Being an Officer:
An Army officer's career is like a series of 2 and 3 year assignments, each one preparing you for the next. Personal abilities and preferences affect the choices a person makes, so there is no one career blueprint. There is, however, a general progression most officers' careers follow.
One of the aspects of being an Army officer that people find very attractive is the structured promotion system. The promotion system is designed to help both the Army and the Officer. From our point of view, the system enables the best officers to reach positions of most importance and highest responsibility. From an individual officer's point of view, the promotion system assures a qualified person advancement after a certain time. In other words, your career can never get endlessly mired at middle management. Your performance is reviewed on a regular basis during rating periods. You will be told you are being rated, and told what is expected of you during this period. We think this process is more than fair, and that it gives every officer a real chance to be at his best.
The Lieutenant Phase:
Once a cadet graduates, he/she is commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. The first thing a young officer does is develop in his or her primary branch by attending the Basic Officer Leadership Course. After that, some officers opt for Airborne or Ranger training (or both). But most go right to their first duty assignment. Progressing from Second to First Lieutenant, the young officer applies his training and develops his leadership abilities. In fact, learning how to lead troops is the key objective of this phase. Promotion to First Lieutenant takes about 18 months.
The Captain Phase:
A lot happens while you're a Captain. The most important thing is to get experience as a Company Commander. A Company Commander normally is in charge of over 100 soldiers. Command experience, obviously, is a valuable resource through out a career. During this phase, you attend your branch specific Captains Career Course. Following your time as a Company Commander, you can take advantage of several assignment choices, includeing becoming an ROTC instructor, teaching at your branch's school, Advanced Civil Schooling (garduate school), or in a selected functional area - allowing you to develop into an area of expertise that interests you and is needed by the Army. Promotion to Captain takes about four years.
The Major Phase:
Being promoted to Major signals a big step in your career. You've become a key staff officer in charge of such areas as Personnel, Intelligence, Operations, or Logistics. You'll be given new assignments which permit you to use previously developed skills, as well as expand your overall professional development. The objective here is to develop further in your branch, and continue development in your functional area. Some officers are selected here for Command and General Staff College or given the opportunity to attend civilian schools. Promotion to Major takes about 11 years.
The Lieutenant Colonel Phase:
Your assignment might be as a Battalion Commander in charge of hundreds of soldiers or a general staff officer in a division or corps. Outstanding performance will merit more challenging positions. Some officers are selected for the Army War College, where they become "experts" at their profession. Promotion to Lieutenant Colonel takes about 17 years.
The Colonel Phase:
At this phase, the Army takes maximum advantage of your talents. This means you'll be assigned as a Brigade Commander in charge of thousands of soldiers or director of a large staff. Your technical skills and accumulated executive talents will be put to the test. This is the senior level of responsibility. You're a top executive. Promotion to Colonel takes about 22 years.
Officers who demonstrate extraordinary leadership and executive abilities are selected to be general officers. The CEO's of the Army. They do nothing less than run the Army. From division commanders to post commanders to high level staff positions, General Officers are responsible for maintaining an efficient and effective Army. Promotion to General takes about 25 years.
There are 16 primary branches for an Officer. Each of these branches falls into a series of larger groups - click on each to find out more about the individual branches:
Maneuver, Fires, and Effects
Operations Support Division
Force Sustainment Division