Become a USMC Warrant Officer: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Research the requirements to become a U.S. Marine Corps warrant officer. Learn about the duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career as an USMC warrant officer.

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Should I Become a USMC Warrant Officer?

The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) is a branch of the U.S. military. An enlisted Marine who obtains a high level of technical or tactical operational skills and who meets rank and service requirements may apply to become a USMC warrant officer. Becoming a warrant officer requires the ability to handle greater responsibility and leadership demands than senior non-commissioned officers. It allows enlisted personnel to become military officers and to obtain greater career opportunities, increased pay and better benefits.

In order to apply for the position, applicants need to provide service records, test scores, and proof of academic record or performance. Also required are physical exams and endorsements from an applicant's chain of command. Members of the armed services may move frequently, whenever they're re-assigned to a new job; some of these assignments may require long stays away from home and can include relocation to areas of conflict where the risk of injury or death can be high. Hours can be long and irregular depending on assigned tasks.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma or GED
Licensure and/or Certification Based on occupational specialty
Experience At least eight years of service in the USMC and hold the rank of sergeant; recommended by commanding officer, complete Warrant Officer Basic Course
Key Skills Strong ability to lead by example, mental and physical stamina, readiness to respond to assignments on short notice; specialized technical or tactical skills; U.S. citizen, no felony conviction; drug and aptitude tests
Salary $33,146 (base annual pay as of January 2015)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Marine Corps Community Services, Militaryrates.com.

Step 1: Enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps

An individual seeking to become a USMC warrant officer needs to enlist in the Marines. He or she must be at least 18 years of age and a U.S. citizen and complete a rigorous and physically demanding 12-week recruit basic training program. Recruits undergo training in areas such as values and ethics, martial arts, rappelling, combat water survival, close order drills and marksmanship. They must also complete the Marine Corps Crucible, an exercise lasting several days in which recruits simulate combat conditions that allow them to apply the skills they've learned.

Step 2: Meet Warrant Officer Requirements

Enlisted Marines must have served at least eight years of active duty and have obtained the rank of sergeant to be considered for appointment as a warrant officer. They must be technical or tactical specialists, be recommended by their commanding officer and meet aptitude requirements. The USMC offers four warrant officer programs: Regular Active Duty, Active Reserve, Marine Gunner and Career Recruiter. Each program has different qualifications and requirements.

For example, the Marine Gunner Warrant Officer Program requires a Marine to hold the rank of gunnery sergeant and have 16-23 years of active service. The Regular Active Duty and Active Reserve programs require Marines to have at least eight years of service and hold the rank of sergeant.

Success Tip:

  • Consider taking college classes or earning a degree. While the warrant officer program only requires a high school diploma or its equivalent, some military occupational specialties (MOS) may require college courses or a degree. Aspiring warrant officers could gain an advantage in the application process by obtaining formal training in high demand fields.

Step 3: Apply to Become a Warrant Officer

Marines who have obtained the requirements for one of the warrant officer programs must submit an application to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. This application must include records such as history of service, medical history, education and endorsements. Once a year, a board comprised of about 20 warrant officers reviews the applicants and select the most qualified for approval. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, selection as a warrant officer is highly competitive and only about 1% of all those serving in the U.S. military serve as warrant officers.

Step 4: Complete Warrant Officer Training

Once selected, USMC warrant officers undergo the Warrant Officer Basic Course, a 13-week training program similar to a 26-week program given to USMC second lieutenants. The program focuses on developing various leadership and organizational skills, along with physical training. Upon successful completion of the program, warrant officers are given the rank of W-1 and report to their new duty assignments.

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