Marine Corps Rank Structure

Officers Candidates School introduces tactical, operational, and administrative learning objectives. Candidates are encouraged to commit the Marine Corps rank structure to memory before arriving at Marine Corps Base Quantico, the crossroads of the USMC.

Here is a complete breakdown of all Enlisted, Warrant Officer, and Officer ranks and associated grades.


Often referred to as the backbone of the Corps, enlisted Marines with pay grades of E-4 and E-5 are non-commissioned officers (NCOs). Staff NCOs are career Marines serving in grades E-6 through E-9. Together they are responsible to the commanding officer for the welfare, morale, discipline, and efficiency of Marines in their charge.

The ranks of E-8 and E-9 each have two ranks per pay grade, with distinct responsibilities. Gunnery sergeants (E-7) indicate their preferred promotional track on their annual evaluations. First sergeants (E-8) and sergeants major (E-9) serve as senior enlisted advisors assisting the commanding officer in matters of discipline, administration, and the morale and welfare of the unit. First sergeants serve as the senior enlisted Marine in a company, battery, or other unit at similar echelon, while sergeants major serve the same role in battalions, squadrons, or larger units. Master sergeants (E-8) and master gunnery sergeants (E-9) provide technical leadership as occupational specialists in their specific MOS.

The sergeant major of the Marine Corps is the senior enlisted Marine of the entire Marine Corps, personally selected by the commandant. The sergeant major of the Marine Corps and the Marine gunner are the only billets which rate modified rank insignia in place of traditional rank insignia.

INsignia Rank title AbbreviationPAYGRADE
Private First ClassPFCE-2
Lance CorporalLCplE-3
Staff SergeantSSgtE-6
Gunnery SergeantGySgtE-7
Master SergeantMSgtE-8
First Sergeant1st SgtE-8
Master Gunnery SergeantMGySgtE-9
Sergeant MajorSgtMajE-9
Sergeant Major of the Marine CorpsSMMCE-9


Warrant officers specialize in their respective fields, providing leadership and training to the Marines in their military occupational specialty. A warrant is approved by the secretary of the Navy for a sergeant (E-5) or staff non-commissioned officer (E-6 to E-9) to be appointed a warrant officer. Warrant officers become commissioned officers at the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 2, though they will generally serve as technical advisors, providing expertise to commands and organizations in their field.

U.S. Marine Corps Col. Jeffrey Conner (left) and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Nicholas Vitale (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donell Bryant, Combat Camera, SOI-E/Released)

A chief warrant officer serving as an infantry weapons officer also carries the title, “Marine Gunner”, which does not replace his rank. However, a Marine Gunner replaces the chief warrant officer insignia on the left collar with a bursting bomb insignia.

Insignia Rank Title AbbriviationPAYGRADE
Warrant OfficerWOW-1
Chief Warrant Officer 2CWO2W-2
Chief Warrant Officer 3CWO3W-3
Chief Warrant Officer 4CWO4W-4
Chief Warrant Officer 5CWO5W-5


Commissioned officers are college graduates who have earned and accepted an appointment issued in the name of the president of the United States. Their commission gives them the responsibility of leading Marines as they defend the Constitution of the United States. Commissioned officer ranks are further subdivided into generals, field-grade, and company-grade officers. The commandant of the Marine Corps and the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps are four-star ranks.

InsigniaRank TitleAbbriviationPayGrade
Second Lieutenant2ndLtO-1
First Lieutenant1stLtO-2
Lieutenant ColonelLtColO-5
Brigadier GeneralBGenO-7
Major GeneralMajGenO-8
Lieutenant GeneralLtGenO-9

Military rank is more than just who salutes whom. Military rank is a badge of leadership. Responsibility for personnel, equipment and mission grows with each advancement.

Do not confuse rank with paygrades, such as E-1, W-2 and O-5. Paygrades are administrative classifications used primarily to standardize compensation across the military services. The “E” in E-1 stands for “enlisted” while the “1” indicates the paygrade for that position. The other pay categories are “W” for warrant officers and “O” for commissioned officers. Some enlisted paygrades have two ranks.

The Army, for example, has the ranks of corporal and specialist at the paygrade of E-4. A corporal is expected to fill a leadership role and has a higher rank than a specialist, even though both receive E-4 pay. In the Marine Corps, a master gunnery sergeant and a sergeant major are both E-9s, but the sergeant major has the higher rank.

Learn more about all branch ranks

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