US Army Enlisted Promotion Information

I’ve been looking for a website that describes the U.S. Army’s promotion system for enlisted personnel. I’ve gone to the Perscomm website, but, truth be told, as an “outsider,” I could barely make heads or tails of it.

I understand that promotion through E-4 is more or less automatic (provided, of course, you don’t mess up) and that anything from E-5 and above requires someone (a selection board?) going over your record. I understand that there is TIS and TIG requirements for each rank/pay grade.

However, I’m curious about certain things. If some of you military dopers can answer me that would be great, but I’m also curious if there is a site that has this info in more-or-less plain english, where I could do further reading on it.

Firstly, let’s say a CPL Smith meets TIS/TIG requirements for promotion to E-5. What else does he need? Any training courses, awards, etc. What is “Primary Zone” and “Secondary Zone?” And how does your MOS fit into the mix?

Secondly, let’s say CPL Smith fails (for whatever reason) to be promoted. When is the soonest he could reapply?

Thirdly, What if CPL Smith is an 02B (Coronet Player). I would assume that you don’t have too many E-8 and E-9 coronet players. Do certain MOSes have “rank caps,” and if so, what are they?

Fourthly, if there is a rank cap on CPL Smith’s MOS. He could, of course, switch MOSes (he can, can’t he?). If so, how long would CPL Smith have to serve in his new MOS before he can be promoted. Or could he just switch to a 13B Cannon Crewmember and be promoted to E-5 tomorrow?

Fifthly, what is the average time it takes to become a higher ranked enlisted person (say, E-7 or above)? Could I found out what percentage of people who go through basic training make it to E-7, E-8, etc.) Or even broken down by year (i.e. of all those who went through Basic training in 1980, x% were discharged at E-4, y% at E-5, etc.)?

Sixthly, when CPL Smith applies for his boards, what does he have to do? Just apply and wait for a hearing? Or are there other procedures? How are the boards conducted? What goes on at a typical board?

Seventhly, suppose CPL Smith joined as a CPL (or SP4 or PFC) by virtue of having a four-year college degree. How does that affect his TIS requirements for promotion to E-5? Does he have to sit as an E-4 for two years (or whatever the figure is for E-5 promotion) or can it be advanced due to the fact that he started with an advanced rank?

Lastly, if there is any other information that you know of, I’d appreciate it. I’m not looking for information on the Army per se and will gladly accept information on any other branch of the military as well.

Zev Steinhardt

All of my information comes from my experiences in the Army and may be outdated.

Promotions from E-1 to E-4 are automatic as long as you meet height/weight standards and pass the physical fitness test. Any disciplinary actions may play into a promotion but I was never in a position to find out.

Promotions for E-5 and above go in front of a board. The board met once or twice a year in my unit. I don’t remember for sure.

Promotion from E-4 to E-5 required two things. The first was completing the Platoon Leadership Development Course. The second was making sure there was a position in the unit for your MOS.

For instance, I attended PLDC, but due to my unit’s structure there was no slot available in my MOS (74C at the time). If I wanted to stay in my unit I would have had to change my MOS or find a unit that had an available slot in my MOS.

As far as I know rank caps in a particular MOS depend on the unit you are in. I worked communications in a military police unit. The highest rank I could have attained was E-7 in that unit. If I had switched to a communications unit I could have gone much higher.

If you don’t get promoted the first time you apply someone (in my case the unit first sergeant) would usually sit down with you and explain why you didn’t get promoted. In my case it was because of my MOS. I did change my MOS, went back to the board and received my promotion with no problem.

I never went higher than E-5, but IIRC there were certain Non-Commisioned Officer Schools that you had to have in order to make E-7, E-8 etc. You could be the best soldier in the Army and meet all the other requirements but if you did not have those schools you would not get the promotion.

Hopefully the info I have given is correct. I went through this 10 years ago and it’s a little fuzzy, so if I have given incorrect information I apologize.

Convict: Were you in the Reserves or the National Guard? The bit about a position being available in the unit, IIRC, only applies to Reserve/Guard units. Active Duty promotions are done on an Army-wide basis as far as positional availability.

E5 & E6 require a personal appearance in front of a selection board. E7 & above selection boards are Army level and review one’s service record, there is no personal appearance for those. For E5 & E6, if you’re eligilbe as far as TIS & TIG, and your commanding officer doesn’t send you in front of the board, the CO is required to explain to you, in writing, why you didn’t get to appear. This is required every single month until you either lose your eligibility or go in front of the board and get recommended.

If one gets recommended for promotion by the E5 or E6 promotion boards, then you live for the day your promotion score (“points”) meet or exceed the minimum required for promotion for your MOS (“cutoff score”). This number is released monthly. The Soldier’s points are recomputed every three months. If you desire, you can even go in front of the promotion board again to try to garner a higher number of points than you got the last time in front of them (IIRC, 250 points (maybe 200) is the max you can get from the board itself).

Another option is to try for one of the Warrant Officer or Commissioning programs.


Monty, aside from getting into trouble, what would cause our soldier to lose eligibility?


Where could I find an overview of this “points” system?

Zev Steinhardt

Monty, yes I was in the Reserves. I was led to believe by some of the guys who served on active duty that the promotion process was the same for active and reserve personel. I apologize for any incorrect information I may have given.

At least in the Marines, there is a “Cutting Score” for the Pro/Con marks (Proficiency/Conduct) the Marine had. For promotion from Lance Corporal to Cpl in the first quarter of the year for MOS 7212 you may need a 3.4/3.5 (out of 4.0). The next quarter they may need more Cpl 7212’s in the Marine Corps and the cutting score drops. It sucked when your MOS was “over” for the next rank (had more Cpls than were needed on the books).

Same for promotion to Sergeant. Then to get Staff Sergeant and above, you get into Promotion Boards, submitting packages with photos, Fitness Reports, yadda, yadda.

I may be wrong on some details, but that’s the gist of it.

No problem, Convict. It’s a very important point you raised regarding the Reserves/National Guard requirement.

zev: Besides getting into trouble, one may lose their eligibility by getting selected for a Commissioning program, to include one of the Service Academies. There are also some MOS which require certain security clearances, and thus if a Soldier loses the eligibility for the clearance (even temporarily), the promotion may be held in abeyance.

Here’s a “quick and dirty” rundown of the system for promotion to SGT or SSG:

Thanks for the link, Monty. Does that mean that the points system only applies to SGT and SSG (E-5 and E-6)? If so, how are promotions for E-7 and above handled? Does the soldier apply to a board? Or does a letter just show up in your mailbox one day saying “The Army thinks you’re doing OK, so we’re promoting you…?”

Do you know if certain MOSes have “rank caps?” Or can a cook rise to an E-9 while still acting as a cook? And if there are “rank caps,” what are they for each MOS?

Zev Steinhardt

Actually, looking at a chart of cutoff scores, I see that for certain MOSes, the cutoff score is 798 (out of 800). Is that the Army’s way of saying “Don’t even think about trying to make E-5/E-6 in this job?”

Zev Steinhardt

It’s the Army’s way of saying, “You’d better be mighty good to get promoted!” Since the promotion system is vacancy-driven, the major factor driving the cutoff score is, of course, if there’s a vacancy to get promoted into. And, since it’s entirely possible to make the maximum number of promotion points possible, it’s not really saying, “What the heck are you trying to do here? Get promoted? Hah!”

Promotions to E7 & above are handled via a Department of the Army level selection board. That board submits its recommendations to the Very Big Whigs, who in turn submit it to the Prez (technically). The final “recommended” list is submitted to Congress who then approve the promotions. An interesting note is that since E7 and above are not within the promotion authority of the Commanding Officers, the CO cannot reduce an E7 or above at Article 15 proceedings.

My old MOS, 75B (Personnel Administration Specialist), did have a rank cap: E6. Once a 75B got promoted to SFC, he or she was no longer a 75B, but a 75Z. Some MOS have feeder MOS which merge at a particular rank. The Navy does the same with a number of its ratings.


So, it is (theoretically) possible to become an E-6 cook.

Thanks for the info. However, looking at a list of Army enlisted MOSes, I could not find a 75Z. Are there certain MOSes that only apply at higher ranks? And if so, where could I find more information about it?

Zev Steinhardt

Zev: I was a 75B back in the very early 1980s. Over time, MOS get renumbered/combined with other MOS/split off of other MOS. During my groundpounder days, 75B was only for paygrades E1 through E6. E7 & above were 75Z. There also used to be one that only applied to Command Sergeant Major (E9). The link you’ve provided isn’t an official Army source; therefore, I’ve no idea how current/accurate its information is. Try the Army’s website:

Now, a minor–but related–hijack. For those Dopers who are/were in the Armed Forces of other countries: how is your military’s promotion system run?

I concur with Monty on several points, though I’ll never be promoted again so I’m hazy on the exact rules/regs.

A great many MOSs have been dropped/consolidated in the past decade because of the downsizing, technology making certain MOSs impractical, and plain old shuffling to decrease paperwork.

My MOS, 46Q, has a cap somewhere around E-7, 8 area, at which point you take another course and return something else (can’t remember what) but you are essentially trained to lead both the 46Qs and 46Rs, and you are an amalgamation of both.

The promotions points system is a wacky thing, because depending on the number of folks already of that rank, the time of year, and maybe some astrological divination, the points required to achieve that rank vary by hundreds of points.

In other words, depending on the circumstances, if I were on the list to be promoted to E-5 (which I am), I passed the promotion board (which I can’t), and were ready to go to PLDC (which I can’t) I may need anywhere from 400-odd point to 800-odd points.

These points are aquired by doing well on PT tests, getting awards, getting additional schooling and going to Soldier of the Month/Year boards. All of which pretty much equal feathers in your cap.

This is a slight digression, but several years ago (1994) when I was considering the different branches of the military - I was told by everyone that promotion in the United States Air Force was very slow compared to the Army; and people spent many years as E4s and E5s. And I did meet several E6 (Tsgt). that were close to 20 years in the service. Is this true, and why? I would think promotion would be largely similar across the board.

Also the air force eliminated the “buck sergeant” rank in 1990, but I still saw some 5 or 6 years later.