5 Tips to Get Promoted to Army E-5 Sergeant Fast

If you are an E-4, looking to earn a little bit more money or are simply just ready for more responsibility, the only way to do so is to get promoted and become a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO).  As we know, getting promoted is more than just simply putting your time in…you need to set yourself apart from your peers and establish yourself at the top of the promotion lists for your MOS.  Easier said than done, right?  Well, here are my Top 5 Tips to Get Promoted and Become a NCO that are sure to help you along your path…

5. Focus on Your APFT and Appearance: I cannot tell you how many E-4s I have seen that should have been pinned with chevrons years ago but simply can’t pass an APFT.  This is what is holding them back.  You cannot get promoted without passing your APFT…PERIOD!  I have harped on the importance of doing PT in previous articles, so to summarize…don’t even contemplate the idea of a promotion unless you can at least pass your APFT comfortably.  Coupled with that is your height and weight.  Nothing disgusts me more than a fat, out of shape Soldier.  You cannot be a fat-bodied Specialist and except to be considered an NCO and leader if you can’t even have the discipline to maintain the Army standard with your physical appearance.  Bottomline: Pass your APFT, stay lean and mean, and maintain your appearance (i.e. grooming, height/weight, etc.)

4. Finish Your Education: There are so many NCOs, that I have seen, out-progress their peers because of the points earned by completing their Bachelor’s or Associate degrees.  Even if it is something as simple as Basket Weaving or something as complex as structural engineering, get a degree!  The Army offers more than 1,000 ways to help pay for your education so, TAKE ADVANTAGE of it and EARN PROMOTION POINTS!

3. Complete Correspondence Courses: Visit AKO and you will find hundreds of courses that are formal, non-resident extensions of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command curriculum.  These courses, once complete, contribute to your overall promotion point count and help you gain that competitive edge over your peers who are doing just the bare minimum to get by.  Try searching courses that are MOS specific, plan goals (i.e. say complete 3 courses every 3-4 months) and GET TO WORK! Most courses are short length and require little resources and time.

2. Structured Self-Development: It is now a new requirement that you must complete the Structured Self-Development coursework.  Basically, there are 5- 80 hour courses that are specifically designed for all levels of NCO leadership and you MUST complete them before you advance.  For example, you cannot attend WLC (Warrior Leaders Course) without first completing the SSD-1 coursework.  If you are ensure of the requirements, get with your unit Training and/or Readiness NCO!

1. STAY MOTIVATED!!!  Remember, the Qualitive Retention Board exists for one reason…to can unmotivated, toxic NCOs!  Always, always, ALWAYS be striving for that next level.  I know that it is oftentimes hard to stay motivated in the NG after you have been an E4 for 10 years or you’re an E-6 and no E-7 slots seem to be opening up, but you HAVE to stay positive and motivated. Don’t stop working to better yourself, your Soldiers and your peers regardless of your personal situation.

Final Thoughts

Getting promoted to an Army E-5 is not rocket science.  If you are in the National Guard or Army Reserves and want to be an NCO, you need to have a game-plan.  You need to stay in shape, pass the APFT, and increase your promotion points by going to college, taking correspondence courses and completing your military education.  Be proactive and remember that no one else cares about your career as much as you do.

What are your thoughts about how to get promoted to E-5 fast?  Leave a comment and let us know.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)
Publisher, Part-Time-Commander.com
Email: mrchuckholmes@gmail.com

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14 thoughts on “5 Tips to Get Promoted to Army E-5 Sergeant Fast”

  1. There are so many things that go into getting promoted in the military. There are straight cut regulatory guidance on timelines and processes but then there are also many parts left to timing and opportunity as it becomes available to you that greatly affect your promotions the further you go. If you don’t have as much choice in the positions that you want to serve in then you may be at a loss compared to your peers who were able to select their desired positions based on their opportunity. Four big topics to discus are education, schools and courses, records (SRB), and the board you can read more on the Soldier’s Spot. There is guidance for all NCO ranks there.

  2. You can’t just show up, put on a uniform and expect to get promoted. That’s with any career, so why should the military be any different. How you keep your appearance is a direct reflection of your commitment. If you are unkempt and sloppy your are sending a message that you don’t care enough about the uniform you wear and the position you hold to look like it!

    1. Are my tattoos frowned on? I feel like my tats are looked at negatively by my superiors. Im in very good physical condition “appearance wise” but its the damn tattoos that seem to drawl negative attention. It would cost a fortune to have them removed. What should i do?

      1. While they shouldn’t be unless they carry negative depictions, I do believe tattoos are still frowned on to a certain extent. I would suggest removal if at all possible.

  3. I, like Chuck stated, believe that if a soldier is doing all the steps, promotion will come. Sure, there will be cracks, but overall, the military runs a much tighter and fairer ballgame than most corporations. Stay in shape and keep your appearance clean. If you commit to a daily habit of this, the promotion will come. I also believe surrounding yourself with good company is important also.

    1. Good things come to those who are prepared. You can’t wish your way to success. Getting promoted to E5 and above is pretty easy if you have a game plan and do the work!

  4. As a former Company Commander, I can tell you that Soldiers who deserve to get promoted, get promoted. Most of the Soldiers I had who complained about not getting promoted were either overweight, flagged, or didn’t have the required points or schools they needed to get promoted. As I see it, that was their fault and no one else’s fault.

    My good Soldiers were always proactive, always looking for ways to get more promotion points, always going to schools, and taking the tough assignments. As a result, they moved up the ranks pretty quickly.

    I think the military has a level playing field, much better than the corporate world. Soldiers know EXACTLY what they must do to move up through the ranks. In most cases, they simply don’t do what they should be doing. And then they go and blame it on someone else, saying it’s their chain of command’s fault.

    I’m just tired of hearing that.

  5. Josue Daniel Nieves Santiago

    I think you are missing the most important factor or tip: Know the system.
    You see, I had all those, but it took me 14 months from E-1 to E-4, but 10 more years to make E-5. Why? Because I did not know how to put a packet in! Granted, back in the 90's the system stink huge time, we were in the reduction-in-force and Active Duty Retention NCOs were filling every slot available from their desks. But nobody explained me how to beat the system! Which bring me to the 2nd most important tip: Get a mentor. A mentor will show you the ropes in promotion and more.

    1. I would say that is a failure in leadership. There are many things that fall through the gaps because leaders fail to explain things to their Soldier or be on the lookout for their benefit. However, I think that 10 years is not a fault of leadership as much as it is lack of motivation to understand what it takes to get promoted. I am sure if the right questions were asked to the right people (say another E5?) then you would have been squared away.

      1. Don’t be too quick to judge, Justin. I came as an E-1 in 1987, and you can see by my title that I am a Captain. I was an E-6 in Drill SGT status prior to commissioning. Definitely not your unmotivated type. Perhaps you are too young to recall the 90’s, during the R.I.F. I was on active duty and barely anybody was getting promoted. When I went to the Reserve side, it was the same story, but worst. Like I mentioned, any recruiter or retention NCO had the ability to fill vacancies within a unit. People like myself, with plenty of points to get promoted were being left hanging due to the inability of the UA’s to control their UMR’s. I finally got promoted while in Bosnia along with other E-4s whom were in the same “boat” with me.
        This lengthy time-in-grade sounds absurd for today’s young Soldiers, as they are accustomed to get promoted with minimal time in grade and in service. 20-30 years ago was not like that. NCOs were really seasoned, with plenty of time in grade and in service before their next promotion, unlike the bake-and-shake NCOs that we have been getting since 9-11.

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