How Long Should You Stay in an Army Job?

One of the most popular questions that people ask me concerning their Army Career is how long should I stay in one Army Job?  In my professional opinion, I don’t believe anyone should stay in ANY one Army Job more than 24 months, ever.  That includes command time, too.  In most cases, the ideal time in one job is 12 to 18 months.  And 12 months is better than 18 months (in my opinion).  The minimum time I would want to spend in one Army job is 9 months and the maximum is 24 months.

Why do I say these things?  Well first of all, you need to have a variety of jobs so you can round out your experience.  If you want to be competitive for tough assignments and promotions you need to stand above the pack.  And of the easiest ways to do that is to bounce around in different jobs and get a lot of experience doing different things.

Of course, you have to do a GOOD JOB with your Army jobs.  You have to go above and beyond what is expected and be a top producer.  If you get fired from job to job, or bounced around because your performance is horrible, that doesn’t count toward my advice.

If you have 10 years in the Army and you’ve only had five jobs and you go before a board with someone who had 8 jobs during the same period, who do you think has the advantage?  Once again, that’s assuming all other things are equal and you both did well in your jobs.  I believe the person with more jobs has the advantage over the other person with fewer jobs.  Once again, that is just my personal opinion.

Why do I have these time frames for your time in each job?  Here is my explanation to you:

  • Anything less than 9 months in an Army Job and it will probably look like you were fired or bounced around.  And it’s hard to get “qualified” experience with less than nine months in a job.  Some people (boards) might not take your evaluation too seriously if it’s a real short rating period.
  • Nine to 18 months is great because you learn new skills, get some experience, and will probably have tangible results you can document on your evaluation report.
  • When in command, 18 to 24 months is a good standard.  And 24 months is better than 18 months.
  • When you stay in a job more than 24 months, you tend to plateau.  I’ve found that most people stop learning new skills in a job after six to 12 months.  Anything more than 24 months probably hurts you.

DISCLAIMER: These are my personal thoughts, not the view of any government agency.

Yes, Officers tend to move around more than enlisted.  But even enlisted Soldiers need to monitor this closely and know WHEN it’s time to get transferred, move on, or move out of their job.

At the end of the day, it’s up to YOU to manage your career effectively.  It’s true; no one else cares about your career as much as you do.  Now you know!  If no one has ever taught you this advice before, you can no longer say you don’t know how long to be in a job.  I hope you take this advice and apply it in your military career.

If you have any questions or additional advice, please post them below. Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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7 thoughts on “How Long Should You Stay in an Army Job?”

  1. This is a tricky question in any occupation, but apparently even more so in the military. You want to stay in a job long enough to learn it, succeed, and perhaps even master it, but this can’t take too long or you will either appear to be a slow learner, or someone who does not deserve a promotion. On the other hand, skip around from job to job too quickly, and it may appear that people are just trying to get rid of you. The twelve to eighteen month time frame seems like a nice compromise.

    1. Sometimes people to get passed around because they aren’t good at what they do. That is usually documented on their performance report.

      In the Army, the enlisted normally stay in a job longer than officers. They are really the glue that keeps everything together. Enlisted are more subject matter experts too.

      As officers, we are generalists. We need to know a little about a lot of different things, hence the reason we do lots of different jobs.

  2. Katelyn Hensel

    Excellent post. The only thing I would add is that maybe certain people should stay in one position for longer than 24 months. You say that some people plateau after 24 months, but I believe that some people need a certain amount of time to cement in those skills that they’ve been gaining. I think the biggest mistake some people make is switching before you’ve gained all the skills that a certain job can offer. For example, working up a corporate ladder, if you miss a step along the way, you can get caught unawares when a higherup wants you to do something with skills you should have learned in a previous stepping stone job.

    1. I never thought about it like that before, Katelyn. Some people are a little bit slower than others and need more time in a job to develop their skills and learn from the experience. Every individual is different. Hopefully, the rater, senior rater and rated soldier are all on the same sheet of paper about how long the person should stay in their job.

  3. Finding ways to expand one’s skills, experience and education is important, but changing jobs every 9 – 24 months also keeps one from getting bored. Flexibility and change re-motivate us. We stop taking advantage of the system and are less likely to do business as usual when we are new. A varied job history whether in the military (Army, National Guard, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Air Force, etc.) or other public service or private industry make Jack and Jill interesting, diverse, great problem-solving and decision-making people

  4. Neil O'Donnell

    Sounds like great advice. I especially like that you included a minimum. In addition to implying a soldier was fired, not staying at a job for at least nine months may make superior officers question if a soldier gained true proficiency. This is especially dangerous if the soldier is applying for a new position that depends on mastery of her/his previous job.

    1. Good point. The secret is to stay in the job long enough to learn new skills and prove yourself at the same time, but not so long that you plateau and wear out your welcome.

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