Enlisted Paygrades By Ranks

Military Ranks: E1 - E9

Joint Service Color Guard
Enlisted members of the branches of service. All Hands - .mil

There are nine enlisted paygrades in the military, starting with E-1 and progressing up through E-9. The career path of a typical enlisted member will take 18-20 years to achieve the highest rank of the enlisted pay grades. 

But one of the things one also hears is "rank" - so how does that work?  In the Armed Forces, rank is generally determined by pay grade.

The following charts cover the pay grade and ranks, with images of rank insignia, starting with the low-level (or Entry Level) pay grades.

  Service members in the first three pay grades are usually either in some kind of training status (basic training) or on their initial assignment after receiving job training..

Enlisted Pay Grades E-1 / E-2 / E-3

 Air ForceArmyMarine CorpsNavy & Coast Guard *E-1

Airman Basic

[No insignia]

Private

[No Insignia]

Private

[No insignia]

Seaman Recruit

(SR)

[No Insignia]

E-2

Airman

(AMN)

Private E2

(PV2)

Private First Class

(PFC)

Seaman Apprentice

(SA)

E-3

Airman First Class

(A1C)

Private First Class

(PFC)

Lance Corporal
(LCpl)

Seaman

(SN)

 

In the mid-level enlisted ranks, there is an significant increase in Leadership responsibility.  At this point, there is formal recognition given of that increase in responsibility with the use of the terms "non-commissioned officer" (NCO) and "Petty Officer".

For rank and precedence within the Army, specialist ranks immediately below corporal. Among the services, however, rank and precedence are determined by pay grade.

An Air Force staff sergeant, an Army sergeant, and a Marine corporal are considered NCO ranks. The Navy and Coast Guard NCO equivalent of petty officer is achieved at the rank of petty officer third class.

Enlisted Pay Grades E-4 / E-5 / E-6

 Air ForceArmyMarine CorpsNavy & Coast Guard*E-4

Senior Airman

(SrA)

Corporal

(CPL)

Specialist

(SPC)

Corporal

(CPL)

Petty Officer Third Class

(PO3)

E-5

Staff Sergeant

(SSG)

Sergeant

(SGT)

Sergeant

(SGT)

Petty Officer Second Class

(PO2)

E-6

Technical Staff Sergeant

(TSgt)

Staff Sergeant

(SSG)

Staff Sergeant

(SSG)

Petty Officer First Class

(PO1)

* Note regarding Navy & Coast Guard rank insignia for E4 and above - a specialty mark in the center of a rating badge (between the eagle and the chevron(s) indicates the wearer's particular rating. 

For both the Navy and the Coast Guard, the sleeve insignia chevrons are red (or if in summer uniform, Navy Blue).  However, in the Navy if the Petty Officer has reached / obtained 12 years of continuous Good Conduct, the Petty Officer is required to wear Gold chevrons.  If the Petty Officer loses eligibility for future Good Conduct, s/he reverts back to Red chevrons.

In the top-level enlisted ranks, there is an even more significant increase in Leadership responsibility.  As a whole, E-8 and E-9 have between 15 and 30 years on the job, and are usually the commanders' senior advisers for enlisted matters.

Some of the Rank insignia become dependent upon the job - at the E-7 level, the Air Force has two positions at the same pay grade - and that is reflected in the difference in the two insignia. Whether one is, for example, a master sergeant or a first sergeant in the Air Force depends on the person's job.

At the E-8 level, the Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps have two positions at the same pay grade with differing rank insignia, and again which rank one is depends on the job.

At the E-9 level, things get even more interesting.  At a "primary" level, all branches have split positions (and different insignia) that depend upon the job.  But there's one more level to the E-9 pagrade - that of the senior enlisted person of each service:

  • Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force
  • Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard
  • Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy
  • Sergeant Major of the Army
  • Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps

These individuals are the spokespersons of the enlisted force at the highest levels of their services.

Enlisted Pay Grades E-7 / E-8 / E-9

 Air ForceArmyMarine CorpsNavy & Coast Guard *E-7

Master Sergeant

(MSgt)

First Sergeant

Sergeant First Class

(SFC)

Gunnery Sergeant

(GySgt)

Chief Petty Officer

(CPO)

E-8

Senior
Master Sergeant

(SMSgt)

First Sergeant

Master
Sergeant

(MSG)

First
Sergeant

(1SG)

Master Sergeant

(MSgt)

First Sergeant

(1st Sgt)

Senior Chief Petty Officer

(SCPO)

E-9Chief Master
Sergeant
(CMSgt)First SergeantCommand
Chief Master
Sergeant

Sergeant Major

(SGM)

Command
Sergeant Major

(CSM)

Master Gunnery
Sergeant

(MGySgt)

Sergeant Major

(SgtMaj)

Master Chief
Petty Officer

(MCPO)

Fleet / Command
Master
Chief Petty
OfficerChief Master
Sergeant of the Air Force
(CMSAF)

Sergeant Major
of the
Army

(SMA)

Sergeant Major
of the
Marine Corps

(SgtMajMC)

Master Chief
Petty Officer
of the
Navy

(MCPON)

and

Master Chief
Petty Officer
of the Coast Guard

(MCPOCG)


Regardless of service, you will be required to learn the ranks of all the branches of service upon entering. The military is a joint operations world, especially in combat zones.  Learning all the ranks and insignia is not just something you should do out of courtesy, you should learn them as your boss may be from a different service branch. 

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