Ranks are part of a a system of hierarchical relationships in armed forces or civil institutions organized along military lines. Usually, uniforms denote the bearer's rank by particular insignia affixed to the uniforms. Ranking systems have been known for most of military history to be advantageous for military operations, in particular with regards to logistics, command, and coordination; as time continued and military operations became larger and more complex, military ranks increased and ranking systems themselves became more complex.
Rank systems have evolved enormously over time, perhaps more so throughout the various cultures on Earth, but in modern times throughout the major powers, there are two broad categories of rank that are widely recognised; officers and enlisted rates. Starfleet further expands upon this by including warrant officers and designating senior enlisted personnel as non-commissioned officers.
Officers are distinguished from other military members by holding a commission; they are trained or are training to be leaders and hold command positions.
- General or Flag Officers
- Field or Senior Officers
- Company Grade or Junior Officers
General or Flag Officers
Officers who typically command units or formations that are expected to operate independently for extended periods of time (i.e., brigades and larger, or flotillas or squadrons of ships), are referred to as General Officers (in the marines) or as Flag Officers (in Starfleet and the Federation Naval Patrol).
General Officer ranks typically include varying grades of General (such as Lieutenant General, Major General, and Brigadier General) - the commonality amongst the rank titles being the cause of the 'General Officer' title.
Flag Officer ranks, named after the traditional practice of showing the presence of such an officer with a flag on a ship, typically include varying grades of Admiral (such as Vice Admiral and Rear Admiral) and the rank of Commodore, typically the most junior flag rank.
Field or senior officers
Field officers or senior officers, are officers who typically command units that can be expected to operate independently for short periods of time (i.e., infantry battalions, starships, fighter squadrons). Field officers also commonly fill staff positions of superior commands.
The term "field(-grade) officer" is primarily used by the marines; Starfleet generally prefers the term "senior officer." The two terms are not necessarily synonymous.
Typical army or marine field officer ranks include Colonels and Majors. Naval senior officer ranks include Captains and Commanders.
Company grade or junior officers
The ranks of junior officers are the three or four lowest ranks of officers. Units under their command are generally not expected to operate independently for any significant length of time. Company grade officers also fill staff roles in some units.
Typical army and marine company officer ranks include Captain and various grades of Lieutenant. Typical naval junior officer ranks include various grades of Lieutenant and Ensign.
Warrant officers (as receiving authority by virtue of a warrant) are a hybrid rank stemming from Earth's history. WOs are an entirely separate grade between commissioned and Non-Commissioned Officers, usually held by specialist personnel.
Enlisted personnel are personnel below commissioned rank and make up the vast majority of military personnel. They are known by different names in other cultures, but the common translation is roughly the same.
Non-commissioned officers (NCOs) are enlisted personnel, under the command of an officer, granted delegated authority to supervise other military members or assigned significant administrative responsibilities. They are responsible for the care and direct control of junior military members.
Even the most senior NCO officially ranks beneath the most junior commissioned officer or warrant officer. However, most senior NCOs have more experience, possibly including combat, than junior officers. Sometimes, because junior officers have a great amount of responsibility and authority but little operational experience, they are paired with senior NCO advisers. In some organisations, senior NCOs may have formal responsibility and informal respect beyond that of junior officers, but less than that of warrant officers. Many warrant officers come from the ranks of mid-career NCOs.
Federation NCO ranks typically include a varying number of grades of Sergeant and Corporal (Marines), or Chief Petty Officer and Petty Officer (Navy). In ranks from other cultures, it is often difficult to provide a direct, synonymous translation, and the number of enlisted ranks is the most variable between each government.
Other enlisted ranks
Personnel with no command authority usually bear titles such as Private or Crewman. In the Starfleet Marine Corps individuals of all ranks regardless of command status may be referred to as "Marine".
Specific Ranking Systems
For the ranking systems of specific organizations, please refer to the pages linked below;