What rank do you have to be to go to sniper school?

Quick Answer

The minimum rank to attend sniper school in the U.S. military is E-4 for the Army and Marines and E-5 for the Navy and Air Force. However, each branch has additional eligibility requirements beyond rank that must be met to attend sniper school.

Army Sniper School Requirements

To attend the U.S. Army Sniper School, soldiers must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Rank: E-4 (Specialist)
  • MOS: 11B (Infantryman) or 19D (Cavalry Scout)
  • Minimum 1 year time in service
  • Expert rifle qualification badge
  • Minimum GT score of 100
  • Be a volunteer for sniper training
  • Pass sniper physical fitness test
  • Letter of recommendation from chain of command

The Army Sniper School is run by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and located at Fort Benning, Georgia. It is a 5-week course that teaches advanced rifle marksmanship, camouflage techniques, intelligence gathering, and more. Graduates earn the additional skill identifier “S” (Sniper) and join sniper sections within infantry and reconnaissance units.

Notable Details

  • E-4 is the minimum rank, but E-5 and above is more common
  • GT score of 110+ is preferred
  • Expert rifle score of 85% or higher preferred
  • Not guaranteed to attend right at E-4, time in service and experience still considered

Marine Corps Scout Sniper School Requirements

To attend the USMC Scout Sniper School, Marines must meet these minimum prerequisites:

  • Rank: E-4 (Corporal)
  • MOS: 0311 (Rifleman) or 0321 (Reconnaissance Man)
  • Security clearance eligibility
  • 1st Class PFT and CFT
  • Sergeant and above recommendation
  • Approval by chain of command

The Marine Corps Scout Sniper School is located at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. The course is 10 weeks long and covers advanced marksmanship, stalking, camouflage, observation, and reporting. Graduates earn the additional MOS 0326 (Marine Scout Sniper).

Notable Details

  • Higher ranks (E-5 and up) more common
  • Recon Marines may attend sooner than E-4
  • Recommend competing in division match first
  • Spots are limited so competition is high

Navy Sniper School Requirements

To qualify for the U.S. Navy Sniper School, sailors must meet these prerequisites:

  • Rank: E-5 (Petty Officer 2nd Class)
  • Rating: HM (Hospital Corpsman)
  • High PFT and rifle scores
  • 2 years left on current contract
  • Year of deployment experience
  • Command endorsement letter

The Navy Sniper School is located at Naval Base Point Loma, California and is a 7-week course. Topics include long-range marksmanship, spotting, reconnaissance, countersniper tactics, and more. Graduates earn the F2 additional qualification designator (Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist – Sniper).

Notable Details

  • Very few E-4s attend, E-5 is most common
  • HM rating only, no other ratings eligible
  • Deployment experience helps candidacy
  • Limited seats, very competitive to get selected

Air Force Sniper School Requirements

The minimum requirements to attend the USAF Sniper School are:

  • Rank: E-5 (Staff Sergeant)
  • AFSC: 1C2/1C4 (Combat Controller)
  • 5 years of service
  • Top performance reviews
  • Command endorsement

The USAF Sniper School is run by the Special Operations School at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The 6-week course covers stealth movement, concealment, long-range marksmanship, observation techniques, and field craft.

Notable Details

  • Only open to Combat Controllers
  • Extensive experience required
  • Less than 10 students per class
  • Highly selective application process

Coast Guard Sniper School

The U.S. Coast Guard does not currently operate its own sniper school. However, some Coast Guard members have attended sniper training with other branches. For example, qualified Coast Guard personnel have graduated from the Navy Sniper School.

Sniper School Prerequisites Summary

Branch Rank Other Requirements
Army E-4 11B/19D MOS, 1+ years TIS, expert rifle, GT 100+, volunteer, command approval
Marines E-4 0311/0321 MOS, PFT/CFT score, command approval
Navy E-5 HM rating, high PFT, deployment experience, command approval
Air Force E-5 1C2/1C4 AFSC, 5+ years TIS, top reviews, command approval

Why Ranks Differ Between Branches

Although the base rank requirements differ, it’s important to note that higher ranks are generally more common among sniper students across all service branches. Here are some reasons why the required ranks may vary:

  • Reflects broader experience – More time in service results in more developed skills and knowledge.
  • Indicates maturity – Snipers must act intelligently and deliberately.
  • Higher demand vs supply – Each branch only trains a small number of snipers per year.
  • Screening purpose – Rank helps filter out less prepared candidates.
  • Staffing need – Each branch has different sniper employment concepts.

So while the Army and Marine Corps allow E-4 as a minimum, they still prefer higher ranked, seasoned soldiers and Marines to attend sniper school. The Navy and Air Force set an E-5 minimum recognizing the experience levels desired for their snipers.

Waiver Potential for Rank Requirements

The rank prerequisites cannot be waived for Army, Navy, or Air Force sniper school. The Marine Corps will occasionally allow rank requirement waivers under special circumstances. For example, an exceptional junior Marine with specific skills, leadership, or experience may receive a waiver to attend sniper school below the E-4 rank.

Other Schools Besides Formal Sniper School

It’s worth noting there are other advanced marksmanship courses beyond the formal sniper schools that teach complementary skills. For example:

  • USMC Advanced Infantry Training Battalion – Runs the Scout Sniper Orientation Course for Marines before attending sniper school.
  • Army Small Arms Master Gunner Course – Develops instructors in marksmanship and field craft skills.
  • Navy Mobile Sniper Training Course – Provides sniper familiarization to SEALs and other Naval Special Warfare Units.
  • Specialized unit courses – Some units like Force Recon and Ranger Regiment have additional internal sniper training.

These courses may have different rank requirements from the primary sniper schools since they serve different purposes.

Considerations Beyond Rank for Attending Sniper School

While rank is one screening criteria, it is just one factor among many when it comes to sniper school selection. Here are some other attributes that weigh on the selection process:

  • Rifle proficiency – High scores during range qualifications demonstrate marksmanship capability.
  • Physical fitness – Sniper school is physically demanding, requiring above average strength and endurance.
  • Observation skills – Keen attention to detail is measured through tests and observation exercises.
  • Stalking ability – Candidates are gauged on their stealth and camouflage skills.
  • Mental fortitude – Sniper school places candidates under intense pressure to test their resolve.

These skills, along with general military competency and leadership abilities, determine whether a candidate has the right attributes to graduate sniper school, not just rank alone.

Preparing for Sniper School

Aspiring snipers should begin preparing well before reaching the minimum rank requirements. Here are some tips:

  • Maximize PT performance – Improve run times, upper body strength, and flexibility.
  • Practice with M4/M16 rifle – Become intimately familiar with the weapon.
  • Learn land navigation – Develop strong terrain association and map reading skills.
  • Study ballistics – Understand bullet trajectory, wind effects, etc.
  • Read sniper memoirs – Books by snipers provide insight into the job.
  • Improve observation skills – Regularly play memory, concentration, and spot the difference games.
  • Learn concealment techniques – Practice camouflage skills during exercises and drills.

This early preparation will help candidates hit the ground running once they arrive at sniper school.


While rank minimums provide a baseline eligibility requirement, becoming a military sniper involves much more than simply attaining a certain rank. Extensive skills in marksmanship, physical fitness, field craft, observation, and mental composure determine whether a candidate can graduate sniper school and join an elite group of one-shot-one-kill shooters.

Leave a Comment