Specialist (abbreviated "SPC") is one of the four junior enlisted ranks in the U.S. Army, just above Private First Class and equivalent in pay grade to Corporal. Unlike Corporals, Specialists are not considered junior non-commissioned officers (NCO).
Recruits with college degrees and officer candidatesEdit
New recruits enlisting into the United States Army who have earned a four-year degree, and as of 2006 those with civilian-acquired job skills, will enter as a Specialist. Typically, newly recruited Officer Candidates hold the rank of Specialist when enlisted and during BCT/AIT (Basic Combat Training, Advanced Individual Training) prior to their official enrollment into OCS (Officer Candidate School) they will be promoted to the Pay Grade of E-5 but hold a rank of Officer Candidate (OC), not a Sergeant (SG).
Trades and specialtiesEdit
In 1920, the Army rank and pay system received a major overhaul. All enlisted and non-commissioned ranks were reduced from 128 different insignias and several pay grades to only 7 rank insignias and 7 pay grades, which were numbered in seniority from 7th Grade (lowest) to 1st Grade (highest). The 2nd grade had two rank titles: first sergeant which was three stripes, two rockers and a lozenge and technical sergeant which was three stripes and two rockers. By World War II, the rank of first sergeant had been elevated to 1st Grade and a third rocker was added, with the lozenge in the center to distinguish it from master sergeant. The wearing of Specialist badges inset in rank insignia was abolished and a generic system of chevrons and arcs replaced them.
Private / SpecialistEdit
From 1920 to 1942 there was a rank designated "Private / Specialist" (or simply "Specialist") that was graded in 6 Classes (the lowest being 6th Class and the highest being 1st Class). They were considered the equal of a Private First Class (PFC) but drew additional Specialist pay in relationship to the specialist level possessed on top of their base PFC (Grade Six) pay. The classes only indicated experience, not seniority, and a Private / Specialist did not outrank a PFC.
Officially, Specialists wore the single chevron of a Private First Class because no special insignia was authorized to indicate their rank. Unofficially a Private / Specialist could be authorized at his commander's discretion to wear one to six additional arcs (1 arc for 6th Class and a maximum of 6 arcs for 1st Class) under their rank chevron to denote specialty level.
|1st Grade||2nd Grade||3rd Grade||4th Grade||5th Grade||6th Grade||7th Grade|
|First Sergeant||Master Sergeant||Technical Sergeant||Staff Sergeant||Technician Third Grade||Sergeant||Technician Fourth Grade||Corporal||Technician Fifth Grade||Private First Class||Private|
On 8 January 1942, the rank of Technician was introduced to replace the Private / Specialist rank, which was discontinued by 30 June 1942. This gave technical specialists more authority by grading them as non-commissioned officers rather than senior enlisted personnel. They were parallel to pay grades of the time, going in seniority from Technician Fifth Grade (Grade Five), Technician Fourth Grade (Fourth Grade), and Technician Third Grade (Third Grade). A technician was paid according to his grade, was outranked by the corresponding non-commissioned officer grade but was senior to the next lowest pay grade, and had no direct supervisory authority outside of his specialty. To reduce the confusion this caused in the field, an embroidered “T” insignia was authorized for wear under the chevrons on 4 September 1942. The rank was finally discontinued on 1 August 1948.
|Specialist 9 rank insignia (U.S. Army)||Specialist 8 rank insignia (U.S. Army)||Specialist 7 rank insignia (U.S. Army)||Specialist 6 rank insignia (U.S. Army)||Specialist 5 rank insignia (U.S. Army)||Specialist 4 rank insignia (U.S. Army)|
On 1 March 1955, four grades of Specialist were established: Specialist Third Class (E-4), Specialist Second Class (E-5), Specialist First Class (E-6), and Master Specialist (E-7). They were created to reward personnel with higher degrees of experience and technical knowledge. Appointment to either Specialist or Non-Commissioned Officer status was determined by Military Occupational Specialty. Different Military Occupational Specialties had various transition points, for example in the band career field (excluding special bands at D.C. and West Point) a bandsman could not achieve non-commissioned officer status until pay grade E-6 was attained. In some military occupational specialties, a soldier was appointed either a specialist or non-commissioned officer depending on which particular position or "slot" that he filled in his organization.
Specialist grades paralleled the corresponding grade of non-commissioned officer (E-4 through E-7) only in terms of pay. The specialist grades, although they outranked the enlisted grades (E-1 to E-3), were outranked by all non-commissioned officers (E-4 to E-9) and lacked the authority conferred on them. This is the major differentiation between a specialist and a "hard striper".
When the so-called "super grades" (E-8 and E-9) were introduced in 1958, the specialist grade titles were changed to Specialist Four through Specialist Seven and the Specialist Eight and Specialist Nine were added on top.
Only the lowest specialist grade survives today, as the higher grades were gradually phased out. Specialist 8 and 9, which had existed only on paper, were eliminated in 1965. Specialist 7 was abolished in 1978 and Specialist 5 and 6 in 1985. At that time, the rank of Specialist 4 simply became known as "Specialist," which is how it is referred to today. While the official abbreviation was changed from "SP4" to "SPC" upon the elimination of the SP5 and SP6 ranks, the SIDPERS database was initially authorized to continue using SP4 until such time as the change could be made at little or no additional expense in conjunction with other system upgrades. The continued use of SP4 on automatically produced documents (transfer orders, leave & earnings statements, unit manning reports, inter alia), hampered the adoption of the new abbreviation (and, to a lesser extent, the absence of "-4" in the non-abbreviated rank) by individual soldiers who naturally viewed the computer produced documents as the final word on what the proper term was.
Today, the rank of specialist is the typical rank to which Privates First Class are promoted. It is granted far more often than corporal (E-4), which is now reserved as a fast-track rank for personnel who have either passed the leadership development course or have been assigned low-level supervisory or clerical duties.
Between 1943 and 1944, the United States Navy maintained an enlisted rate of Specialist in the Petty Officer pay grade structure. A seaman would typically be known as a Specialist followed by a letter indicating what field the specialty was held. For instance, a Specialist (C) served as a "Classification Interviewer," while a Specialist (T) was a "Navy Teacher," among several other specialist designations.
The Navy's use of the Specialist grade was done away with in 1948, when the World War II specialist positions were merged back into the standard rate structure.
- List of comparative military ranks
- Non-commissioned officer
- United States Army enlisted rank insignia
- United States Military Pay
- U.S. Army Enlisted Rank Insignia - Criteria, Background, and Images
- The Short History of the Specialist Rank by Dan Elder, CSM (Ret), USA
- The Specialist Creed
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