The U.S. Army has about 570,000 enlisted soldiers and officers on active duty as of 2012, with many occupying lower-ranking paygrades. Traditionally, new enlistees and hopeful commissioned officers enter the Army at the lowest paygrade; E-1 for enlisted soldiers and O-1 for commissioned officers. The Army rank system is designed to bring enlisted soldiers and commissioned officers along through gradual promotion and progression in rank. However, under certain circumstances it's possible to enter the Army at a higher rank.
Army Rank Structure
The Army's rank structure runs from E-1 private to E-9 sergeant major for enlisted soldiers and O-1 second lieutenant to O-10 general for commissioned officers. Normally, when you enlist as a soldier serving in the Army you do so as a private. Most commissioned officers in the basic branches of the Army, such as infantry or armor, enter as second lieutenants. The Army, though, offers advanced paygrade entry for those possessing college credits, certain life experiences or professional skills such as in medicine.
Using College Credits
For hopeful Army soldiers, entering at advanced paygrades means additional pay and a more senior rank. If you want to enter the Army at a higher rank one of the more common ways to do so is to acquire college credits. The Army will let you enter as an E-2 if you possess 24 or more semester hours from an accredited college or university. Those with 48 or more semester hours of college credit can enter the Army as an E-3 private first class.
Other Qualifying Experience
Hopeful Army enlisted soldiers can also enter as an E-2 if they've obtained Eagle Scout or Girl Scout Gold Award status. Completion of one or two years of high school junior ROTC can also net you E-2 rank when entering the Army. If you complete three or more years of junior ROTC you may be able to enter the Army as an E-3. Those completing two or more years of post-secondary vocational-technical training, with a certificate of completion, also qualify for Army enlistment at E-3.
Future Soldiers Referrals
You can enter the Army at higher rank by referring others to recruiters while you're in the future soldiers program. While they're in delayed entry status, future soldiers can refer others to Army recruiters and earn higher paygrades before reporting for active duty. Depending on how many people you refer to Army recruiters who then enlist, you may see promotion to E-2 or E-3. For example, referral of two high school graduates to Army recruiters who subsequently enlist can net you entry as an E-3.
Advanced Officer Paygrades
Those possessing specialized training and licensure in fields such as medicine or law are eligible to enter the Army at advanced officer paygrades. Generally, needed clinical professionals with doctoral-level educations can enter the Army as O-3 captains or higher, depending on experience. There are many different officer specialties in the Army in addition to lawyers and doctors, including nurses and religious chaplains. An Army officer recruiter will always have the latest information on advanced officer paygrade programs for professionals seeking Army careers.
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