Army Promotions

The Army uses three systems to decide what enlisted members will get promoted.

Decentralized Promotions (E-2 through E-4)
The unit is the promotion authority. The commander decides who gets promoted or not. There are no quotas for promotion for these ranks so, commanders typically promote everyone who meets the “promotion criteria.”

Promotion Criteria is set by the Army to ensure that the “promotion flow” remains stable, and everyone (regardless of MOS) can expect to be promoted at about the same time-frame. Exceptions may apply such as if you join at an advanced rank, for certain accomplishments, or for soldiers in Special Forces.

Semi centralized Promotions (E-5 and E-6)
In this process means the unit plays a part in the promotion selection process, but the Army decides who actually gets promoted. There are two promotion processes. The first is known as the “Primary Zone”, which most enlisted soldiers are promoted through and then there is the “Secondary Zone.” The “Secondary Zone” gives the possibility of early promotion to exceptional performers.

The process for both zones begins with “Administrative Points.” A soldier receives promotion points for various accomplishments, such as military decorations, and Physical Fitness Test scores.
Administrative points consist of the following:

  • Duty Performance
  • Competence
  • Military Bearing
  • Leadership
  • Training
  • Responsibility/Accountability
  • Awards and Decorations
  • Military Education
  • Civilian Education
  • Military Training

Some categories count more than others. After the points are determined in the above sections each soldier physically appears before the promotion board. Each board members ask a series of questions, and scores the candidate in several areas such as:

  • Personal Appearance
  • Oral Expression & Conversation Skills
  • Knowledge of World Affairs
  • Awareness of Military Programs
  • Knowledge of Basic Soldiering (Soldier’s Manual)
  • Soldier’s Attitude

The average of the scores becomes the soldier’s “promotion board points”. The board consists of at least three voting members and one nonvoting member (the recorder). The President of the Board is the senior member. All members of the board must be at least one grade senior to those being considered for promotion . If available, there must be at least one voting member of the same sex as the soldiers being considered. This group is then responsible for viewing the figures and voting on recommendation. It is a requirement for promotion eligibility. During the final step

the board points are added to the administrative points and a decision is made.

Centralized Promotions (E-7, E-8, and E-9)
Centralized promotions are conducted Army-wide, at Army Personnel Headquarters. The unit/battalion has little to nothing to do with the promotion process. There are no minimum time-in-grade requirements for promotion. Soldiers are required however to meet certain time-in-service requirements to be eligible for promotion.
The Centralized Promotion Board consists of at least five members. The board can is typically divided into separate panels, which review and score the promotion records for those being considered in different MOS’s. Each panel must include at least three voting members and the President of the Board must be a General Officer. Board members are commissioned officers and Senior NCOs.

Normally soldiers do not personally meet the Centralized Board. The board makes their decisions based on the contents of the soldier’s promotion records.

Soldiers eligible for consideration may write to the president of the promotion board to provide documents and information drawing attention to any matter concerning themselves that they feel is important to their consideration. Providing additional information is only advised when there is something with potential impact on the boards decision that is not already included. Promotion records consist of the soldier’s military records, including decorations, dates of service, dates of assignments, duty positions, performance reports, educational accomplishments, military training, official photograph, records of disciplinary actions etc. The members of the board discuss and score each record, and then make a determination as to whether or not the individual should be promoted.

The President publishes a synopsis, which gives an overview of which general factors the board looked at the most which often varies from year to year. The Army then takes all the selected (without regard to MOS), and assigns them a promotion sequence number, which is assigned according to seniority.


Congress passes the Defense Authorization Act each year. This is how the number of Army members that can be on active duty in the upcoming year is determined. By separate legislation, Congress limits what percentage of the total active duty force can serve in each commissioned officer rank, what percentage of the total active duty force can serve in each warrant officer rank, and what percentage of the active duty force can serve in each enlisted rank above the grade of E-4 (there are no statutory limits for E-4 and below). These amounts are then the foundation of the Army enlisted promotion system.


Promotion selection is conducted fairly and equitably by boards composed of mature, experienced, senior officers. Each board consists of different members, and women and minority members are routinely appointed. A typical board is presided over by a general officer and consists of 18-21 officers in a grade senior to that of those being considered for promotion. The board membership reviews the entire performance portion of the official record of every officer being considered for promotion. Selection boards recommend those officers who, in the collective judgment of the board, are best qualified for promotion and future service in the Army.

The Officer Promotions Section supports the field by establishing and announcing zones of consideration; processing and releasing promotion board selection results; publishing monthly promotion orders; publishing monthly promotion forecasts; and by providing opinions to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records (ABCMR). The office also responds to inquiries from officers, Army senior leadership, and Congressional and White House correspondence.

Helpful Links to Army Promotion Details:
Monthly officer promotion forecast numbers are normally released around the middle of the month.