There are many opportunities for non-commissioned personnel to become commissioned officers in the armed forces and I have provided this information for each service as follows:
The Royal Navy runs several schemes to provide opportunities for the promotion of RN and RM Other Ranks to commissioned ranks. These personnel compete along side non-service candidates and must pass selection by the Admiralty Interview Board. The schemes are: Upper Yardmen and Royal Marine Corps Commissions to provide opportunities for promotion to commissioned ranks open to those aged under 26; and RN Senior Upper Yardman and RM Senior Corps Commission open to those over the age of 26.
The Army commissions soldiers from the ranks, selecting those judged to have sufficient leadership potential, to attend the standard commissioning course. Both direct entry (DE) and soldier commission candidates are assessed and then selected at the Army Officer Selection Board, Westbury thereby assuring a level method of selection and quality.
Late Entry Commissions
For those who are not selected for a direct entry commission from the ranks, then after nine years service (from age 21), and having attained the rank of sergeant, all soldiers are eligible to apply for a late entry (LE) commission up to 44 years of age (waivers can be applied for older applicants).
Direct Entry/Late Entry Balance
Over the last decade, the Army has adjusted its balance from 25 per cent. LE/75 per cent. DE to 33 per cent. LE/67 per cent. DE as greater demand for LE officers has emerged. LE officers do have differing terms of service from DE officers, principally to accelerate their promotion given their average commissioning age of 40. They are widely employed and compete up to the rank of Lt Col with DE officers for appointments.
Internal Commissioning Scheme (ICS)
Serving personnel in the rank of senior aircraftsman1 and above are eligible to apply for the ICS. Leading aircraftsmen and below who wish to be considered for commissioning must meet the appropriate eligibility criteria for direct entrants including the required qualifications (for example, non-commissioned aircrew must have completed a three-year tour of duty at the time of entry into the initial officer training centre).
Commissioned Warrant Officer (CWO)
Warrant officers and master air crew commissioned under the CWO Scheme do not attend full officer training and are appointed in the rank of flight lieutenant with no additional seniority. All other serving personnel are appointed in the rank of flying officer with additional seniority determined by the substantive rank held, including normal paid acting rank, on commissioning.
1 This rank includes women.