Top 5 Tips to Get Promoted to a NCO

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…

1.   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 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.)

2.   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 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.

4.   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 unsure of the requirements, get with your unit Training and/or Readiness NCO!

5.   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

These are my best tips to get promoted to a NCO.  The bottom line is that you must accept responsibility for your own career and stay proactive.  It’s true; no one cares about your career as much as you do.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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6 thoughts on “Top 5 Tips to Get Promoted to a NCO”

  1. Faith A. Coleman

    Definitely, look the part. A soldier isn’t seeing himself as an NCO if he isn’t looking the part and acting the part and no one else will envision him as an NCO either. I’ve noticed that in the civilian world as well – interviewing for a job is more likely to be successful if you go looking the part. It changes how I feel to dress professionally, or well, anyway, even when I don’t necessarily have to make an impression. I feel better, more confident and that feeling affects everything I do, for the better.

    1. People judge people by the way they dress. Call it right or call it wrong, but it is the truth. If you are up for a promotion or interviewing for a job, look the best that you can. It will help.

  2. The APFT is absolutely the #1 roadblock to promotion for most Soldiers. I’ve got great guys that I would love to promote, but they can’t pass the APFT. Beyond that, I can testify to the value of a college degree; it has helped me get promoted fairly quickly over the years, and I made both E-7 and E-8 in my first year of eligibility. Most Soldiers don’t take the time to learn just what components make up their EPS (Enlisted Promotion System) score. I did, and took the time on our last deployment when I was stuck behind a desk to complete the 375 credit hours of online courses to earn the maximum 75 promotion points available. That helped put me near the top of the list for promotion to E-8. A little investigation and effort can be tremendously beneficial. It’s your career; take an interest in it!

  3. From what I understand there’s a whole lot of hurry up and wait that takes place within the Army. This would probably be a great time to catch up on correspondence courses and other self-improvement material that could earn the points necessary to advance. I especially like the advice to stay fit and look the part, people really do rely on appearance to qualify someone as trustworthy.

    1. There’s always time to manage your career, take courses and take correspondence courses. People are naturally lazy and just like to make excuses. However, there are plenty of Soldiers who get degrees while they are deployed to a combat zone, take college classes at night or on the weekend, a do correspondence courses after work. In life, you can either make excuses or you can make things happen. But you can’t do both.

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