In the U.S. Army and Marine Corp, staff sergeants at the enlisted rank and pay grade level of E-6 level share similar duties with sergeants at the E-5 level. They are non-commissioned officers who command approximately 10 soldiers and usually have at least one sergeant under their command. Staff sergeants in the Air Force serve at the E-5 pay grade and are promoted from senior airman at the E-4 and must demonstrate both leadership and technical skills for promotion.
Soldiers in the Army must serve 84 months to be eligible for promotion to staff sergeant. Ten months of service is required at the sergeant level. The Army allows for early promotion in the secondary zone. The secondary zone is for exceptional soldiers recommended for promotion by their commanding officer. A minimum of 48 months of service with five months of service at the E-5 sergeant level is required before promotion in the secondary zone. In addition, all soldiers must have a 12-month service requirement remaining to be eligible for promotion to staff sergeant.
Marine sergeants must serve a minimum of 48 months with 24 months at the E-5 sergeant level.
The Air Force requires three years of service with six months at the senior airman rank for promotion to staff sergeant.
Soldiers must have at least a high school diploma or GED to be eligible for promotion. An associate degree or higher is recommended. According to U.S. Army Human Resources, soldiers must complete Warrior Leaders Course prior to being recommended for promotion. The course was formerly named the Primary Leadership Development Course. The one-month course includes training in leadership, map reading, land navigation and training management.
Marines must complete either the Marine Noncommissioned Officer Course/NCO Basic Nonresident Course or the Sergeant's Nonresident Program/Sergeants Distance Education Program to be eligible for promotion.
Airmen must complete the Airman Leadership School and achieve the 5-skill of craftsman level. The 5-skill level requires the airman to complete Career Development Course and all required on-the-job training for his position. This typically takes 18 months depending on the airman's job.
The unit commander must submit a recommendation of promotion for the soldier to be considered for a staff sergeant position in all branches. Promotions are made within the soldiers job which is called the military occupational specialty.
Soldiers must score at least 450 out of 800 to be considered for the staff sergeant promotion. Up to 150 points may be earned for duty performance. These points are based on soldier evaluations completed by the unit commander. Marksmanship and Army Physical Fitness Test scores count for up to 100 points. Soldiers earn up to 200 points for military education and 100 points for civilian education. Military awards and medals may count for up to 100 points. Up to 150 points may be awarded by the promotion board for appearance, confidence and knowledge. Each month the Department of the Army determines the number of promotions available based on budget and the needs of the Army. Promotions are given to soldiers with the highest scores.
The Staff NCO Centralized Board determines marines' eligibility for promotion. The Board examines the Marine's qualifications including training, service history, fitness and conduct to find sergeants for promotion. The selection board selects a specified number of promotions in each military occupational specialty.
Airmen are promoted based on a point system called the Weighted Airman Promotion System (WAPS). Airmen earn up to 100 points on the written Promotion Fitness Examination, 100 points on the written Specialty Knowledge Test specific to her job, 25 points for medals and awards, 45 points for Time-In-Grade at the senior airman level and 135 points for yearly Enlisted Performance Reports. The Air Force does not require a minimum amount of points. Airmen with the highest WAPS scores will be promoted first based, on the needs of the Air Force.