Officer candidate or officer aspirant (OA) is a rank in some militaries of the world that is an appointed position while a person is in training to become an officer. More often than not, an officer candidate was a civilian who applied to join the military directly as an officer. Officer candidates are, therefore, not considered of the same status as enlisted personnel.
In several NATO countries, the term officer designate (OF-D) is used. In the NATO rank scale, it comes below the grade of OF-1 and above the grade of Student Officer. Ranks designated as OF-D include dokimos efedros axiomatikos in the Hellenic Army, and chuẩn úy ("officer designate") in the Vietnam People's Army. In the German Armed Forces, officer designates are enlisted personnel and have a corresponding rank code.
In the Finnish Defence Forces, officer candidate is an NCO rank, comparable to sergeant. Officer candidates are graduates of the Reserve Officer School, where they have been trained as officer students. At the end of their conscript service they are promoted to the rank of second lieutenant.
In the German Armed Forces, officer designates are enlisted personnel. Soldiers accepted for officer training are given the annotation (OA) for Offizieranwärter ("Officer Aspirant") to their rank. Then the designate progresses through the ranks of Fahnenjunker (OR-5), Fähnrich (OR-6) and Oberfähnrich (OR-7) in the German Army and German Air Force. Officer designates in the German Navy go through the corresponding ranks of Seekadett, Fähnrich zur See and Oberfähnrich zur See instead.
Officer designates in the army and air force wear the same uniform and insignia as the corresponding NCOs; added a silver metal tissue cord on their shoulder straps. A distinction to this is the insignia of the Oberfähnrich. His service and dress uniforms, including the shoulder straps, are sowed the silver piping, indicating the officer career instead of the NCO piping. However, his rank insignia on mounting loots for the field uniform are identically to the non-commissioned Hauptfeldwebel; plus the cord of the officer designate.
The navy doesn't use a silver cord to indicate the officer designates; instead a golden nautical star is displayed. The rank insignia of Seekadett and Fähnrich zur See is the same as for the corresponding NCOs, but exchanges the anchor symbol with the nautical star. The rank insignia for Oberfähnrich zur See is lent to the Leutnant zur See, displaying the nautical star and a golden half-stripe — also on the field uniform.
|Distinction||Fahnenjunker||Fähnrich||Oberfähnrich||Fahnenjunker||Fähnrich||Oberfähnrich||Seekadett||Fähnrich zur See||Oberfähnrich zur See|
In the Indonesian National Armed Forces, an officer candidate (calon perwira) is one who wants to earn a commission as an officer in the armed forces.
Officers in the Indonesian National Armed Forces are commissioned through one of four major commissioning programs. Upon graduation the candidates are promoted to the rank of second lieutenant, thus becoming commissioned officers. The four programs are:
- National Armed Forces Academy (Akademi TNI): a four-year undergraduate program that emphasizes instruction in the arts, sciences, and professions, preparing men and women to take on the challenge of being officers in the armed forces (Army: Military Academy, Navy: Naval Academy, Air Force: Air Force Academy);
- Officer Candidate School: a 28-week program that is attended by senior NCOs or warrant officers from all services;
- Career Officer Program for college graduates: a 7–8 month program that is designed to recruit civilian professionals (e.g., doctors, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists) into the armed forces;
- Pilot Short Service School: a 34-month program to train pilots to serve in the armed forces
In the Philippines, an officer candidate ("OC") is a civilian or enlisted service member who holds a baccalaureate degree and who wants to earn a commission as an officer in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Upon admission to the Officer Candidate School, officer candidates are appointed as probationary second lieutenants and probationary ensigns.
In the British Armed Forces, officer candidates (or potential officer candidates) are civilians or enlisted persons who apply to join the service as an officer. This does not infer rank or salutation. On joining the Armed Force, they then become designated as Officer Cadets.
|NATO rank code||Student officer||OF-1||OF-2||OF-3||OF-4||OF-5||OF-6
|Royal Navy||O Cdt||Mid||SLt||Lt||Lt Cdr||Cdr||Capt||Cdre||RAdm||VAdm||Adm||Adm of the Fleet|
|Royal Marines||O Cdt||2Lt||Lt||Capt||Maj||Lt Col||Col||Brig||Maj-Gen||Lt-Gen||Gen||Capt-Gen|
|Army||O Cdt||2Lt||Lt||Capt||Maj||Lt Col||Col||Brig||Maj-Gen||Lt-Gen||Gen||Fd Mshl|
|Royal Air Force||Off Cdt / SO||APO / Plt Off||Fg Off||Flt Lt||Sqn Ldr||Wg Cdr||Gp Capt||Air Cdre||AVM||Air Mshl||Air Chf Mshl||Mshl of the RAF|
In the United States Army, officer candidates attend either the Federal Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Benning, Georgia, or Army National Guard Regional Training Institutes (RTIs). RTIs follow the same curriculum and requirements as OCS and commission graduates who receive federal recognition into the Army National Guard. Soldiers who attend OCS are usually prior service enlisted personnel, though civilians with college degrees can enlist and go directly to OCS after basic training. Additionally, Warrant Officer Candidates attend the Warrant Officer Candidate school and are also officer candidates.
With regard to rank, a U.S. Army officer candidate exists in a gray area. AR 600–20, Army Command Policy, places their rank as outranking all enlisted members of the service and rank directly below all officers. They are not yet officers. They are enlisted soldiers who lose all rank status when reporting to the course. Regardless of pay grade, traditionally, but technically incorrect, candidates are outranked by any course cadre or permanent party enlisted soldiers they may encounter. Although their status does not correspond to a position of authority within the standard U.S. Army ranks, candidates serve in leadership training roles at the platoon or company level. They are addressed as "candidate" by the OCS cadre. During the first few weeks of indoctrination, candidates are treated much the same as a new recruit. In the final weeks of training, OCS platoons may achieve "senior" status and senior officer candidates may be addressed as "Sir" or "Ma'am" by more junior candidates, but never by other enlisted ranks.
The pay grade for a U.S. Army officer candidate is E-5 (Federal OCS), or E-6 (state OCS) on the enlisted pay scale, unless the candidate previously achieved a higher enlisted rank. For example, an E-7 who becomes a candidate would continue to receive E-7 pay. The OCS uniform is stripped of the rank patch which is replaced by the letters "OCS." Upon commissioning, a candidate becomes a second lieutenant.
U.S. Marine Corps
In the United States Navy, officer candidates are trained at either the Officer Candidate School or Officer Development School in Newport, Rhode Island. A parallel program known as Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS) at NAS Pensacola, Florida, previously produced officers slated to become naval aviators, naval flight officers, air intelligence officers and aircraft maintenance duty officers not otherwise procured via the U.S. Naval Academy or NROTC. A major distinction between the two programs was the use of enlisted Marine Corps drill instructors in the AOCS program, a vestige from the World War II and early 1950s period when AOCS graduates were given the option of being commissioned in the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marine Corps before proceeding to flight training. AOCS was disestablished in 1994 due to BRAC action and merged into the current OCS program in 1994.
Officer candidate is also the rank to which participants in the active duty commissioning program "Seaman to Admiral 21" are appointed. STA 21 officer candidates are appointed to the rank at the Naval Science Institute and go on to hold the rank while training with the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at NROTC-affiliated universities. While attached to their colleges or universities, officer candidates are looked to as mentors to the midshipmen throughout the school year. They must maintain 2.0 GPAs, and are urged to assist midshipmen in developing their own leadership abilities.
STA 21 OCs maintain their enlisted pay grade and eligibility for enlisted advancement. The number of sailors selected each year to participate in the "Seaman to Admiral 21 program" varies from year to year. Fiscal year 2010 admitted about 200 candidates, FY11- 115, and FY12- about 75. Currently, the program has been downsized to only admit 50 candidates.
The rank of officer candidate is denoted by an officer's uniform with no insignia except for a line officer's star device on white and dress blue uniforms. If the candidate has never had prior service their rank is typically that of Officer Candidate Under Instruction Second Class (OCUI2). On khaki and working blue uniforms, fouled anchors are worn on the collar points until candidate officer status is achieved, at which time OCs wear the bar insignia similar to their senior/midshipmen 1st class counterparts at the U.S. Naval Academy and in NROTC.
U.S. Coast Guard
U.S. Air Force
Similar to the Army officer candidates, Air Force officer trainees exist in a gray zone with regard to rank, and their status does not directly correspond to a position of seniority or authority within the standard Air Force ranks. Typically, they are referred to or addressed as "OT," and during the first few weeks of indoctrination, are treated much the same as a new recruit. The pay for an officer trainee, however, is equal to an E-5 on the enlisted pay scale, unless the candidate previously achieved a higher enlisted rank than E-5, e.g., an E-7 who becomes a candidate would continue to receive E-7 pay, and so on. Once commissioned, the new officer advances to the pay rate of O-1, unless they have at least four years of active duty service, in which case they are paid the higher O-1E rate in recognition of the prior enlisted service. Such pay continues at promotion to the next two grades ("O-2E" and "O-3E"), but is discontinued at the grade of O-4.
OT rank insignia loosely parallels that of Air Force ROTC and United States Air Force Academy Cadet Insignia, except in the case of the directly commissioned chaplains, lawyers, and medical personnel.
|Pay grade / branch of service||Officer
|Army||CDT / OC||2LT||1LT||CPT||MAJ||LTC||COL||BG||MG||LTG||GEN||GA||GAS|
|Marine Corps||Midn / Cand||2ndLt||1stLt||Capt||Maj||LtCol||Col||BGen||MajGen||LtGen||Gen|||||
|Navy||MIDN / OC||ENS||LTJG||LT||LCDR||CDR||CAPT||RDML||RADM||VADM||ADM||FADM||AN|
|Air Force||Cdt / OT / OC||2nd Lt||1st Lt||Capt||Maj||Lt Col||Col||Brig Gen||Maj Gen||Lt Gen||Gen||GAF|||
|Space Force||Cdt||2nd Lt||||||||||||||||||Gen|||||
|Coast Guard||CDT / OC||ENS||LTJG||LT||LCDR||CDR||CAPT||RDML||RADM||VADM||ADM|||||
| No universal insignia for officer candidate rank; Navy candidate insignia shown|
Official 1945 proposal for General of the Armies insignia; John J. Pershing's GAS insignia: ; George Dewey's Admiral of the Navy insignia:
 Rank used for specific officers in wartime only, not permanent addition to rank structure
 Grade is authorized by the U.S. Code for use but has not been created
 Grade has never been created or authorized
United States warrant officer and commissioned warrant officer ranks
| Grade inactive|
 Grade is authorized for use by U.S. Code but has not been created
United States comparative military ranks
|Flag rank officers|
|Pay rade||Army||Marine Corps||Navy & Coast Guard||Air Force|
|Special||General of the Armies||none||Admiral of the Navy||none|
|Special||General of the Army||none||Fleet admiral||General of the Air Force|
|O-9||Lieutenant general||Lieutenant general||Vice admiral||Lieutenant general|
|O-8||Major general||Major general||Rear admiral||Major general|
|O-7||Brigadier general||Brigadier general||Rear admiral (lower half)||Brigadier general|
|Pay grade||Army||Marine Corps||Navy & Coast Guard||Air Force|
|O-5||Lieutenant colonel||Lieutenant colonel||Commander||Lieutenant colonel|
|O-2||First lieutenant||First lieutenant||Lieutenant (junior grade)||First lieutenant|
|O-1||Second lieutenant||Second lieutenant||Ensign||Second lieutenant|
|Pay grade||Army||Marine Corps||Navy & Coast Guard||Air Force|
|W-5||Chief warrant officer, five||Chief warrant officer, five||Chief warrant officer, five (not used by the Coast Guard)||None (discontinued before creation of CW5)|
|W-4||Chief warrant officer, four||Chief warrant officer, four||Chief warrant officer, four||Chief warrant officer, four (discontinued)|
|W-3||Chief warrant officer, three||Chief warrant officer, three||Chief warrant officer, three||Chief warrant officer, three (discontinued)|
|W-2||Chief warrant officer, two||Chief warrant officer, two||Chief warrant officer, two||Chief warrant officer, two (discontinued)|
|W-1||Warrant officer, one||Warrant officer, one||Warrant officer, one (not used by the Coast Guard)||Warrant officer, one (discontinued)|
|Pay grade||Army||Marine Corps||Navy & Coast Guard||Air Force|
|Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman||Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman||Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman||Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman|
|Sergeant Major of the Army||Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps||Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy/Coast Guard||Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force|
|E-9||Command sergeant major
Master gunnery sergeant
|Fleet/force master chief petty officer
Command master chief petty officer
Master chief petty officer
|Command chief master sergeant|
Chief master sergeant
|Command senior chief petty officer (not used by the Coast Guard)
Senior chief petty officer
|Senior master sergeant|
|E-7||Sergeant first class||Gunnery sergeant||Chief petty officer||Master sergeant|
|E-6||Staff sergeant||Staff sergeant||Petty officer first class||Technical sergeant|
|E-5||Sergeant||Sergeant||Petty officer second class||Staff sergeant|
|E-4||Specialist/corporal||Corporal||Petty officer third class||Senior airman|
|E-3||Private first class||Lance corporal||Seaman||Airman first class|
|E-2||Private||Private first class||Seaman apprentice||Airman|
|E-1||Private||Private||Seaman recruit||Airman basic|
- "NATO official document" (PDF). Retrieved 7 September 2010.
- Langenscheidt´s Encyclopaedic Dictionary of the English and German language: "Der Große Muret-Sander", Part II German-English, Second Volume L–Z, 8th edition 1999, ISBN 3-468-01126-1; p. 1.381
- "Army.com – Officer Candidate School". Archived from the original on 2007-04-04.
- Army Regulation 350-51 United States Army Officer Candidate School. June 11, 2001. Chapter 5-2. Retrieved February 9, 2011.
- U.S. Army OCS Foundation website
- U.S. Army official OCS website
- U.S. Army official OCS Recruiting website
- U.S. Coast Guard OCS Foundation website
- U.S. Navy OCS Foundation website
- U.S. Navy official OCS website
- U.S. Air Force Officer Training School website
- U.S. Marine official OCS website