Army Officer Competitive Categories

As a commissioned officer in the Army, your promotion is based upon your competitive category.  Each competitive category has different requirements, based upon the needs of the Army.

According to DA PAM 600-3 “Competitive categories are established to manage the career development and promotion of certain groups of officers whose specialized education, training, or experience, and often relatively narrow utilization, make separate career management desirable.”

In other words, when you are up for promotion, you are not competing against all other Army Officers.  Instead, you are only competing against other officers in the same competitive category that you are.  As an example, dental officers are not competing against infantry officers for promotion.  Instead they are simply competing amongst other dental officers.  Does that make sense?

The Army Reserve, National Guard and Active Duty Army do things a bit differently. So what might apply to the Active Duty Army might not apply to the USAR or ARNG.  Here’s what I found online about how each branch handles it.

For Active Duty Army Officers 

According to AR 600-3, here are the competitive categories for Active Duty Army Officers.

  • Maneuver, Fires and Effects
  • Operations Support
  • Force Sustainment
  • Special Braches
    • Judge Advocate General’s Corps
    • Chaplain’s Corps
    • Army Nurse Corps
    • Army Dental Corps
    • Medical Corps
    • Medical Service Corps
    • Army Medical Specialist Corps
    • Veterinary Corps.

Army Medical Specialist Corps and Medical Corps combine into a single category for promotions above the grade of O6.

For Army Reserve and ARNG Officers

Here are the competitive categories for ARNG and USAR officers, according to AR 135-5:

  • Army Promotion List (Includes Judge Advocates)
  • Chaplains
  • Army Nurse Corps
  • Dental Corps
  • Medical Corps
  • Medical Service Corps
  • Army Medical Specialist Corps
  • Veterinary Corps.

Army Medical Specialist Corps and Medical Corps combine into a single category for promotions above the grade of O6.

Warrant Officers

There are two competitive categories for Warrant Officers: Technical and Aviation warrants.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is to know the requirements for your competitive category.  Know which jobs you need, what training you need, how much time in rank and time in service you need, and when you are eligible for promotion. Come up with a game plan and do what you can to stand out in the crowd.

References

  • DA PAM 600-3
  • AR 135-5
  • http://dopma-ropma.rand.org/competitive-categories.html

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6 thoughts on “Army Officer Competitive Categories”

  1. Amazing information! I just checked out your whole website and I must say that you really worked hard for the website and we can find all the information about Army at once place. Great work!

  2. To answer your question – yes, this makes total sense that different specialties would be divided based on job description. Although the Army needs both doctors and infantry officers, the job descriptions and needed skills are different. Good advice for people to know their competitive category. It’s interesting that the Army National Guard and Reserve do things differently than the regular Army when it comes to competitive categories.

  3. This is great information Chuck. I wonder why there are differences between full Army and National Guard/Reserves.

    I believe it would be great if you started going through each category and posting the basic requirements. I am sure they vary substantially depending on the competitive category an officer falls in.

    Out of curiosity, is there ever a situation where an officer could be within 2 or more categories?

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