Here is a complete breakdown of Marine Corps ranks, from Private to General. This list is in ascending order, with pay-grade and abbreviation commonly used by the Marine Corps. There is also an explanation of common shorthand, like “Gunny” for Gunnery Sergeant.
Marine Enlisted Ranks
- E-1 Private Pvt
- E-2 Private First Class PFC
- E-3 Lance Corporal LCpl
Non-Commissioned Officers, or NCOs
- E-4 Corporal Cpl
- E-5 Sergeant Sgt
Staff Non-Commissioned Officers, or Staff NCOs
- E-6 Staff Sergeant SSgt
- E-7 Gunnery Sergeant GySgt
- E-8 Master Sergeant MSgt
- First Sergeant 1stSgt
- E-9 Master Gunnery Sergeant MGySgt
- Sergeant Major SgtMaj
- Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps
Enlisted Non-Commissioned Officers or NCOs are considered the backbone of the Marine Corps. They are directly responsible for the leadership, morale, welfare, and tactical proficiency of the Marines under their charge.
Staff Non-Commissioned Officers are career enlisted Marines responsible for reporting to their commanders on the welfare, discipline, morale, and efficiency of their Marines.
Gunnery Sergeants are often just called “Gunny,” but it’s advisable to use the formal “Gunnery Sergeant” when meeting them for the first time!
What’s the difference between a Master Sergeant and a First Sergeant?
There are two E-8 ranks in the Marine Corps. A Master Sergeant is a technical specialist in their field, or military occupation specialty (MOS). They have stayed in the same job field their entire enlistment and have developed highly specific knowledge regarding their MOS. Master Sergeants serve as technical and operational specialists to the enlisted Marines under their command.
A First Sergeant is a command-oriented position. They are in charge of all non-commissioned officers in a company-sized unit. First Sergeants handle administrative duties, training paperwork, and serve as the most senior Marines in a company, battery, or equivalent sized unit. The First Sergeant has direct supervisory responsibility over the Marines in his command, and usually has a strong influence with the unit commander (typically a Captain). A First Sergeant is senior in command to a Master Sergeant.
What is the difference between a Master Gunnery Sergeant and a Sergeant Major?
There are also two E-9 ranks in the Marine Corps, Master Gunnery Sergeant and Sergeant Major. Mastery Gunnery Sergeants (commonly referred to as Master Guns) have stayed in the same MOS all their career and serve as technical specialists in their MOS at the battalion or higher level. After a Marine becomes a Master Sergeant, their next rank would be Master Gunnery Sergeant.
Sergeants Major serve as the most senior enlisted Marine in a battalion or higher-sized unit such as a division or air wing. They handle all of the administrative duties for these units and are in charge of all of the enlisted Marines.
The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps is hand selected by the Commandant and serves as the most senior enlisted Marine in the Marine Corps.
- W-1 Warrant Officer 1 WO1
- W-2 Chief Warrant Officer 2 CWO2
- W-3 Chief Warrant Officer 3 CWO3
- W-4 Chief Warrant Officer 4 CWO4
- W-5 Chief Warrant Officer 5 CWO5
Warrant Officers are commissioned from enlisted Marines to serve as tactical experts in their specific MOS or job specialty. They are responsible for training and serve primarily ina technical advisory role.
What is the rank of Marine Gunner?
A Gunner, or Infantry Weapons Officer, is a warrant officer who wears a bursting bomb on their lapel. This is a highly respected position that an enlisted Marine can apply for in the infantry MOS after 16 years of service. They serve as technical weapons specialists in infantry units, responsible for understanding the employment and capabilities of every weapons platform organic to an infantry unit.
Infantry Weapons Officers are commonly referred to as “Gunner” instead of their rank. They serve as weapons advisers to commanding officers, and are responsible for developing and monitoring weapons training (including new weapon deployment), preventative maintenance of a unit’s weapons, and new weapon systems acquisition and training.
Marine Officer Ranks
- O-1 Second Lieutenant 2ndLt
- O-2 First Lieutenant 1stLt
- O-3 Captain Cpt
- O-4 Major Maj
- O-5 Lieutenant Colonel LtCol
- O-6 Colonel Col
- O-7 Brigadier General BGen
- O-8 Major General MGen
- O-9 Lieutenant General LtGen
- O-10 General Gen
Officers are college-educated Marines who have accepted a commission executed in the name of the President of the United States. They must pass Officer Candidates School, which is a ten week training regimen very similar to boot camp, and then The Basic School, a 28-week course which trains them to become leaders of Marines.
There are no OF-10 “Five Star” Generals in the Marine Corps (or in any other branch of service). Only nine Americans have only ever held the rank and it was officially retired in 1981. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, as well as the Assistant Commandant are both 4-star General ranks.
Looking for more information about joining the Marine Corps? Check out the rest of this site! I also have an ebook for sale: the Marine Corps Preparation Guide is available on Amazon. Every purchase helps maintain this site as a free resource.