Short History of the Specialist Rank

By CSM Dan Elder

The Army developed a program to separate specialists from NCOs, which gave birth to our current specialist system we now know. This program, which went in to effect 1 July 1955, grouped NCO grades E-4 to E- 7, which had a corresponding specialist position that mirrored it. These new specialist would wear distinctive insignia which is partially still in effect for theSpecialist (E-4 / SPC) of today.

Noncoms had special considerations not afforded to specialists. These considerations were not to reduce specialists privileges, but augment privileges and prestige of NCOs. Leadership was the NCOs primary roles and so noted. Specialists received pay commensurate with his ability.

In 1958 the DOD added two additional pay grades to give enlisted soldiers more opportunities to progress to a full career with additional opportunities for promotion. This included an addition of two specialist ranks at E-8 and E-9 and proficiency pay was incorporated into the pay scales. In 1968 when the Army added the rank of Command Sergeant Major, the specialist ranks at E-8 and E-9 were abolished without anyone ever being promoted to those levels.

In 1978 the specialist rank at E-7 was discontinued and in 1985,the specialist ranks at E-5 and E-6 were discontinued.

Today’s current rank structure only includes one specialist rank, that at E-4. The Specialist is in the normal career progression for enlisted soldiers in between the career path of going from an apprentice enlisted soldier, to the journeymen role associated with noncommissioned officers.

There is no current method to identify senior enlisted specialists from those NCOs in a leadership position.


  1. is there anyway I could get one of each of the specialist cloth stripes? I collect LE, Fire and military patches. Interested in completing the Army rank structure I am a 79 yo retired US Marine. Ty

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