Specialist (rank)

Specialist (rank)

Specialist (abbreviated "SPC") is one of the fourth enlisted ranks in the U.S. Army, just above Private First Class and equivalent to Corporal. It shares the same enlisted pay grade as the Corporal. Unlike Corporals, Specialists are not considered junior non-commissioned officers (NCO).

New recruits enlisting into the United States Army that have earned a four-year degree and as of 2006, those with civilian-acquired job skills will enter as a Specialist. Fact|date=July 2008

Trades and Specialties

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 6 grades, which were numbered in seniority from Grade Six (lowest) to Grade One (highest). The wearing of Specialist badges inset in rank insignia was abolished and a generic system of chevrons and arcs replaced them.

Private / Specialist

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.


On 8 January, 1942 the rank of Technician was introduced to replace the Private / Specialist rank, which was discontinued by 30 June 1942. They gave technical specialists more authority by grading them as Non-Commisioned 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 their grade, was outranked by the corresponding Non-Commissioned Officer grade but was senior to the next lowest pay grade, but had no direct supervisory authority outside of their 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.


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 but who lacked the leadership skills, general education, and initiative to become Non-Commissioned Officers.

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 notional grades of 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.

Unlike its previous use, the Specialist (E-4) rank doesn't indicate a career "dead-end" in technical or support services as it once did. It is granted 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.

In deference to the original rating of Specialist 4, the modern day rank of Specialist is also sometimes known as "SpecFour." Slang terms for the rank of Specialist include "E-4 Mafia," indicating a reference to the large number of soldiers of E-4 rank who see their roles as performing the "grunt work" in the army. The Mafia reference is derived from some Specialists who are in positions to do favors for other Army specialists, such as supply administration specialists, but sometimes do not show equal generosity to senior enlisted, officers, or privates. The rank of Specialist is sometimes called a "Sham Shield": E-4s are the most experienced of the lower ranks and have usually figured out how to "sham" out of details. A specialist is sometimes ironically called a [http://www.comebackalive.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=29021&sid=fd2cc65db9a9549492170bcdcff15651 "full bird private"] , a play on "full bird colonel." During the Vietnam era, a Specialist 5 would sometimes refer to himself as a "Private E-5" to indicate that his duties and privileges were not different from what they had been when he was a private. Fact|date=July 2008

United States Navy

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.

See also

* Corporal
* Sergeant
* List of comparative military ranks
* Non-commissioned officer
* United States Army enlisted rank insignia


External links

* [http://www.gruntsmilitary.com/rank3.shtml U.S. Army Enlisted Rank Insignia - Criteria, Background, and Images]
* [http://ncohistory.com/files/shsr.pdf The Short History of the Specialist Rank] by Dan Elder, CSM (Ret), USA
* [http://greywar.joeuser.com/articlecomments.asp?AID=58520&s=1 The Specialist Creed]

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