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What is a Marine Corps Warrant Officer?

A Marine Corps Warrant Officer is a specialized expert, honing skills through rigorous training to become a technical authority. They bridge the gap between enlisted personnel and commissioned officers, providing leadership and mentorship. Their unique role is vital to mission success. How does one rise to this esteemed position, and what impact do they have on the Corps? Explore their journey with us.
Paul Woods
Paul Woods

A Marine Corps warrant officer is a category of rank in the Marine Corps branch of the U.S. armed forces. Warrant officers in all branches of the U.S. military, except the Air Force, which discontinued the designation, fill a role between top enlisted ranks and lower-level officer ranks. A Marine Corps warrant officer would be expected to have more technical expertise in particular areas than top enlisted personnel and serve in a position requiring the authority of an officer.

The rank of warrant officer was created shortly before the U.S. entry into World War I. With increasing technical expertise required because of more sophisticated war-fighting equipment, warrant officers were selected from the top non-commissioned officer ranks. These officers served under a warrant of service as opposed to a commission from the president as in the case of commissioned officers. In 1943, the Marine Corps aligned its warrant officer ranks with those of other services, creating two categories of service, warrant officer and commissioned warrant officer. Marine Corps warrant officers now have five ranks, warrant officer one and chief warrant officer two through five, which is consistent with the other branches of service.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The Marines divide the warrant officer program into administrative duties and a weapons-area program. The administrative Marine Corps warrant officer program accepts applicants with at least eight years of service who have attained the grade of E-5, which is the non-commissioned rank of sergeant. For the weapons warrant program, applicants must have at least 16 years of service and at least have reached the grade of E-7, which is the non-commissioned rank of gunnery sergeant.

Those attaining the Marine Corps warrant officer rank receive training above and beyond that required of non-commissioned officers in both the administrative and weapons programs. Weapons program members also received advanced instruction in the use of and maintenance of the particular weapons systems to which they are assigned. In both programs, warrant officers attend a command training course designed to enhance their management capabilities.

The warrant officer concept began in the British Royal Navy and has been incorporated in other services. In the U.S. warrant officer ranks, including the Marine Corps, warrant officer one (W-1) appointments are approved by the secretaries of the various services, in this case the Secretary of the Navy. Warrant officer two through five (W-2 to W-5) ranks are commissioned by the president and may serve in advisory and support functions at various headquarters levels.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Marine Corps Warrant Officer?

A Marine Corps Warrant Officer (WO) is a highly specialized expert and technician who provides critical skills, guidance, and leadership to the Marines. They hold a rank above the highest enlisted ranks but below the grade of a commissioned officer. Warrant Officers are appointed through a warrant by the Secretary of the Navy and are considered subject matter experts in their particular field, such as intelligence, aviation, or logistics.

How does one become a Marine Corps Warrant Officer?

To become a Marine Corps Warrant Officer, candidates must first serve as enlisted Marines and typically have several years of military experience and a strong record of performance. They must also meet specific eligibility criteria, including rank requirements, time in service, and professional military education. Candidates then undergo a selection process and, if chosen, attend the Warrant Officer Basic Course (WOBC) to prepare for their new role.

What are the duties of a Marine Corps Warrant Officer?

Marine Corps Warrant Officers are responsible for various duties, primarily centered around their technical expertise. They serve as advisors to commanders, lead specialized teams, manage systems or operations, and provide training and mentorship to enlisted personnel. Their role is crucial in ensuring that the Marine Corps maintains its technical edge and operational readiness.

How many ranks are there within the Marine Corps Warrant Officers?

There are five ranks within the Marine Corps Warrant Officer cadre: Warrant Officer 1 (WO1), Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CWO2), Chief Warrant Officer 3 (CWO3), Chief Warrant Officer 4 (CWO4), and Chief Warrant Officer 5 (CWO5). Each rank represents a higher level of responsibility, authority, and expertise within their specialty.

What is the difference between a Warrant Officer and a Commissioned Officer in the Marine Corps?

The primary difference between a Warrant Officer and a Commissioned Officer in the Marine Corps lies in their roles and career paths. Warrant Officers are technical experts with a focus on specific fields, while Commissioned Officers are generalists who lead larger units and have broader command responsibilities. Commissioned Officers typically have a four-year college degree and have completed an officer commissioning program such as the Naval Academy, Officer Candidate School, or ROTC.

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Discussion Comments


@Backdraft: Marines never refer to themselves as soldiers. They also know enough to capitalize the word Marine. Since I doubt that you are telling the truth, you should know that you don't "make" Warrant Officer. You apply to be appointed as a Warrant Officer. That doesn't mean you would have been chosen. Don't get too wrapped up about it. Semper Fidelis, An active duty CWO3


It seesm like the job of warrant officer would be more relevant than ever. The world is becoming more and more technological every day. I'm sure this is the case even more in the military. There are probably not too many soldiers who do not have an understanding of technology and its various uses in the armed services.

And, when I think about drone planes, laser guided missiles, night vision goggles and advanced radars I can only imagine how much training and expertise it takes to keep these systems running.


I served in the marines at the beginning of the decade and I almost made it to warrant officer. I had been moving up the ranks pretty steadily and was all set to receive my training to work with advanced weapons systems. Then something happened, something I still cannot quite explain and I was out of the marines within a year.

I don't want to call it a crisis of conscience. I had thought about my responsibilities as a soldier many times and did not have any particular qualms about what we were asked to do. But I just couldn't see myself making a life this way and stepping up to warrant officer would have just ties me to the corps more tightly. I think I made the right choice.

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