Top 10 Army NCO Promotion Tips for USAR and ARNG NCOs

In today’s post, I want to discuss my Top 10 Army NCO Promotion Tips for USAR and ARNG NCOs.  These are some simple things you can do to help you get promoted above your peers.  They are listed in no particular order.

# 1 Don’t Get Fat

This might come as a surprise to you, but lots of NCOs don’t get promoted because they can’t pass the APFT or Height/Weight standards.  I couldn’t imagine being # 1 on STAP or meeting the cut off scores and then NOT getting promoted because I couldn’t pass one of these events.  The moral of this story is to stay in shape.  Work out during the month and keep your weight under control.  If you fail one of these events, you don’t deserve to get promoted.

# 2 Get a Second MOS

In the ARNG and USAR, it might be in your best interest to get a second or third MOS.  Some MOSs are very competitive and offer very limited upward mobility.  When you have an additional MOS, you will have better options.  And options are good!  Before you pick a second MOS, get a copy of the state’s manning roster to see which MOSs offer the most potential.

# 3 Update Your Personnel File Quarterly

At a minimum of once every 90 days make sure you update your IPERMS file.  Check to make sure everything is updated and accurate.  Whenever you get a new award, an evaluation report, or any paperwork, make sure it is submitted to IPERMS and then go and check to see that it’s in your file within 30 days.  I’d also recommend you make an “I Love Me” book that has all your important documents in it and keep it in a safe place.

# 4 Be Willing to Take a Promotion Outside of Your Unit

Even if you love your unit, I encourage you to be willing to take a promotion outside of your unit, even if you have to travel more than 50 miles.  Sometimes you have to make temporary sacrifices so you can advance your career.  If you are offered a promotion take it.  You might not get the opportunity again for a while.

# 5 Monitor the STAP List/Cutoff Scores Monthly

If you are in the ARNG, you should monitor the STAP List.  You should know who is #1 on the list, how many points they have and how far back you are.  That way you can formulate a game plan so you can be # 1 next year.  If you are in the USAR, keep your eyes on the cutoff scores each month.  Look for trends.  If you are close to the cutoff scores, do what you can to bump up your score.  You should always know where you stand in relation to STAP or Cutoff Scores.

# 6 Do Something to Increase Your Promotion Points Every Month

Every single month for your entire career, do something to increase your promotions points.  Take a college class, complete a correspondence course, or go to a military school.  Those are things you have control over.  Even if you just do two or three correspondence courses every month that will add up to a lot of promotion points in a 12 month period.  Remember, you are either advancing your career or you are going backwards.

# 7 Network with Superiors and People of Influence

The most successful NCOs that I know of have large networks.  I’m not talking about butt kissing either.  I’m talking about building strategic relationships with people of influence.  You need a game plan to meet people and to build a positive professional relationship with them.  People should know who you are and what you bring.  After all, people like to promote and select people for jobs that they know, like and trust.  You should network with other NCOs, Officers, and DA Civilians.

# 8 Take Responsibility for Your Own Career

Ultimately, your career is in your hands.  No one cares about your career as much as you do.  Therefore, you need to man up or woman up and take responsibility of your career.  That means you need a game plan, you need to be proactive and you have to stop blaming others when you don’t get what you want!

# 9 Have Realistic Expectations

Many folks expected to get promoted at minimum time in grade for every promotion.  Very few people ever attain that.  It is possible, but it’s also highly unlikely.  You need to have realistic expectations about when you should be promoted.  Otherwise, you will be disappointed.

# 10 Have a Positive Attitude!

Having a positive attitude makes a huge difference.  No one likes a negative person.  Put a smile on your face, treat others with respect, be nice to people, and show interest in others.  Believe it or not, this one skill alone will take your pretty far in your military career.

Final Thoughts

In summary, these are my Top 10 Army NCO Promotion Tips for USAR and ARNG NCOs.  If you follow the tips mentioned in this article, you should get promoted faster and have the career that you deserve.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any added tips that helped you gain a promotion? Do you have any questions? Please post them in the comments section below. Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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23 thoughts on “Top 10 Army NCO Promotion Tips for USAR and ARNG NCOs”

  1. Getting promoted as a NCO isn’t all that hard to do, especially with the STAP System. Each year you know how many points the people you are competing against have. All you need to do is get more points then them. If you don’t, it’s your fault!

    1. Fred,

      I used to tell my NCOs and Soldiers that all the time, yet most of them never did anything about it. I wish the officer promotion system was similar to STAP in the ARNG. That would have been great!


      1. STAP is great for promoting NCOs easily, but it is also a bad thing… You have a lot of young, inexperienced E4s filling E5 slots before they are even remotely ready to do so. I think that this will have huge negative affects down the line with respect to NCO leadership…

  2. My old First Sergeant always told me that if I wanted to get promoted I had to first identify the requirements to get promoted and then plan backwards. I need to do the points I will need, what schools I will need, what jobs I will need and when I will need them. Most NCOs simply don’t actively manage their career. They don’t get promoted and it’s really THEIR fault, even though they like to blame someone in their chain of command.

  3. To get promoted pass the APFT and HT/WT, get your schools knocked out, take some tough jobs, network with your superiors, and do whatever you can to increase your points every month. It surely isn’t rocket science.

    1. Good advice, Chris. From what I’ve seen, people KNOW what they need to do to get promoted, but there is a big difference between knowing and actually doing what must be done.

    2. Good points, Chris. APFT is a huge PTs maker. Always strive to get over a 180! Also, great input with respect to schools…especially completing those NCOES schools!

  4. Having spent time on Active Duty and in the ARNG, I have to tell you that I like STAP better than the Active Duty promotion system. There are some MOSs on Active Duty where promotion points to E5 are always at the MAX so it’s next to impossible to get promoted. Certain MOSs get promoted with low points and other MOSs always have high points. In the ARNG, the person at the top of the STAP list is the one to get promoted. I really like that concept.

    1. Good point Mark. When I was a 71L on Active Duty my points to get promoted to E5 never went below the max of 798. Yet, my Infantry and Trans buddies were getting promoted to E5 with 350 to 400 points. I was around 600+ points and couldn’t get promoted, yet they were. I never liked that system.

  5. Keeping a healthy weight to standards and working at staying healthy are two key characteristics of happy, respected ARNG and USAR leaders. Being more likely considered for promotions is just one of many wonderful side effects of the effort and time spent exercising, getting proper rest, and eating right. When we do this, we also have a more positive outlook on life, and people prefer to be around positive bosses and teammates.

    1. Staying in shape is a big part of getting promoted, especially in the ARNG and USAR. I’ve met countless NCOs that couldn’t get promoted because of their weight or level of physical fitness, yet they wanted to blame it on someone or something else.

  6. Neil O'Donnell

    The second MOS is certainly a great piece of advice. As the Army’s needs change, those with more MOSs will have more advancement opportunities. As for networking, making contacts can definitely help an NCO find and obtain promotions. A network is also great to have in place should an NCO feel the need to change jobs because of difficulties with a superior.

    1. Having a second MOS is critical in the ARNG and USAR, especially if you want to attain the senior ranks. Networking is equally important. Everyone has a network already, but the smart leaders are constantly expanding their network, while improving the relationships they already have.

  7. I printed this post out and keep it in my Leader’s Book for NCO Counseling. I like to close my Quarterly counselings with at least 2-3 of these tips to set my Soldiers up for success. It is also a good reminder of what I can do as their PL to help them progress along in their career.

    1. Good for you for using these promotion tips with your counseling. Even if your NCO gets just one “nugget” from your career counseling, it should really pay off.


  8. I like this because it suggests taking control of your situation. It’s so essential that you be willing to be versatile and work outside of your unit. I think that’s something that might have been frowned upon in years past, but not so much anymore, which is great.

    1. If it’s meant to be it’s up to me. That is some career advice I received as a young soldier and I still cherish that advice. No one else cares about our careers as much as we do!

  9. This is a great post and one of my favorites so far. Not only does it apply to the soldier, but I think all branches of our military men and women could benefit from this. Many of our leaders who are responsible for leading and mentoring our troops do not have the knowledge and experience in place to provide this level of advice…its a different military as it once was.

    1. The military definitely has changed. One of the biggest problems is how quickly people get promoted. Lots of new leaders simply do not have the experience they need to be effective at their jobs. Just my two cents. Thanks for the comment.

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