Star Trek Expanded Universe

Enlisted personnel (also called rates, crew, or men) are people in Earth Starfleet or Federation Starfleet vessel who are not commissioned officers—meaning they have not taken and passed the full four-year Starfleet Academy course, only a shorter basic training course.


Enlisted personnel have a hierarchy of rates (rather than ranks) with three main levels:

These may be further subdivided, possibly into different subdivisions at different points in history, but the subdivisions are not established in canon, merely inferred from analogy with United States Navy practice. See the table below, under History

Career progression[]

In 23rd and 24th-century Starfleet, the distinction between officers and enlisted is less to do with social class and more to do with whether the individual wants to advance their career through leadership and management, or through concentrating on technical or administrative skills. Unambitious beings may remain at the crewman level for their entire career. Technical specialists may become respected for their experience and knowledge without needing to be promoted to commissioned rank. A chief petty officer, while technically subordinate to any officer, will act as advisor to junior officers and a peer of commissioned officers.

Enlisted personnel may also progress from administration to command and become commissioned officers (referred to as being "prior enlisted" or a "mustang"). As an example, Janice Rand served on the USS Enterprise as a petty officer (TOS) and chief petty officer (Star Trek: The Motion Picture), and later on the USS Excelsior as lieutenant junior grade. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)


Officers generally address crewmen by surname (or their culture's closest equivalent), or as "crewman". Most Starfleet vessels follow the United States Navy practise of addressing crew as "crewman" regardless of sex. (TOS, TNG, etc.)

"Crewman" is a generic term and specific terms may be used for people serving in different departments, such as "mechanic" and "steward". (TOSS)

Most petty officer rates are yeomen or specialists and are addressed as "yeoman" or "specialist", etc. (TOS, TNG)

The producers of the series did not like the term "petty officer" and avoided using it.

Crewmen at chief petty officer or above are addressed as "chief" both by officers and by lower-rated crew, "senior chief" when at the rank of senior chief petty officer and "master chief" at master chief petty officer.


Pre-industrial navies of Earth had a sharp division between officers and men corresponding to the division between gentlemen and commoners in wider society: officers gave orders and the men did hard manual labor. The classes of non-commissioned officers and warrant officers evolved to bridge the gap between officers who had no knowledge of sea-faring, and men who had experience and skills but could not be commissioned officers because they were not of the required social class.

By the twentieth century the division between officers and men still existed, but corresponded to the difference between (university or college) education versus vocational training and on-the-job experience. In many countries, officers invariably have a university degree (the Royal Navy of Britain and the United States Navy being exceptions). As the technology of warfare increased in sophistication, this division became increasingly blurred, and by the end of the century, navies were re-evaluating the ways skills and knowledge were to be related to positions in the hierarchy.

This table shows rough correspondences between navy and marines ranks in the forces of the then United States of America and Britain:

USN US Marine Corps RN Royal Marines
Seaman recruit (SR) Private (Pvt) Able seaman (AB) Marine (Mne)
Seaman apprentice (SA) Private first class (PFC)
Seaman (SN) Lance corporal (LCpl) Lance corporal (LCpl)
Petty officer third class (PO3) Corporal (Cpl) Leading hand (LH) Corporal (Cpl)
Petty officer second class (PO2) Sergeant (Sgt) Petty officer (PO) Sergeant (Sgt)
Petty officer first class (PO1) Staff sergeant (SSgt)
Chief petty officer (CPO) Gunnery sergeant (GySgt) Chief petty officer (CPO) Colour sergeant (CSgt)
Senior chief petty officer (SCPO) Master sergeant (MSgt)
First sergeant (1stSgt)
Warrant officer class 2 (WO2) Warrant officer class 2 (WO2)
Master chief petty officer (MCPO)
Command Master Chief Petty Officer (CMCPO)
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON)
Master gunnery sergeant (MGySgt)
Sergeant major (SgrMaj)
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps
Warrant officer class 1 (WO1) Warrant officer class 1 (WO1)

To make things more interesting, Royal Marines with rank warrant officer have an appointment in addition to rank, and are addressed according to appointment (such as company sergeant major, regimental quartermaster sergeant, et al.) rather than rank. Similarly, crewmen and privates are often addressed according to specialization (gunner, sapper, operator-mechanic, etc.) rather than the generic rank.

In later centuries, Earth Starfleet and later Starfleet unified, adapted and simplified the rank schemes of the old military organizations as the basis of their rank hierarchies. (ENT, TOS)

In the 23rd century, there were no differences in insignia between different rates.

Scripts of TOS, and some contemporary supporting materials, treat ensigns and crewmen as interchangeable terms. This and the lack of insignia suggests a much-simplified hierarchy of rates.
For TNG, Gene Roddenberry envisaged starships operated by officers only, which makes sense if you think in twentieth-century terms where only officers have the education required to operate a space vessel. In later series crewmen were retconned back into canon, with Chief petty officer Miles O'Brien being a main character.


In the Starfleet of the 23rd century, enlisted personnel and ensigns both lacked rank insignia. (TOS)

Yellow (TOS).png Red (TOS).png Blue (TOS).png

On some ships, such as the USS Mumbai, enlisted personnel and ensigns are distinguished by the colour of their assignment patch: shiny gold for officers, plain white for crew. (TOSS)

In the early 2270s, petty officers and chiefs have a unique symbol on their shoulder strap.

Petty officer
Chief petty officer
There is no screen evidence for further subdivisions of the rates, though designs for these insignia have been conjectured.

From the 2280s, enlisted rates have different uniform from officers, tan and maroon, with rank insignia on the left sleeve. (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, et al.)

From the 2350s, rank was indicated by pips work on the right collar. Enlisted personnel had no insignia, except for chiefs, indicated by a single hollow pip. (TNG)

Chief (2350s-2360s)
Chief (2366-2372)

From 2372, a lozenge on the collar distinguished different classes of petty officer and chief petty officer.

Petty officer third class
Petty officer second class
Petty officer first class
Chief petty officer
Senior chief petty officer (VOY)
Master chief petty officer

See also[]

Category:Starfleet enlisted personnel

External links[]