What Are the Ranks in the Marine Corps?


The origins of the U.S. Marine Corps began on November 10, 1775 when the Continental Congress passed a resolution stating that two battalions of Marines be raised for service as landing forces with the fleet. The Continental Navy and Marines was disbanded in 1783, following the ending of the Revolutionary War with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The U.S. Marine Corps was formally re-established on July 11, 1798 and fought in conflicts with France. Throughout history, the Marine Corps have used a rank system similar to that of the U.S. Army.

Enlisted Ranks

  • Enlisted Marine ranks are non-officer personnel that gain promotion with experience and proving leadership skills. The responsibilities and demands increase as the Marine progresses in rank. All Marine enlisted ranks start as Private with no uniform insignia. The Marine is promoted to a Private First Class (PFC), then Lance Corporal. All three ranks are trained in their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). A Lance Corporal will become an Non-Commissioned Officer when he is promoted to the rank of Corporal.


  • The Marine is promoted to a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) if he proves he has leadership qualities and a good aptitude for the job. Promotion from Lance Corporal to Corporal will gain the enlisted soldier his first NCO rank. The next step of the promotion ladder is to a rank of Sergeant.

Staff NCO

  • As a Marine progresses through the ranks, she will become a Staff Non-Commissioned Officer. The first rank is a Staff Sergeant. The next promotional ranks are Gunnery Sergeant, Master Sergeant, First Sergeant, Master Gunnery Sergeant and Sergeant Major. The highest rank of Staff NCO is the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps who is selected by the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Officer Ranks

  • Officer ranks are distinguished by their commission, which is a formal document from the President of the United States. The commission issues the rank and authority of a Marine Corps Officer. The officer rank structure consists of ten steps in promotion.

Officer Grades

  • Company Grade Officers are the first three ranks of commissioned officers. The ranks are Second Lieutenant, First Lieutenant and Captain. Promotion from the rank of Captain leads to the three ranks of Field Grade Officer, which consist of Major, Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel. The next level of command is the rank of General Officers. These four ranks consist of Brigadier General, Major General, Lieutenant General and General, which is the highest officer rank.

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