TSR George
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Let's say hypothetically a graduate entered the army as a commissioned officer and stayed there their whole life. Realistically, what is the highest rank the graduate could achieve?
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Harpoon
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Admiral/Air Chief Marshall/General.

All theoretically possible depending on service. But also very very unlikely.
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threeportdrift
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(Original post by ltsmith)
Let's say hypothetically a graduate entered the army as a commissioned officer and stayed there their whole life. Realistically, what is the highest rank the graduate could achieve?
There's no realistically about it. Someone from your generation, ie plus or minus 2 years will reach the very top, the rest won;t but will reach every single position between that and washing out of Day 1 or 2.

You get automatic, time served promotion to Captain, Flight Lieutenant, Lieutenant and thereafter promotion is competitive, usually across your branch of the service. So Major, Squadron Leader, Lieutenant Commander and beyond are competitive and depend on the roles you are appointed to and how well you do in them. The Services change constantly, so the proportion of opportunities, how important key postings are etc will change between now and whenever it may be an issue for you, so there's no point second guessing.
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Harpoon
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Literally as I said above. But it depends entirely, as threeportdrift stated, on how well you do as well as a certain portion of luck and being in the right place, at the right time.
(Original post by ltsmith)
What is the maximum one can likely achieve after a lifetime of service?
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threeportdrift
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(Original post by ltsmith)
I mean do most officers tend to stop advancing at a particular rank and is it a case that further promotions are only possible if you have the right connections?
Not since the 1950s, no! Connections went out along with national service. The process is a pyramid, there's isn't a particular levelling off point. In different Services, and different branches for different reasons there are places it is easier to 'settle' eg Flt Lt Aircrew. There are also minor differences between the ease of getting to certain ranks, for example the RAF will always say it is far easier to get to major in the army than Sqn Ldr in the RAF. The truth doesn't really matter, because you are long into a career before than becomes an issue.
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NFI
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It depends on capbadge really. If you hang around long enough in certain regiments/corps you can make Lt Col on time served without doing anything extraordinary or thrashing yourself in a staff job.
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Molseh
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My experience based on a Corps that is heavily saturated with LE Officers:
- Soft Cap of Captain - as long as you don't drop a major ball you get here.
- Promotion to Major if you are good at your job And/Or landed a good stepping stone such as Adj to a Commanding Officer that is going somewhere in their career.
Beyond that I couldn't say apart from the pyramid seemed to steepen rapidly.

(Original post by ltsmith)
I mean do most officers tend to stop advancing at a particular rank and is it a case that further promotions are only possible if you have the right connections?
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NFI
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(Original post by Molseh)
My experience based on a Corps that is heavily saturated with LE Officers:
- Soft Cap of Captain - as long as you don't drop a major ball you get here.
- Promotion to Major if you are good at your job And/Or landed a good stepping stone such as Adj to a Commanding Officer that is going somewhere in their career.
Beyond that I couldn't say apart from the pyramid seemed to steepen rapidly.
Signals is going the same way as the REME. Absolutely on their arse, so blokes are beiging sooner rather than later. It’s a cultural thing as it stands, so will probably change ina few years, but the middle management side at sub unit command is hanging out (according to Glasgow).
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RAF_Nurse!
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For those that don’t know....”beiging” refers to the ‘beige list’..... i.e. promotion from Captain to Major, I believe.
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threeportdrift
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(Original post by ltsmith)
which regiments/trades do you think are the worst for promotion?
Doesn't matter. Whatever it is now, it will be somewhere different in 5 years time, and then change again in 10 years time when you will be in the bracket to worry about it.

All 3 Services rely on the operation of a fixed shape, which is more or less a pyramid, with a few standardised changes of incline - but it always narrows, it's just the gradient that varies. There are all sorts of planned and unplanned things that can change the gradient - operational tempo, new equipment coming in, new equipment going out, change of location of perm bases, change in defence strategy, availability of relevant external employment, perceptions of pay and conditions etc. Planners try and keep it steady - they fail and actually plan and re-plan to cope with external variables. Fleets, cap-badges, forces etc all fall in and out of favour on a 5-10 year basis, it's not something you can really base a career plan around with any reliability - look at the Household regiments!
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