What is a Brigadier General?

Mary McMahon

A Brigadier General is a commissioned military officer who ranks above a Colonel and below a Major General. The rank of Brigadier General is the first of the general ranks, entitling officers with this title to a single star. Brigadier Generals are sometimes referred to as “One Star Generals” in reference to this. This military rank is not available in all militaries around the world, but it is extremely common. The naval equivalent is the title of Rear Admiral (Lower Half).

A Brigadier General is a commissioned military officer who ranks above a Colonel and below a Major General.
A Brigadier General is a commissioned military officer who ranks above a Colonel and below a Major General.

As the title would seem to suggest, a Brigadier General commands a brigade, a unit of troops within a division. Historically, people of this rank commanded troops in the field, with the assistance of aides who ensured that their work went smoothly. Some Brigadier Generals continue to work in the field today, depending on the nations they serve, while others remain at headquarters or in offices, so that they can see the big picture, rather than just the limited information available in the field.

Officers who hold a commission must generally be given their commission by a representative of the government, classically the head of state, such as the President, King, or Queen. In some regions, appointment of a commissioned officer is contingent on a confirmation hearing, as is the case in the United States, where the Senate confirms military commissions. In order to achieve the rank of Brigadier General, a commissioned officer must generally have given several years, usually decades, of service.

In the United States military, the Brigadier General is at the pay grade of O-8. In the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), where standardized rankings are used in an attempt to make international military ranks equivalent, the Brigadier General is considered an OF-6. The OF ranks in NATO are used to identify officers who hold commissions. Other militaries may refer to this rank as a “Brigade General.”

Becoming a One Star General requires hard work and a dedication to the military. People who achieve this rank are usually career officers, people who have committed to serving in the military for their lifetimes. As high ranking commissioned officers, Brigadier Generals are expected to maintain a very high standard of personal and professional behavior, since their actions reflect directly upon their head of state and nation. Lower ranking members of the military are expected to salute Brigadier Generals when they appear in uniform, addressing them as "Brigadier General" on the first instance and "Ma'am" or "Sir" in future instances.

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Discussion Comments


I love reading historical autobiographies, and my most recent find was a book about brigadier general Hughes.

It's given me a lot of insight into the sometimes impossibly difficult job that rank soldier has when in the field. In his case, despite a long career of success and promotions, it only takes one bad judgment call for everything to fall to pieces.

Despite losing many men in a WW2 battle he managed to recover enough to be promoted to major general a few years later.


@yumdelish - My father has just retired from the military. He was a marine brigadier general, but the American military pay scales are the same for the army, navy and airforce.

It's hard to give a definite figure though, as it depends on the length of service a person has behind them. Generally though I would say it falls somewhere between 5 - 10,000 dollars a month. (The highest figure comes after forty years in the military.)


Thanks for this article Wisegeek. I have been doing some research for a term paper about careers in the military, and was finding it hard to understand the difference between ranks.

One thing I would like to know is about the salary for an army brigadier general. It sounds like quite a responsible job so I am going to guess they get a good income, but I have no clue what kind of range it would be.

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