How to Get Promoted in the Army

How to Get Promoted in the Army Using the Army Enlisted Promotion System

The first thing you want to know about the Army, or any job, is how to get promoted in the Army. In the Army, there is a system used to standardize the promotion process for all soldiers. This is called the Army Enlisted Promotion system.

Decentralized Promotions (E-2 through E-4)

Promotion Authority: Company

When soldiers refer to “automatic promotions”; these are the promotions they are talking about. However, these promotions are not officially automatic. You do have to qualify to get promoted. The reason these promotions are considered automatic by most is that the qualifications to get promoted are very easy to achieve. In fact, you would almost have to be trying to not get promoted for it not to happen.

Army Time in Grade Requirements

  • Private (E-2): 6 months time in grade (TIG) as an E-1.
  • Private First Class (E-3): 4 months TIG as an E-2 and 12 months time in service (TIS).
  • Specialist (E-4): 6 months TIG and 2 years TIS.


Unit Commanders are given a specific number of waivers that they can choose to use for exemplary soldiers. These waivers shorten the TIG and/or TIS requirement for promotion.

  • An E-1 can get promoted to Private (E-2) with only 4 months TIG  with a waiver.
  • An E-2 can get promoted to PFC (E-3) with only 2 months TIG and 6 months TIS with a waiver.
  • An E-3 can get promoted to SPC (E-4) with only 3 months TIG and 18 months TIS with a waiver.

Other Army Promotion Requirements

Once a soldier has satisfied his or her TIS and TIG requirements, they must be promotable in all other aspects as well. This means they can not have any “flags” on their record. Flags are given for things such as APFT failure, failure to meet height and weight standards, punitive actions, etc.


Semi Centralized Promotions (E-5 and E-6)

Promotion Authority: Company & Army Wide

For a soldier to be promoted to E-5 or E-6, there must be an opening for that rank in the soldier’s Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). The Army Promotion Point System is how the Army decides who gets that opening when it becomes available. Semi centralized promotions are the most difficult in terms of satisfying requirements. Below is a check list of all the aspects involved in getting promoted to Sergeant (SGT) and Staff Sergeant (SSG).

Semi Centralized Promotion Check-list

  1. Meet the specified TIS and TIG requirements for your rank and zone.
  2. Have a passing APFT score.
  3. Have a passing weapons qualification score.
  4. Pass the Promotion Board.
  5. Complete online Structured Self Development Course (SSD1).
  6. Graduate from the appropriate Non commissioned Officer Education Course.
  7. Gain enough promotion points to make cutoff.

Primary Zone/Secondary Zone

There are two promotion processes known as “Primary Zone” and “Secondary Zone.” Most enlisted soldiers are promoted in the “Primary Zone.” The “Secondary Zone” is for soldiers considered to be “exceptional performers” and gives them an early shot at promotion. The promotion point cutoff scores are typically higher for the Secondary Zone as well.

Army Promotion Criteria – Promotions to Sergeant (E-5)

  • Primary Zone: 8 months TIG as an E-4 and 36 months (3 years) TIS.
  • Secondary Zone: 4 months TIG and 18 months TIS.

Army Promotion Criteria – Promotions to Staff Sergeant (E-6)

  • Primary Zone: 10 months TIG as an E-5 and 72 months (6 years) TIS.
  • Secondary Zone: 5 months TIG and 48 months (4 years) TIS.