With very few exceptions, becoming a non-commissioned officer (NCO) or petty officer in the U.S. Armed Forces is accomplished by progression through the lower enlisted ranks. However, unlike promotion through the lower enlisted tier, promotion to NCO is generally competitive. NCO ranks begin at E-4 or E-5, depending upon service and are generally attained between three and six years of service. Junior NCOs function as first-line supervisors and squad leaders, training the junior enlisted in their duties and guiding their career advancement.
As in most militaries, members of the U.S. Armed Forces hold a rank, either that of officer, warrant officer or enlisted, to determine seniority and eligibility for promotion. Those who have served are known as veterans. Rank names may be different between services, but they are matched to each other by their corresponding paygrade. Officers who hold the same rank or paygrade are distinguished by their date of rank to determine seniority, while officers who serve in certain positions of office of importance set by law, outrank all other officers in active duty of the same rank and paygrade, regardless of their date of rank. In 2012, it was reported that only one in four persons in the United States of the proper age meet the moral, academic and physical standards for military service.
The first step that one will take after deciding to pursue a career in the military is taking the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery test. This is more commonly referred to as the ASVAB. The ASVAB not only determines whether or not a candidate is qualified to serve in the armed forces but also shows which specific job they have the most aptitude for.
Your ASVAB scores determine what jobs you will qualify for in the military. But before you embarrass yourself in front of active duty service members, know that a job in the Army and the Marine Corps is called an MOS, which is an acronym for Military Occupational Specialty. In the Air Force, jobs are called AFSC – Air Force Specialty Code. In the Navy they are known as an NEC - Navy Enlisted Classification and the Coast Guard, jobs are called ratings, or rate for short.