What Is a Commissioned Officer? (With Ranks and Duties)

Updated 12 August 2022

In India, the two types of army officers appointed by the president are Class-I or Group A officers, also known as commissioned officers and Class-II or Group B officers known as non-commissioned officers. A commissioned officer is a member of the armed forces who holds a position of authority. Commissioned officials have direct authority from a sovereign power and have a commission entrusting them with the obligations and duties of an office or post. In this article, we discuss what a commissioned officer is, outline their ranks and duties and explore how to become one.

What Is A Commissioned Officer?

Commissioned officers are the army's highest ranked officers. They are the group A or class-1 service officers. Commissioned officers hold an exclusive rank in the Indian armed forces. They often hold a commission under the president's sovereign power and are officially instructed to protect the country. The president directly appoints commissioned officers and has the authority to declare war or make peace, subject to the parliament's consent. Commissioned officers are the Army's top leaders, commanding anything from a battalion, company, division, brigade or the whole army.

Commissioned Officer Ranks

Here are the ranks for a commissioned officer:

Field marshal

In the Indian Army, the field marshal is a five-star general officer position and is the highest rank one can achieve. Field marshal is a ceremonial, wartime position that ranks immediately above general. The marshal is paid the same as a four-star general and is considered as a serving officer until they die.


A general officer is a four-star officer. The NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) describes the rank of general by the code OF-9. It is the highest rank in many of the armies now in operation. Only the chief of the army staff of the Indian Army has this position. They can retire after three years of service as the COAS (the Chief of the Army Staff) or at the age of 62.

Lieutenant general

A lieutenant general holds a three-star military rank in the Indian Army. Military officers who have completed 36 years of commissioned service can undergo a selection process to become lieutenant general. They are the vice chief of Army staff and often act as Army commanders, retiring at the age of 60.

Major general

The position of major general is equivalent to the earlier rank of sergeant major general. Their rank is higher than that of a brigadier and lower than that of a lieutenant general. The major general post in the Indian Army is similar to the air vice-marshal post in the Indian Air Force and the rear admiral post in the Indian Navy. To become a major general, one has to complete 32 years of commissioned service in the Indian military and clear a thorough selection process. These officers retire at the age of 58 years.


Brigadiers hold a one-start rank in the Indian Army. The position of brigadier is comparable to that of an air commodore in the Indian Air Force and a commodore in the Indian Navy. To hold the position of brigadier, one has to complete 25 years of commissioned service in the Indian military. Their retirement age by law is 56.


A colonel's rank in the Indian Army is similar to that of a captain in the Indian Navy and a group captain in the Indian Air Force. Colonels rank one level above lieutenant colonels and one level below brigadiers. Colonels are appointed through a selection process among military officers who have completed a minimum of 15 years of commissioned service. Their retirement age by law is 54.

Lieutenant colonel

In the armed forces, the battalions and regiment are under the control of a lieutenant colonel. An officer can become a lieutenant colonel after completing 13 years of commissioned duty. They also need to pass the Part D exam for in-house promotion.


A major's rank is two levels higher than that of a lieutenant and one rank higher than that of a captain. A major is in charge of numerous strategic responsibilities as well as commanding and directing the military force. To become a major, one needs to complete two years of commissioned service and pass the part B in-house promotions test.


The captain is the highest rank a soldier may attain while still serving on the field. This rank is in use since the 1560s and is in use by many nations. After two years of reckoned commissioned service, a soldier can become a captain.


In the Indian armed services, the lieutenant is the starting rank for a commissioned officer. A lieutenant is a government of India gazetted official. They may earn this rank after being commissioned as an officer in the Indian Army.

Related: Guide: How To Become a Lieutenant in the Indian Army

Differences Between A Commissioned And Non-Commissioned Officer

In the Indian Army, commissioned and non-commissioned officers are distinguished by their duties, salary, ranks and authority. Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) are senior-level soldiers who provide training to junior soldiers and ensure that any orders from commissioned officers are being perfectly implemented on the ground level. Commissioned officers are members of the management team. They offer tasks, assignments and instructions to non-commissioned officers. Non-commissioned officers frequently oversee lower-level officers to make sure they are performing their duties in a timely manner.

Role Of A Commissioned Officer

Commissioned officers are in charge of training and commanding enlisted troops. They are responsible for safeguarding their subordinates, boosting their morale, leading them by example and ensuring their professional growth. Commissioned officers are also responsible for training and motivating all recruits in their unit. They can also participate in a variety of missions, trips and other training opportunities. These officers may also need to perform judicial duties. An army court may appoint a commissioned officer as judge, which gives them the power to provide justice.

When a civil magistrate shares a matter with a commissioned officer, they make their judgment without consulting with a magistrate or civil authority. The decision to return the situation to civil shall be made solely by the commissioned officer. A commissioned officer also has the authority to arrest their subordinates in the armed forces. This power extends to civilians while acting under the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) or martial law. As a martial law administrator, a commissioned officer may issue orders that will become law for the rest of the process.

Ways To Become A Commissioned Officer

All citizens of India regardless of their caste, class, religion or community are eligible to join the armed forces and become commissioned officers if they meet the physical, medical and educational requirements. The Indian Army recruits most of its commissioned officers through a UPSC exam. However, some officers are recruited through the Non-UPSC route. Here are more details:

UPSC recruitment of commissioned officers

Candidates willing to become commissioned officers can attend certain exams conducted by the UPSC. Some of the all-India competitive exams conducted by the UPSC for the selection of commissioned officers are:

  • National Defence Academy (NDA) and Naval Defence Academy (NA): The NDA and NA hold the UPSC exams twice a year. Candidates who have passed their10+2 exam or are in their 12th grade are eligible to sit this exam.

  • Combined Defence Service examination: The UPSC conducts the CDS examination twice a year among university graduates or those in their last year of studies. Selected candidates are then sent for training to the Indian Military Academy, Indian Naval Academy or Indian Air Force Academy.

  • Short Service Commission (Technical) entry: To take this exam, you must be an engineering graduate. Following the SSB (Service Selection Board) interview and medical examination, the chosen applicants must complete 49 weeks of pre-commission training at the OTA (Officers Training Academy) in Chennai.

Non-UPSC recruitment of commissioned officers

While most commissioned officers are recruited through one of the UPSC-conducted exams, there are a few commissioned officer posts that are recruited through non-UPSC admissions. Some of these are:

  • Permanent Commission (PC): A permanent commission entails a commitment to the military until retirement. You are required to enrol in the National Defence Academy or the Indian Military Academy to receive a permanent commission.

  • Short Service Commission: Both men and women who have a bachelor's or master's degree in any stream can attend the Short Service Commission. The selection process comprises a written exam, SSB interview and a medical examination.

  • Recruitment of Personal Below Officers Rank (PBOR): The PBOR carries out the selection process using an open rally system. The PBOR recruiting process begins with a preliminary screening of interested applicants at the rally site, followed by document verification, physical fitness testing, physical measurement and a medical exam.

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