November 14, 2023

What do the different military ranks and roles mean?

If you’re introducing a military hiring initiative, then congratulations. You’re well on your way to hiring some of the top UK talent out there. 

But if you're not familiar with the military and how it works, then the next step is to understand what each rank and role means. It will help you in the hiring process, as you’ll be able to appreciate the different levels of leadership and responsibility that candidates have had in their careers. 

Plus, if you’re hoping to encourage veterans to join your workforce, being clued up is a great way to impress anyone as they consider joining your company. 

Military Rank

The UK military has four main branches: 

  • Royal Navy
  • British Army
  • Royal Air Force 
  • Royal Marines

If you delve into each of these, they have unique structures. However, they’re all categorised into three main branches; private soldiers, commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs).

Private soldiers:

Private soldiers are those who have just joined the military. It’s the most junior rank, and they’ll be responsible for a range of basic tasks and duties. This could include maintaining equipment, carrying out orders, and undergoing lots of training. It’s the first step in their journey before they move on to the next rank. 

Commissioned officers:

Commissioned officers go through a more extensive selection and training process and upon completion, assume a leadership/management position within the military. 

Commissioned officers are responsible for leading and commanding units of military personnel. They are also responsible for planning and executing operations. 

General Officers: These are the highest-ranking officers in the British military and include the ranks of Field Marshal, General, Lieutenant General, Major General, and Brigadier. They hold command and strategic positions.

Senior Officers: Senior officers comprise Colonel and Lieutenant Colonel ranks and often lead battalions or regiments.

Junior Officers: These include the ranks of Captain, Lieutenant, and Second Lieutenant. Junior officers often lead platoons or smaller units.

Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs):

Non-commissioned officers, on the other hand, earn their authority through experience and rank. They’re responsible for leading and training smaller units of military personnel, and for carrying out specific tasks as directed by commissioned officers.

Warrant Officers: The highest NCO ranks are Warrant Officer Class 1 and Warrant Officer Class 2. They serve as advisors to the command and oversee discipline and training.

Senior NCOs: These ranks include Sergeant Major, Colour Sergeant, and Staff Sergeant, responsible for leading and managing groups of soldiers.

Junior NCOs: Corporals and Lance Corporals are responsible for team leadership and training. They are often considered to be the backbone of the forces,, and have had to work hard to prove themselves as capable soldiers and natural leaders to get promoted. 

Common military terminology 


Military status and authority within the chain of command. 


When someone is sent to a location for a mission or task. 

Basic training
Initial military training where they learn essential skills, discipline, and culture.

Chain of command

The hierarchy of authority in the military.


A group of military personnel under the command of a single officer.


A group of units that are trained and operate together.


The movement of military personnel to a specific location to carry out a mission.


A military mission that is planned and carried out by a unit or formation.


A training event that is designed to prepare military personnel for combat.

Medals and Decorations

Awards and honours received by military personnel for outstanding service or acts.

Get wised-up with these terms, and you've taken the first step in understanding your military hires. Want more help? Get in touch.

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