Enlisted Promotions Made Simple

Navy Enlisted Promotions

Navy enlisted ranks
Rank of Navy. .mil

The Navy doesn't have "rank." The term is "rate." The rate of an enlisted sailor can be determined by their rating badge, which is a combination of rate (pay grade, as indicated by stripes for E1-E3, chevrons for E4-E6, and an arch connecting the upper chevron for the eagle to perch upon for E-7, and the addition of one star for E-8 or two star for E-9 – the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy has three stars) and rating (occupational specialty, as indicated by the symbol just above the stripes or chevrons) on the left sleeve of most uniforms (utility uniforms have only rate indicated).

For example, the "rate" of an E-6 in the Navy (i.e., what one calls him/her) depends on person's job.

A person with the rate (job) of Sonar Technician, Surface (STG) in the Navy, in the paygrade of E-6 would be an "STG1," or "Sonar Technician First Class". An E-5 with the rate (job) of Culinary Specialist (CS), would have the rate of CS2, or "Culinary Specialist Second Class." However, things reverse in E-7 through E-9 paygrades – there the individual is identified first by their rate, then rating (job) – for example, a Boatswain’s Mate in the paygrade of E-7 would be a “Chief Boatswain’s Mate."

Sailors in pay grades E-1 through E-3 are generally addressed as “Seaman” (last name), E-4 through E-6 can be addressed as "Petty Officer (name)". Chief Petty Officers are always referred to as "Chief", "Senior Chief", or "Master Chief" as appropriate. An example: "Chief Jones" or in subsequent references, just "Chief".

Promotion Limitations

As with the other services, Congress tells the Navy how much enlisted personnel can be on active duty at any specific point in time, and the maximum percentages that can be serving in the pay grades above the grades of E-4. However, like the Marine Corps, the Navy has established their own limitation on the number of E-4s that can serve, so that pay grade is part of the "competitive" process.

The Navy takes the number of "billets" they have for each enlisted rank, above the rank of E-3, and allocates them to the different ratings (enlisted jobs). In other words, the Storekeeper (SK) rating may be allowed to have 5,000 E-4s at any point in time and 2,000 E-5s and Hospital Corpsman (HM) rating may be authorized 7,000 E-4s, and 5,000 E-5s (as a general rule, the higher the paygrade, the fewer positions there are, within a specific rating).

In order to promote someone (above the rank of E-3), there must be a "vacancy." For example, if an E-9 retires in a certain rating, that means that one E-8 can be promoted to E-9, and that opens an E-8 slot, so one E-7 can be promoted to E-8, and so-forth. If 200 E-5s get out of the Navy in a particular rating, then 200 E-4s can be promoted to E-5.

As of March 2019, the Navy had 273,823 enlisted members on active duty. Here's how it breaks down, by enlisted rank.

• Seaman Recruit (E-1) - 12,398

• Seaman Apprentice (E-2) - 15,021

• Seaman (E-3) - 43,070

• Petty Officer Third Class (E-4) - 52,904

• Petty Officer Second Class (E-5) - 69,067

• Petty Officer First Class (E-6) - 50,997

• Chief Petty Officer (E-7) - 21,165

• Senior Chief Petty Officer (E-8) - 6,579

• Master Chief Petty Officer (E-9) - 1,584

[Source: DMDC Active Duty Military Personnel Master File (September 2019)]

Like the other services, the Navy has programs that will grant advanced paygrade (up to E-3) when joining up, for certain accomplishments, such as college credits, or participation in JROTC. Additionally, the Navy will give accelerated advancement (up to E-4) to recruits who enlist in certain enlistment programs, such as the Nuclear Field Program.

For a quick overview of the Navy Enlisted Promotion Requirements, see our Navy Enlisted Promotion Chart.

Promotions to E-2 and E-3

Also like the other services, promotions in the Navy to E-2 and E-3 are pretty much automatic, Time-in-Rate (TIR) [TIR is the date from which the member’s total service in paygrade is considered to have commenced for the purposes of advancing to the next higher paygrade], assuming that the individual does his/her job and stays out of trouble.

• E-1 to E-2 - Nine months TIR.
• E-2 to E-3 - Nine months TIR.

No exam is required for advancement to E-2. However, commands have the option of administering E-3 Apprenticeship Exams for some ratings. Apprenticeship examinations consist of 150 questions. 100 questions are on the specific apprenticeship (job) and 50 questions are on general military subjects. Even so, promotions to E-3 are not competitive. The exams are pass/fail. Those who achieve a passing score can be promoted, those who don't receive a passing score will have to try again.

Promotions to E-4 through E-7

Promotions to the rates of Petty Officer Third Class (E-4) through Chief Petty Officer (E-7) are competitive. Navy’s Enlisted Advancement Worksheet (EAW) is now an electronic automated process, becoming part of the Navy Standard Integrated Personnel System (NSIPS). The EAW will display advancement eligibility for all E-4 through E-7 candidates. This new process gives sailors better control over their EAW and provides commands with a more efficient way to validate Navy Enlisted Advancement System (NEAS) requirements. Sailors will have the ability to view their EAW months before the exam, providing additional time for corrections, if needed.

This means that personnel within each rating (job) compete with each other for a limited number of promotion vacancies. Now they can see these vacancies electronically.

Advancement examinations for E-4 to E-6 are scheduled to be conducted in March and September of each year. Advancement exams for E7 are scheduled to be conducted annually on the third Thursday of January.

The Commanding Officer (CO) / Officer In charge (OIC) recommendation is the most important advancement eligibility requirement, and the sole source for that recommendation is the member’s most recent evaluation report. This recommendation, however, can be withheld or withdrawn, should circumstances warrant (a CO’s mast, for example).

Next, to be eligible for promotion consideration, the sailor would have to meet the minimum Time in Rate (TIR) requirements for promotion to the next paygrade:

• Petty Officer Third Class (E-4) - 6 months TIR
• Petty Officer Second Class (E-5) - 12 months TIR
• Petty Officer First Class (E-6) - 36 months TIR
• Chief Petty Officer (E-7) - 36 months TIR

Additionally, for promotion to the grade of E-4, Seamen (E-3s) must first be “rated”, either by having successfully graduated from the "A-School" (job school) applicable to their rating (job), or by becoming a “designated striker“; having significant skills gained on-the-job training (OJT) experience, coupled with rate change authorization from Naval Education and Training Professional Development and Technology Center (NETPDTC).
Before an E-3 can be advanced to E-4, they must complete the Petty Officer Indoctrination Course.

For promotion to E-6, Petty Officer Second Class's (E-5s) must first complete the P02 Leadership Training Course Continuum. For promotion to E-6, eligible E-6s must complete the P01 Leadership Training Course Continuum.

Before an E-6 can be frocked or advanced to E-7, they must first complete the Chief Petty Officer Indoctrination Course.

Candidates for E-5 & E-6 may be eligible for a 12-month waiver of TIR in some circumstances, but such a waiver is good only for the exam they are currently taking.

Final Multiple Score (FMS)

The Navy uses promotion points that they call "Final Multiple Score" (FMS) system, which considers the whole person by calculating a candidate's performance, experience, and knowledge into the individual's final multiple score.

Performance is shown in a person's day-to-day performance, work ethic, achievements, and so forth, and is documented in his or her performance evaluations. Experience is indicated by elements such as Time in Service (TIS) and Time In Rate (TIR)). Knowledge is reflected as examination performance. Candidates may also earn PNA (passed but not advanced) Points that are calculated into the FMS. PNA points are awarded to candidates who passed the exam in previous years but were not advanced, and in some cases, for a relatively high-performance mark average (PMA).

In 2018, the Navy changed the FMS computations by updating the Performance Mark Average calculation for E6 & E7 exams. The "Reporting Seniors Cumulative Average PMA" compares the sailor's Individual Trait Average (ITA) on an exam qualifying EVAL against the Reporting Senior's Cumulative Average (RSCA) within that same EVAL. The new way of calculating can help the sailor by up to 1.8 points with his/her FMS.

However, the changes removed the possible two award points for Individual Augmentees (IAs), as well as adjusting the "Service in Pay Grade" (SIPG) calculation. This new calculation takes a sailors SIPG and divides by a factor of 5 with a new maximum of two (E4/E5) or three (E6).

The last change was to the maximum "Passed but Not Advanced" (PNA) points. Starting with the 2019 advancement cycles, your PNA total will only add your collected PNA points from the previous three exam cycles at your current exam rank. Any addition PNA’s on the exam will not increase the points as it is now capped at nine. 

Promotion Test - Chief Petty Officers (E-7 to E-9) from each Navy rating develop advancement examinations. The examinations consist of 200 questions. Generally, about one-half of the questions are about general Navy subjects, and the other half covers the specific rating (job). The maximum possible score is 80. For promotions to E-4 and E-5, the promotion test comprises 45 percent of the total possible promotion points. For promotions to E-6, the test comprises 35 percent. For E-7s, the test comprises 60 percent of the total possible promotion points.

Performance Evaluations - Sailors are rated periodically on their duty, conduct, and performance, by their supervisor(s) using written performance evaluations.

These written evaluations include promotion recommendations, which are converted to a numerical value ranging from 2.0 to 4.0. The marks are then averaged, resulting in a Performance Mark Average (PMA), which is then converted to promotion points as follows:

• E-4/E-5 – PMA * 80 - 256
• E-6 – PMA * 80 - 206
• E-7 - PMA *50 - 80

The maximum possible performance evaluation points for promotion to E-4 and E-5 are 64, which means the points comprise 36 percent of the total possible promotion points. The maximum possible performance evaluation points for promotion to E-6 are 114, which means evaluations count as 50 percent of the maximum possible score. The maximum possible performance evaluation points for promotions to E-7 are 120, which means this portion comprises 60 percent of the maximum possible points.

Time in Rate (TIR) (also referred to as Service in Paygrade [SIPG]) – These points are calculated based on years, and percentages of years completed since the last change in rate.

For example, if a sailor has 3 years, 6 months TIG, that would be 3.5. Points are calculated as SPIG divide by 4 - E-4/E5 are allowed a maximum of 2 points, and E-6 allowed a maximum of 3 points.

TIR Points are not used for E-7 promotions. TIR Points comprise only 1 percent of the total possible promotion points for promotions to E-4, E-5, and E-6.

Awards, Medals, and Decorations - Certain military awards, medals, and decorations are awarded a designated number of promotion points. Award, Medal, and Decoration points are not used for E-7 promotion point computation. E-4 / E-5 candidates may have a maximum of 10 Award points, which constitute 6 percent of the possible total promotion points, and E-6 candidates are limited to 12 Award points, comprising 5 percent of the total possible

Passed, Not Advanced (PNA) Points - If a sailor was considered for promotion in the past five years, had high promotion scores, and high-performance ratings, but was not promoted because of a shortage of promotion vacancies, they get a "boost" in their promotion chances by the award of PNA Points. Only factors (promotion test scores and performance ratings) in the previous five promotion cycles can be used.

PNA Points are computed in fractions of one-half point to a maximum of 1.5 points in each of the two creditable categories: Relative Points Test Score & Relative Performance Mark Average

Promotion Point Results

FMS results for all candidates are rank-ordered from the top to the bottom score - or from the most qualified to the least qualified. For example, there are 500 candidates for BM3 who meet all eligibility criteria for a given advancement cycle. However, there are only 400 vacancies to be filled. The rank-ordering process identifies the top 400 (based on FMS) who will actually be advanced.

E-4 selectees can be frocked upon receipt of the Enlisted Status Verification Report/Routing Change Authorization and after completing the Petty Officer Indoctrination Course; E-5/6 selectees upon notification of selection from Naval Education and Training Professional Development and Technology Center (NETPDTC), E-7 selectees no earlier than the first advancement increment and after completing the Chief Petty Officer Indoctrination Course; and E-8/9 selectees can be frocked upon receipt of official selection board results via NAVADMIN message.

Chief Petty Officer (E-7) Promotions. The advancement exam is just the first step for those under consideration for promotion to E-7, Chief Petty Officer. Within each rating, those in the top 60 percent (based on the above promotion points) are considered for promotion by a service-wide promotion board. It’s the promotion board who actually decides who gets promoted to E-7 and who does not, within each rating (job).

Promotion Boards

Navy-wide Promotion Boards are used for promotion to Chief Petty Officer (E-7), Senior Chief Petty Officer (E-8) and Master Chief Petty Officer (E-9). Those that are qualified for selection board consideration are considered “Selection Board Eligible” (SBE). E-7 candidates are designated SBE by completing the advancement exam and meeting the final multiple requirements for their rate; E-8 & E-9 are designated SBE on the basis of their CO / OIC Advancement recommendation.

Time in Rate (TIR) requirements for promotion to E-8 and E-9 are:

• Senior Chief Petty Officer (E-8) - 36 months TIR
• Master Chief Petty Officer (E-9) - 36 months TIR

Each selection board consists of a captain (O-6) who serves as president, a junior officer from BUPERS advancement section, who serves as a recorder, and officers and master chief petty officers who serve as board members.

Additionally, a sufficient number of assistant recorders ensure the smooth handling of records. The exact size of a board varies, but each board usually consists of about 78 members. The board meets in Washington, D.C., and officer board members are generally drawn from the D.C. area. The enlisted members are usually from out of town.

The recorder, assistant recorders, officer of the Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP) enlisted advancement planner and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy may consult with the entire board on any matter concerning selections. With the board president's concurrence, the recorder divides the board members into panels, which are responsible for reviewing the records of individuals in one general professional area, i.e., deck, engineering, medical/dental, etc. Each panel consists of at least one officer and one master chief.

A maximum select quota for each rating is established by BUPERS planners and is provided to the board. This quota is filled by the "best-qualified" candidates. Quotas may not be exceeded but may remain unfilled if the panel determines there is an insufficient number of best-qualified candidates in a rating.

Special Promotions

In some cases, commanders have the authority to bypass the normal promotion system and promote sailors early. For example, outstanding recruits are often given a meritorious promotion in boot camp, and/or “A School” (job training). It's also customary to meritoriously promote the command winners of the Navy's Outstanding Sailor of the Year Program, and the Navy Recruiter of the Year Program. Other special promotions are the Selective Conversion and Reenlistment (SCORE) Program, and Selective Traning and Reenlistment (STAR) Program.

Promotion Averages

So, how long does it take to get promoted in the Navy? On average, one can expect to be promoted after completing the following Time-in-Service (2006 Statistics):

• Petty Officer Third Class (E-4) - 3.1 years
• Petty Officer Second Class (E-5) - 5.2 years
• Petty Officer First Class (E-6) - 11.3 years
• Chief Petty Officer (E-7) - 14.4 years
• Senior Chief Petty Officer (E-8) - 17.1 years
• Master Chief Petty Officer (E-9) - 20.3 years

The NEAS website is available for educational services officers to verify and correct the list of eligible candidates for their command, and confirm examination ordering information. The NEAS Web address is: https://prod-neas.ncdc.navy.mil/. Exam ordering information can also be found in NAVADMIN 318/18.

Additional details on the program, command and other user roles and responsibilities can be found in NAVADMIN 316/18 and at http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/career/enlistedcareeradmin/Advancement/Pages/EAW.aspx.