The Marine rank structure bears some commonalities with other branches, thanks in large part to the Department of Defense’s pay grade system, which creates a pay rank structure all enlisted and commissioned service members from each branch fall into. Pay grades start with a prefix that denotes the type of contract a service member has with the service: E for enlisted, CW for Chief Warrant Officers, and O for officers.
This allows you to draw direct parellels in terms of pay and, to some degree, authority, across all branches regardless of the service-specific monikers associated with each promotion. In other words, an E-4 receives the same base pay as all the E-4s in other branches with the same amount of time in service, but what an E-4 gets called varies from branch to branch, from specialist, to corporal, to petty officer third class, and so forth.
Marine Corps Rank Structure
Marine Corps ranks, like the rank structure of many other branches, offer choices at some specific points in a Marine’s career. As a Gunnery Sergeant (E-7), for instance, Marines can opt to pursue either a promotion into the billet of First Sergeant or Master Sergeant. These two ranks receive the same base pay rate (as an E-8) but come with different responsibilities for the service member.
Enlisted Marines are considered non-commissioned officers (NCOs) at the rank of Corporal (pay grade E-4), which is quite different from the Army’s approach of splitting the E-4 pay grade among corporals (who have attended a leadership course) and specialists who have not. The Marine Corps places a large emphasis on small unit leadership even among junior ranks like Lance Corporal, so in keeping with that approach, the Marine Corps draws no distinction between E-4s that have and have not yet attended their corporal’s leadership course.
Sergeants, which is an E-5 pay grade, are also considered non-commissioned officers, with Staff Sergeant (E-6) starting the Staff Non-commissioned officer portion of the Marine ranks structure.
Staff Non-Commissioned Officers
Staff Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCOs) in the Marine Corps ranks structure range from pay grade E-6 through E-9, which is the highest enlisted pay grade achievable in U.S. military service. It is only among SNCOs that the Marine Corps maintains two ranks per pay grade for both E-8 and E-9, with the aforementioned distinction between E-8s (Master Sergeant/First Sergeant), and the continuation of each career path into the pay grade of E-9 with Master Gunnery Sergeant and Sergeant Major respectively.
This distinction in rank is based on a Marine’s chosen career path, with the Master Gunnery Sergeant role oriented toward technical leadership within a specific occupation, and the Sergeant Major role oriented toward personnel management and unit leadership regardless of occupational specialty.
Marine Corps Warrant officers are highly skilled specialists in specific career fields. Warrant Officers transition out of their roles as enlisted personnel and undergo officer candidate training, making them senior to all enlisted personnel and junior to formally commissioned officers regarding the Corps’ overall rank structure.
Commissioned Officers in the Marine Corps are the traditional officers you’re accustomed to seeing in movies and television. Commissioned officers must have a bachelor’s degree prior to joining the Marine Corps, and undergo specific training oriented toward leadership within their respective occupational specialties. At their highest levels, commissioned officer promotions must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Enlisted Marine Ranks
|Private First Class||PFC||E-2|
|First Sergeant||1st Sgt||E-8|
|Master Gunnery Sergeant||MGySgt||E-9|
|Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps||SMMC||E-9|
Warrant Officer Marine Ranks
|Chief Warrant Officer 2||CWO2||W-2|
|Chief Warrant Officer 3||CWO3||W-3|
|Chief Warrant Officer 4||CWO4||W-4|
|Chief Warrant Officer 5||CWO5||W-5|
Commissioned Officer Marine Ranks