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Army Warrant Officer Ranks & Pay

Warrant officers are technical experts in their field. There are currently 67 types of warrant officers in the US military. Examples include special warfare combatant craft crew members, or SWC warrant officers; ordnance corps warrant officers; special forces warrant officers; and aviation warrant officers.

The role of warrant officers

  • Relationship between NCOs, commissioned officers, and warrant officers
  • The continuity provided by warrant officers

In the pay and rank scale, warrant officers operate between senior NCOs and commissioned officers in that ambiguous space. Warrant officers are a great source of continuity. Unlike NCOs and commissioned officers, who usually change jobs very frequently, warrant officers can maintain the same job or remain in the same unit for years.

Warrant Officer Ranks

  • Table: Rank designations (W1 through W5)
  • Examples of direct entry and promotion requirements for warrant officers

Warrant Officer Ranks are designated as W for warrant and are numbered 1 through 5, with 1 being the newest officer and 5 being the most senior officer. In some fields, you can join the military directly as a W1.

An example of this would be Army Aviation Warrant Officers, who go from high school to flight school and are W1s flying helicopters. Unfortunately, some fields do not allow you to become a warrant officer until you have served as an E6 or an E7 in the same field.

For example, to become a special forces warrant officer, you must be at least an E6 and have served in special forces on an operational detachment alpha, or ODA, for at least three years.

RankDesignationEntry/Promotion Requirements
W1Warrant OfficerDirect entry for some fields
W2Chief Warrant OfficerE6 or E7 in some fields
W3Chief Warrant Officer
W4Chief Warrant Officer
W5Chief Warrant Officer

Addressing warrant officers

  • Use of Mr., Mrs., or Ms.
  • Variations in different communities (e.g., “chief”)

Address warrant officers by their title or by Mr., Mrs., or Ms., as in Mr. Kennedy or Mrs. Smith. In some communities, like Army Special Forces, warrant officers like to be called “chief,” but in others, they hate it. So do your research before you put your foot in your mouth.

Warrant Officer Ranks in Different Branches

  • Table: Rank abbreviations, titles, and insignia colors in the Army, Marine Corps, and Navy
  • Note the absence of warrant officers in the Air Force

Let’s get started.

  1. A W1 in the Army, Marine Corps, and Navy is called a warrant officer. The Navy stopped using W1 for many years but will start using the rank of W1 for cyber warrant officers beginning in 2019. The rank insignia is silver in the Army and gold in the Navy and Marine Corps. Rank abbreviations are in parentheses.
  2. W2s are called chief warrant officers in all three branches. Rank insignias are silver in the Army but gold in the Navy and Marines. 
  3. W3s are called chief warrant officers. All rank insignias are silver.
  4. W4s are called chief warrant officers. All insignias are silver.
  5. W5s are called chief warrant officers. The rank insignia is a silver bar with a long vertical line.

The Air Force does not have warrant officer ranks anymore. The last active-duty warrant officer retired in 1980. 

RankBranchTitleInsignia Color
W1ArmyWarrant OfficerSilver
Marine CorpsWarrant OfficerGold
NavyWarrant OfficerGold
W2ArmyChief Warrant OfficerSilver
Marine CorpsChief Warrant OfficerGold
NavyChief Warrant OfficerGold
W3All branchesChief Warrant OfficerSilver
W4All branchesChief Warrant OfficerSilver
W5All branchesChief Warrant OfficerSilver

Okay, there you have it. An executive summary of the warrant officer ranks and titles for all branches of the military.

Army Warrant Officer Salary

Warrant officer pay depends on rank, years of service, and the branch of the military. The table below outlines the basic monthly salary for warrant officers based on rank and years of service.

These figures are based on the Department of Defense (DoD) pay scale, as updated information is unavailable. Also, remember that additional allowances and benefits, such as housing, subsistence, and special duty pay, may not be included here.

Army Warrant Officer 1 (W1) Pay

Years of ServiceBasic Monthly Pay
< 2$3,213.00
2-3$3,560.40
3-4$3,832.80
4-6$4,009.20
6-8$4,295.40
8-10$4,596.60
10-12$4,982.40
12-14$5,208.60
14-16$5,472.00
16-18$5,472.00
18-20$5,472.00
20-22$5,472.00
22-24$5,472.00
24-26$5,472.00
> 26$5,472.00

Chief Warrant Officer W2 Pay

Years of ServiceBasic Monthly Pay
< 2$3,575.40
2-3$3,933.00
3-4$4,096.20
4-6$4,273.20
6-8$4,553.40
8-10$4,853.40
10-12$5,122.20
12-14$5,415.60
14-16$5,692.20
16-18$5,948.40
18-20$6,211.20
20-22$6,472.80
22-24$6,472.80
24-26$6,472.80
> 26$6,472.80

Chief Warrant Officer W3 Pay

Years of ServiceBasic Monthly Pay
< 2$4,018.80
2-3$4,311.60
3-4$4,541.00
4-6$4,798.20
6-8$5,057.40
8-10$5,348.40
10-12$5,685.60
12-14$5,945.40
14-16$6,209.40
16-18$6,445.20
18-20$6,674.40
20-22$6,911.40
22-24$7,152.60
24-26$7,152.60
> 26$7,152.60

Chief Warrant Officer W4 Pay

Years of ServiceBasic Monthly Pay
< 2$4,481.40
2-3$4,733.60
3-4$4,993.80
4-6$5,248.80
6-8$5,535.60
8-10$5,823.60
10-12$6,083.40
12-14$6,348.00
14-16$6,600.00
16-18$6,837.60
18-20$7,068.00
20-22$7,286.40
22-24$7,500.80
24-26$7,500.80
> 26$7,500.80

Chief Warrant Officer W5 Pay

Years of ServiceBasic Monthly Pay
< 2Not Applicable
2-3Not Applicable
3-4Not Applicable
4-6$5,754.00
6-8$6,085.20
8-10$6,381.00
10-12$6,665.40
12-14$6,967.20
14-16$7,259.40
16-18$7,536.00
18-20$7,825.20
20-22$8,093.40
22-24$8,358.00
24-26$8,358.00
> 26$8,358.00

The salary figures above are based on the Department of Defense (DoD) pay scale, It’s updated yearly. Additionally, there may be other allowances and benefits, such as housing, subsistence, and special duty pays, which are not included in these tables

Personal Experience with Army Warrant Officers

The first warrant officer I served with was a female W2 Black Hawk pilot in a Medivac Battalion in Korea. She was the most respected pilot in the unit. Ten years later, I remember complaining to the special forces group warrant officer about how miserable I was to have left my scuba team after two and a half years.

He told me that it was normal and that he was also sad when he finally left his ODA and moved up to the headquarters. I asked him how much team time he had. He said 18 years, but only 10 of them were as the detachment commander.

Warrant officers are technical experts who give continuity to special career fields within the armed forces. What a great way to serve. Thanks for reading.”

George N.