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Getting promoted is just that simple

The biggest obstacle Marines face in promotion is lack of knowledge in how the promotion system works. Marines who understand cutting scores and composite score will have a better chance of getting promoted faster than their peers.

The biggest obstacle Marines face in promotion is lack of knowledge in how the promotion system works. Marines who understand cutting scores and composite score will have a better chance of getting promoted faster than their peers. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kuande Hall)

I talk to Marines all the time who wait until they lose a promotion spot the first time around before they start doing what they need to do to get promoted,” said Sgt. Omar A. Caraballo Pietri, career planner at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

In the Marine Corps, the junior enlisted ranks from private to lance corporal are based solely on time in grade, meritorious promotion or previous college credit hours. Once a Marine is promoted to lance corporal, though, his subsequent promotions to corporal and sergeant are based upon his performance as a Marine, evaluated by a composite score.

The biggest obstacle these Marines face to promotion is inexperience.

“Most Marines don’t understand how the entire system of promotion works,” said Cpl. Corey D. Reynolds, career planner at Headquarters and Service Battalion, Washington. “If you don’t understand something, how are you going to get promoted?”

The key to getting to the top is knowing what it takes to excel beyond the peer group.

Once a Marine has been a lance corporal for eight months and served for 12 months, he is eligible for promotion. A Marine can be promoted to sergeant once he has been a corporal for 12 months and served for a total of 24 months. The preparation for promotion, however, should begin long before time in grade and service requirements are met.

“Always look to pick up the next rank,” Caraballo Pietri said. “Think of how you can prove that you are able, willing and ready to pick up the next rank.”

Marines can work toward promotion by building up their composite scores. Composite scores are made up of several components and are calculated every three months. This means that all scores need to be put into the system before the calculation date in order for a Marine to be considered for promotion, said Reynolds. If a Marine doesn’t complete his training by the 20th day of the second month of the quarter, then it won’t be calculated for the next promotion quarter.

The first parts of the composite score are a Marine’s rifle qualification score, his Physical Fitness Test score and his Combat Fitness Test score. These scores are translated into a point system with perfect scores earning a maximum of 5.0 points. These points are then added together, divided by three and multiplied by 100 to determine the complete General Military Performance Score.

Boosting these scores can help raise a composite score significantly.

“The key to improving your PFT and CFT scores is not waiting until just before the test,” Caraballo Pietri said. “You need to keep up with your physical fitness all year so you can get the best score.”

A Marine’s day-to-day conduct at work is also crucial in his promotion opportunities.

“One major thing Marines should be improving is their work performance,” Caraballo Pietri said. “What a lot of them don’t understand is that their staff NCOs are looking at what they’re doing and how they’re performing.”

A Marine’s Average Duty Proficiency Marks and Average Conduct Marks are given to a Marine periodically by his superiors to rate his performance. These marks are averaged and then multiplied by 100 to be compiled for the composite score.

While a Marine must have specific time in grade and service to be considered for promotion, this time will also contribute to his overall composite score. A Marine’s time in service, in months, is multiplied by two and his time in grade is multiplied by five before being added to the composite score.

Besides work and physical training, a Marine can boost his score during off-duty hours as well. This can be done through Marine Corps Institute courses as well as college and vocational classes, which give a Marine Self-Education Bonus Points.

MCIs are one of the easiest and most important ways to boost your score, said Reynolds. Just seven MCIs will give a Marine his maximum 100 education points.

Time in grade, time in service, PFT score, CFT score, and rifle score are some of the components that make up a Marine's composite score. Marines should focus on improving weak areas in order to boost their composite score and increase their chance of promotion.

Time in grade, time in service, PFT score, CFT score, and rifle score are some of the components that make up a Marine's composite score. Marines should focus on improving weak areas in order to boost their composite score and increase their chance of promotion. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kuande Hall)

MCIs earn 15 points and each college course is worth ten points.

Seeking education also shows initiative on the part of the Marine, a trait leaders should possess.

“Doing MCIs and continuing education with college courses shows that you want to improve yourself,” Carabello Pietri said.  “Staying on top of all the different composite score components can be challenging.” Caraballo Pietri suggests that Marines employ the buddy system when improving their composite scores.

“It’s easy for a Marine to get overwhelmed by everything he needs to do.  Bring a buddy along with you when you volunteer or sign up for college courses or go work out. It’s a lot easier to have multiple people reminding you to do them,” Carabello Pietri said

Marines can earn 100 bonus points for special assignments like recruiting duty, drill instructor duty and security guard duty. Even Marines who aren’t recruiters can earn 20 points for every person they refer to join the Corps with a maximum of 100 extra points possible.

The last thing to keep in mind when building your composite score is ensuring proper documentation is taken, said Caraballo Pietri.

“Anything you do, document it,” he said. “People do training and then never check MOL. When it comes time to get promoted, the training is not in MOL and the Marine doesn’t get promoted.”

This can be avoided by ensuring Marine Online is updated with every completion and score change. Caraballo Pietri also recommends keeping a personal copy of all records in case something happens to the government copy.

A Marine who understands his composite score and what it takes to get promoted will be able to attack his weak areas and maintain his strong ones, putting himself one step closer to promotion the next time cutting scores are calculated.

“If you reach the cutting score with your composite score, you rate to get promoted,” said Reynolds.

Promotion is just that simple.

Marines can calculate their composite score on MOL under the tools bar or online at

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17 Responses

  1. USMarine says:

    Does the time in grade listed above apply to reservists as well?

  2. Marine says:

    clearly you have no idea how any of this works, and i highly doubt you are an 03 or a Sergeant for that matter. if somebody came to me with 4.7/4.7 pro’s and con’s they had better have a meritorious promotion package in the works for that Marine or else his marks are way over inflated. If you bothered to read the IRAM you would understand how this scoring system works. Now onto the Fitness Reports. How many have you ever written? That’s what i thought. The average is what gives the fitness report its value you jackass. If I give everybody d’s and e’s who simply performed their job then how do I go about distinguishing a Marine who stands out? Obviously you have all the answers, so why don’t you enlighten the rest of us.

  3. Sgt of Marines says:

    Wow. I was 5’10″ and 205. I was considered overweight by USMC standards. I was taped and weighed at medical and was given a weight waiver of 215. My PFT score was 295. I was no stick or POW. Wasn’t put on BCP, whatever the hell that is. I was allowed to test for meritorious sergeant and beat all other Marines in the battalion in every event and picked up the rank. Being squared away and handling my business didn’t hurt either. Sounds like you have an ax to grind lady. There’s more to that story no doubt. Something tells me we won’t be filled in on it either.

  4. Annoyed Marine says:

    If they are a body builder, they will tape out. If they are not in standards, they are not physically as disciplined as said “little guys”. Quit crying for your husband. He knows the rules. If he wants the rank, he’s going to have to work for it.

  5. yeah right says:

    here you go; its not going to happen recruit

  6. PISSED OFF WIFE says:

    what about when you are just about to get promoted from a lance to a corp. and then one weekend away and they non rec you for not taping out ??? what if your a body builder and they tape you and say nope your on BCP because your FAT according to them. Lets see how about when you are pregnaunt and you are one inch off from your preganancy 6 months prior? FAT again! what if your just a big guy and theres no way you can reach the weight they want without looking like a jew in a camp? The rules are your not skinny and plain just a little dude then your not fit to be promoted or even be in the marines! Its sad how thats what we want to defend our country is little sticks thats fine but why should the big boys or the body builders be able to be promoted or even be worthy ??? I mean im not defending Fat lazy marines in any way because believe me there is some that are suppose to be on BCP. im simply trying to understand why some of theses marines are on BCP? Also how about when your not promoted and didnt sign anything. they never made him sign, but yet he wasnt promoted for not taping out right before promotion and he wasnt even on BCP??

  7. Support4Life says:

    Inflated PRO/CONS for non-victor units happens and tough PRO/CON for victor units happens.  Maybe not all the time, but a large percentage of the time.  This screws over the Marine in the MOS for which he happens to be closed or have a rediculously high cutting score.

    Marines don’t know what to do becaues their leaders are failing them.  Also, when the Marine is less Mature, he fails himself.  The Marines who’s leaders are failing them and those victim to not having inflated PRO/CON marks are the ones that suffer most.  There are a lot of Marines that are relaxing in their positions, why not have them look at the system and allow for more Meritorious Promotions so that units can individually create a more competetive system in which the right person gets promoted.  It will then be the unit’s responsibility to create the best NCO’s.

    Also, to the author, you link doesn’t work. 

  8. 0341SteelRain says:

    No one, and I mean NO ONE should be a Sgt in 2 years.  Talk all you want but you don’t know shit in 2 years. 

    And Cpl for less than 6 months and you think you rate a mert promotion to Sgt??  Eff that noise.

    Do your MCI’s shoot expert, run high 1st Class PFT/CFT and learn from those who lead you (the good and the bad)  When you are ready, you will get promoted.
    NEVER think you rate something just because,  EARN it! 

  9. Johnbluejeans says:

    Why can’t we have more truck drivers and drivers getting F@#$ over… Thank you Marines…..

  10. Civvy says:

    You gotta agree with the Gunnery Sergeant, seems rather pointless promoting you just prior to you leaving
    civvy street

  11. Sgt. Prince says:

    I was in for 5 years, and in my third year, got passed up for meritorious to Sergeant twice.  I had out performed all other candidates both times, but was told that I had insufficient time in grade, and that I could not possibly understand the responsibilites of a higher rank until I have been a Corporal for at least 6 months.
    My SNCO was furious when I told him the reasoning, but nothing could be done.
    I had eventually picked up Sergeant just before I departed from the Marine Corps, and had the Communications Platoon Sergeant, (Who happened to be a Gunnery Sergeant) ask me ‘Why are they promoting you?  Why don’t they promote someone who is going to stay in?’
    These are some of the many reasons I went back into the civilian world instead of staying in.  Please don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to stay in, but I had enough of that crap.

  12. InfantryGrunt4Life says:

    Pros and cons are a joke and half the time the snco’s just give everyone the average versus what they actually rate. I remember when I was a lance and my Ssgt at the time wanted to give me 4.7 / 4.7 and I bust my ass and did a lot. First Sgt kept kicking it back and said it was too high and basically wanted it to be 4.5 / 4.5 and wanted me to sign off on it and then I straight up told him I’m not signing off on that and I rather write a rebuttal because I was given the same pros and cons as every other POS in the platoon. And the only reason he gave in was because I got a NAM during that time and gave me what I deserve. I think the whole fit rep is a joke also because if you actually read the manual and see the work you actually put in and if some boot LT worried about his averages. And depending on how involved they are. How can they possibly give you proper evaluation on your work. 03SGT

  13. Anonymous says:

    some things never change. Hard work pays off.

  14. peyton says:

    Are you currently a sergeant? I’m a freshman in njrotc planning to go in to the marines and become a scout sniper looking for all the advice I can get

  15. peyton says:

    Are you currently a sergeant? I’m a freshman in njrotc planning to go in to the marines and become a scout sniper looking for all the advice I can get

  16. Amsgarcia says:

    I learned the process through ROTC and made E5 in two years with one meritorious promotion and entering service with a PFC rank. 1st Class PFT and Expert Rifle score helps also.

  17. low talker says:

    it is not that easy. Some job like being a cook you can promote soon as you rate a composite score. Being that they are in the 1200s and then there are other jobs that sit in the 1700,1800, and 1900 range.