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How to Become a Marine General Officer

The four ranks of generals in the United States Marine Corps are the highest-ranking officers in the corps and create policy, strategies and budgets for their branch of the military. Because of the tremendous power that generals exercise, promotion to the rank doesn’t follow typical review procedures for other officer ranks. Officers who receive a commission as second lieutenants may work their way through the ranks to become promoted as a general, although only a handful of Marines achieve this rank.

Attend college. To qualify for an officer’s commission in the Marines, you must have a degree from a four-year college. Waivers may be granted for officers with an associate’s degree, although they’re only granted on a case-by-case basis.

Apply and receive a commission before your 28th birthday and attend Platoon Leaders Class or an Officer Candidate Course, depending upon your military occupation specialty. Attend basic school and specialty training. You receive a commission as a second lieutenant upon completion of your training.

Serve for a minimum of two years as a second lieutenant. Prove yourself fully qualified for promotion to a first lieutenant position by adequately executing the duties prescribed by your Military Occupational Specialty's job description, and by demonstrating leadership abilities if you work in a position in which enlisted Marines report to you.

Meet minimum time-in-rank qualifications required for advancement to rank. Lieutenants must serve at least two years before receiving a promotion to captain and prove themselves the most qualified for the job. Officers must spend at least three years at each rank and demonstrate qualifications before advancing to the rank of major, lieutenant colonel and colonel. Only about 26 percent of commissioned officers are deemed qualified to advance to the rank of colonel.

Avoid reprimands and other black marks on your record that may impede advancement through the ranks.

Interview with the Marine selection board when a brigadier general position becomes available. The number of generals in the Marine Corps is limited to 60. The selection board provides a list of potential appointments, from which the president chooses nominees.

Sit for confirmation hearings and receive confirmation to the rank through a majority vote in the Senate.

Repeat Steps 6 and 7 to advance to major general, lieutenant general and general ranks.


Wilhelm Schnotz has worked as a freelance writer since 1998, covering arts and entertainment, culture and financial stories for a variety of consumer publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print titles, including "TV Guide" and "The Dallas Observer." Schnotz holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University.