The United States Marine Corps has 27 different grades between Marines and officers, with most newcomers starting off at the rank of Private. As soon as members get into the Marines, they set out with the goal of making their way through the ranks with aspirations of one day becoming a Four-Star General. While that’s only been done a few dozen times, most Marines will end up getting promoted at least once.
If you have been thinking about enlisting with the Marines, are just getting started, or have been trying to earn a promotion, there are certain things you need to do. Each quarter, all Marines are eligible for a new ranking, and here are five ways to impress your superiors and earn that sought-after promotion.
While you don’t have to be the fittest person in the world to end up being a Four-Star General, it’s important to be in top shape throughout your first few ranks. One of the quickest ways to fast-track your way through the ranks is to finish in the top five of your company in the various physical tests. This includes running, obstacle courses, and shooting.
The PFT (physical fitness test) will be your chance to showcase how seriously you’re taking your fitness. The test will be comprised of pull-ups or push-ups, a three-mile run, and crunches or planks. If you can finish toward the maximum expected from you, then there’s a great chance that you’ll be moving up sooner rather than later.
There’s a misconception that members of the military are meatheads that don’t bother studying books or working toward a college education. In the Marines, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Most high-ranking Marines have at least a bachelor’s degree, with some of those at the highest level earning master’s degrees.
When you join the Marines, you can do so without a degree. The Marines will help you earn your degree, and simply showing the initiative to pursue your first degree will let superiors know that you’re bettering yourself and want a bright future. Once you finish that degree, that’s essentially a guarantee that you’re going to be promoted with your fitness also being in top form. Being able to balance both is impressive to those watching.
It isn’t just formal education that you’ll need to work your way up through the Marines. Just like with any job, having knowledge of your role is going to help you advance. In the same way that you’d be promoted to manager at an office for showing a deep knowledge of your work, the Marines operate in the same way. Thankfully, there are courses a Marine can take to further their knowledge.
These are called MCIs, and the more you take, the better you’ll look. Learn from some of your superiors along the way, as well, as they’ll have a deep pool of knowledge, and picking their brain will tell you what to expect in your career with the Marines. Showing that you want to learn more in any capacity shows initiative.
Initiative in Leadership
Speaking of initiative, you have to show from day one that you stand out from the rest of your company as the leader of the pack. This doesn’t mean that you should be bullying people around, but rather show respect for everyone while taking the lead through some of the worst situations.
When your company is being punished, a Marine who offers to take the entire punishment for themselves while sparing the others is one thing that impresses superiors. You need to be tough, smart, fit, and maintain your composure in any situation to show leadership. Again, this is akin to being a manager in the corporate world. You can be great at your job but not cut out for leadership.
If you have been in the Marines for a few years, don’t think that just because you aren’t climbing the ranks as fast as you once were that you won’t be getting another promotion. On average, the first promotion will come after six months to Private First Class, with Lance Corporal coming at 14 months. Then, the average timeline to become a Corporal is 26 months.
Things slow down considerably after that, as the average wait time to become Sergeant is nearly five years, with over a decade until achieving Staff Sergeant. At the top of the ladder is Master Gunnery Sergeant/Sergeant Major, which takes an average of 22 years. If you’ve been sitting in the Corporal rank for a couple of years, don’t fret about the next promotion since it becomes much more selective.