Understanding Military Skillsets: Part III


What's the Difference Between Enlisted and Officer Ranks?

In a nutshell, enlisted soldiers are the backbone of the military, comprising about 83% of the armed forces. Officers act as managers for those soldiers, planning missions, giving orders, and assigning soldiers to tasks.

Every year, more than 180,000 people enlist in the armed forces, and nearly another 20,000 become officers. Both enlisted and officer ranks provide rewarding career experiences, educational and training opportunities, and competitive compensation.

But what do they do?

Enlisted personnel typically do the following:

  • Participate in, or support, combat and other military operations, such as humanitarian or disaster relief
  • Operate, maintain, and repair equipment
  • Perform technical and support activities
  • Supervise junior enlisted personnel

Officers typically do the following:

  • Plan, organize, and lead troops and activities in military operations
  • Manage enlisted personnel
  • Operate and command aircraft, ships, or armored vehicles
  • Provide military personnel with professional services in medical, legal, engineering, and other fields

To get a better idea of how each segment is organized, download our Guide to Enlisted and Officer Ranks for a handy reference that outlines enlisted and officer ranks, with detailed information that will help you better understand the level of experience and responsibility for each rank. Next topic: Best Practices for Interviewing Veterans