Difference Between NCO and Commissioned Officer (With Table)

The army recruits several officers who are enlisted under different ranks. These ranks outline the duties they need to perform, their authority over others and even their pay. NCO and commissioned officers are two positions that army officials are given based on their competence and eligibility. Both have quite a few differences between them.

NCO vs Commissioned Officer

The difference between NCO and CO is that NCO is a term given to officials who have not earned their commission. This means that they have been promoted from lower ranks to their position of authority. On the other hand, commissioned officers are those officials who have directly taken up the position by receiving a commission.

NCO stands for non-commissioned officer. These are officials who are the primary and most visible leaders for military soldiers. They work directly under commissioned officers and ensure that the orders are being followed on ground level. Their responsibility is to recruit and train lower-ranked personnel. They also perform the duty of carrying out several organizational missions.

Commissioned officers hold the highest rank in an army. They are appointed by the issuance of a formal document by the head of state. Their responsibility is to command anything from a company, division, battalion, brigade or even the entire army. These officers also manage NCOs by providing them with tasks, assignments, and instructions.

Comparison Table Between NCO and Commissioned Officer

Parameters of ComparisonNCOCommissioned Officer
PositionNCO is a senior level officer but is ranked below commissioned officers.Commissioned officers hold the highest rank in the army.
CategoryNCOs belong to Class-II or Group B category of officials.Commissioned officers belong to Class-I or Group A category of officials.
CollaringNCOs earn their position by being promoted from lower ranks.Commissioned officers earn their position by a commission from the head of state.
Major DutiesTraining junior soldiers and making sure that commission officers’ orders are followed at ground level.Management of listed troops and giving tasks, assignments, and instructions to NCOs.
TrainingNCOs undergo leadership and management training.Their training involves leadership, management, service-specific coaching and combat training.

What is NCO?

Non-commissioned officers are senior-level members of the army. They earn their position by being promoted from lower ranks. These officers have some degree of authority over military troops and other officials below them. Their responsibility is to supervise within the field of trade speciality. For this, they receive rigorous leadership and management training.

An official can be ranked under various positions after being enlisted as a non-commissioned. Each position has different duties that vary in scope. While senior NCOs are given the responsibility of supervision, NCOs at lower levels are not yet considered as part of management. Regardless, they are considered the ‘backbone’ of the army.

Different countries allow varying levels of authority to non-commissioned officers. For example, officials in the United States and the United Kingdom are crucial in supervision, whereas other countries may allow them next to no authority. In maritime forces, NCOs are named petty officers and chief petty officers. This status usually means that the official is a seaman, airman, fireman and so on.

In traditional infantry such as the marine and air force, NCOs are generally called corporals and sergeants. They are enlisted in ranks that are referred to as privates and airmen. In countries where service in the army is compulsory, NCOs are called professional soldiers and not officials.

What is Commissioned Officer?

A commissioned officer is an official at the highest rank of the army. This rank is given to them by the issuance of a formal document by the head of state. The formal document is referred to as ‘commission’. These officers typically make up around one-eighth to one-fifth of the entire armed forces.

The training given to such officers involves education in leadership and management. They are also given service-specific coaching and combat training. Many countries even require the officials to have a certain university degree. Even though other countries do not make it mandatory for these officials to have a degree, most choose to complete their graduation.

In some cases, civilian professionals with reputable credentials are often listed as commissioned officials. They are directly placed in their position, but they generally cannot command authority outside of service-specific branches. For example, numerous scientists, nurses, physicians, attorneys, and pharmacists are often enlisted in this position. However, they can only function in the Medical Corps and Army General Corps.

An interesting historical fact is that in World War II, industrial management civilians were also recruited. They were directly commissioned. Their responsibility was to supervise and carry out material production for the army.

Main Differences Between NCO and Commissioned Officer

  1. NCO is a senior level officer but is ranked below commissioned officers whereas commissioned officers hold the highest rank in the army.
  2. NCOs belong to Class-II or Group B category of officials whereas commissioned officers belong to Class-I or Group A category of officials.
  3. NCOs earn their position by being promoted from lower ranks whereas commissioned officers earn their position by a commission from the head of state.
  4. The responsibilities of NCOs include training junior soldiers and making sure that commission officers’ orders are followed at ground level. On the other hand, the duties of commissioned officers include management of listed troops and giving tasks, assignments, and instructions to NCOs.
  5. NCOs undergo leadership and management training whereas commissioned officers undergo leadership, management, service-specific and combat training.

Conclusion

NCOs and commissioned officers are often confused with one another due to their almost similar duties. A major difference between them is that NCOs earn their position by being promoted from lower ranks whereas commissioned officers earn their position by getting a direct commission from the head of state.

Another major difference is that both kinds of officials are given different trainings. NCOs are trained in leadership and management. Commissioned officers are given service-specific coaching as well as combat training in addition to this. Both the officials have many more differences in duties and responsibilities as well. They are also placed in different classes or categories of officials.

References

  1. https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/citations/AD1117457
  2. https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/citations/ADA226543
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