What’s a Warrant Officer?
82% of the U.S. military consists of enlisted members, with officers making up the remaining 18%. But did you know about the lesser-known, highly specialized group of military personnel called warrant officers? If you’ve ever wondered what role a warrant officer plays in the military, you’re not alone.
That’s why Empire Resume, a company that specializes in writing military to civilian resumes, dedicates its military blog to answering your burning questions about the military experience. Today, we’ll share all you need to know about warrant officers in the military.
Military Warrant Officer Defined
Federal law defines a warrant officer as:
“A person who holds commission or warrant in a warrant officer grade.”
Warrant officers are subject matter experts in specific areas, almost like a trade. Their jobs are extremely important because they provide skills, guidance, and expertise to commanders in their respective field.
Warrant officers often fill leadership roles and are also responsible for coaching and training others. Some of them operate, maintain, and manage equipment that requires specialized training.
These highly trained technical specialists are appointed, through a warrant, by the service secretary, department secretary, or even the President of the United States, although it’s rare.
Chief warrant officers, a step above warrant officers, are commissioned by the U.S. President. They take the same oath as commissioned officers and also hold the same status as officers. So, they are greeted sir and ma’am just as any officer.
Which Branches of the Military Have Warrant Officers?
Warrant officers are an integral part of the military rank structure. You’ll find them in the active duty and reserve components of the:
- Coast Guard
Currently, the Air Force and Space Force do not have warrant officers. However, this wasn’t always the case for the Air Force.
The Air Force once had warrant officers, back in 1947, when it separated from the Army.
But in 1958, when Congress developed the E-8 and E-9 rank for all service branches, the Air Force phased out its warrant officers. According to the Air Force Times, the last active-duty warrant officer in the Air Force retired in 1980.
History of U.S. Military Warrant Officers
The warrant officer rank has a long, rich history beginning in the U.S. Navy. Below is a brief timeline of the development of warrant officers by branch:
- In 1775, the Navy became the first to use warrant officers when a sailor was granted a warrant to lead a ship called the USS Andrew Doria
- The Coast Guard was born with its rank of warrant officers in 1915
- The Marine Corps established its use of warrant officers in 1916
- The Army soon followed in 1918
Where Do Warrant Officers Fit in The Military Ranking System?
Officers are at the top of the chain-of-command, while enlisted members are at the bottom.
Warrant officers are sandwiched directly between the two. Basically, the warrant officer rank is just below the lowest ranking officer, but higher than the highest-ranking enlisted member.
Enlisted rank or pay grades typically range from E-1 through E-9. Officer rank goes from O-1 through O-10.
For the warrant officer, the rank typically ranges from WO-1 through WO-5, but the Coast Guard’s warrant officer rank begins at WO-2.
The chief warrant officer rank ranges from CW-2 to CW-5. The Navy and Coast Guard use the abbreviation CWO.
Becoming a Warrant Officer
First things first, in most cases, no one can enter the U.S. Military and walk right into a warrant officer position.
Each service branch has its own strict requirements for qualifying and accepting warrant officer candidates that includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Achieve the rank of E-5 or above
- Be younger than 46 years old
- Achieve a certain score on the ASVAB, a military entrance exam
- Maintain fitness standards
It is important to note that rules are always subject to change.
Although warrant officers are higher ranking than enlisted members, they are not required to have a four-year college degree like officers. An associate degree, or 60 hours of college credit, will suffice.
The only exception is for the Army. The 6 week Army High School to Flight School program allows high school graduates to apply to be a warrant officer and attend Army Aviation School.
To be a warrant officer, an enlisted member must have several years of military experience, submit an application packet with recommendations from their commander, and get approval from a selection board before attending the warrant officer program.
Generally, application materials to become a warrant officer may include the following:
- Several letters of recommendation
- Personal statement
- High school or college transcripts
- Security clearance questionnaire
Military Warrant Officer by Branch
If you’re interested in making the commitment to become a warrant officer, click the link for your service branch below:
The Coast Guard made history on June 1, 2019, when a woman became the first active-duty chief warrant officer in her specialty, according to an article in the Coast Guard Compass.
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Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for service-members transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.