USN or USNR program including DEP, and will access within 12 months.

E-3 -- Authorized enlistment in, or advancement to, paygrade E3 having referred two Nuclear Field individuals or four non-Nuclear Field individuals for Naval Service to a Recruiter.

These referred individuals have enlisted in a USN or USNR program including DEP, and will access within 12 months.

*AIPE is the Accredited Institutions of Postsecondary Education (AIPE) book published by the American Council on Education (ACE). NACES is the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services.  Colleges and universities not listed (or are listed as “candidate” institutions) in the AIPE directory are not authorized for award of a higher education code or enlistment grade.

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