Difference Between a Commissioned Officer and Non-Commissioned Officer
By Andrew Parker - September 28, 2022

There are many ways by which military officers can be distinguished from one another. Still, most of these differences usually begin with whether the personnel is a Commissioned Officer or a Noncommissioned Officer. Keep reading to learn the difference between commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers.

Table Summary

Commissioned OfficersNon-Commissioned Officers
Occupy management roles.Occupy maintenance roles
Earning is relatively higherEarning is relatively less
Tenure is 3-5 yearsTenure is 1-3 years
Soldiers marching in desert

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A commissioned officer is an armed forces member who has attained a rank before performing their formal duties. The fundamental duty of a commissioned officer is to train enlisted personnel and allocate the duties of lower-ranked officers and NCOs.

A noncommissioned officer (NCO) is a military officer who has not yet been promoted or given a rank. They are accountable for accomplishing specific duties like training, recruiting, tech or military policing, and ensuring that all operations are completed as a team. They are tasked with assisting in executing the vast majority of military missions and leading by example at all times. Non-commissioned officers may be chosen to lead various areas of the operation based on their capabilities and deficiencies.

Commissioned Officer VS Non-Commissioned Officer

Asides from their functions, the first and most important distinction between C.O.s and NCOs is in training. In the U.S., Commissioned officers are selected by one of four paths: Attending either the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), Officer Candidate School, or the U.S. Army Military Academy and Direct Commission as professionals in other fields like law or medicine. Noncommissioned officers are required to have completed high school or obtain a GED. A secondary and or post-secondary degree to boost their chances of advancement. The Non-Commissioned Officer Education System (NCOES) is a common example.
Another difference is in pay: C.O.s earn an average salary of $11.26 per hour with a tenure of 3-5 years, whereas NCOs earn an average salary of $12.89 per hour with a tenure of 1-3 years.