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Captain is the highest line officer rank. Ranking above Commander and below Commodore it has a ranking code of O-6 and is equivalent to Colonel in the Starfleet Marine Corps. The rank insignia consists of four full pips.

The rank of Captain, and the command of a starship which almost invariably goes hand-in-hand, is often the most sought-after rank in Starfleet, even more so than a Commodore's or an Admiral's set of pips. As such, those who attain this rank are highly respected within Starfleet, and may in some cases be hesitant to accept promotion.


On Earth, the title of captain was used as far back as the Middle Ages, where a captain was a nobleman commissioned to command a company of soldiers. One of the characters of William Shakespeare's play Henry V was quoted as saying "Under what captain serve you?" when approached on guard duty.

By the 20th century, the rank of captain was common in Earth militaries and was used by all branches of service in the United States armed forces. The rank of captain was represented by a double rectangular silver bar uniform insignia for ground units and the equivalent of a colonel's eagle for naval captains.

The rank of captain was also used by World War II Germany. In the German army, the rank was translated as Hauptmann (headman), but in the SS, company captains were referred to as Hauptsturmführer ("head storm leader"). The collar insignia for this was a black square bordered with white, with three silver pips in a diagonal line, with two stripes underneath.

Starfleet Captains

By the mid 22nd century, captain was a senior line officer rank of most space services and usually given to the commanding officers of starships. This naval rank is equivalent to the infantry rank of colonel, the Romulan Star Empire's commander grade, the Cardassian Union's title of gul and the Ferengi Alliance's quasi-military DaiMon title.

On starships, the term captain is also often used as a synonym to commanding officer. Proper naval parlance says that, even if a vessel is commanded by an officer whose rank is lower than captain, that officer is still able to be referred to as a captain while on the deck of their own vessel, no matter their literal commissioned rank.

Captains of starships, often located hundreds of light years away from and out of communications with higher authority, must be able to function autonomously and make independent command decisions affecting Federation policy and countless lives. Accordingly, few Starfleet officers ever gain the captaincy of a starship, the result of decades of sustained excellence as a Starfleet leader.

A senior captain given a large degree of responsibility or administrative assignment is sometimes given the title of fleet captain.

The rank of captain may also be held by non-command personnel, especially on ships with a number of veteran and senior officers whose experience has warranted advancement to the rank of captain but without command of a starship. Such was the case on the USS Enterprise-A, where the senior staff consisted of no less than three captains: the commanding officer (James T. Kirk), the first officer (Spock), and the chief engineer (Montgomery Scott). Captain Scott had previously held his rank of captain while chief engineer of the USS Excelsior, where he was known as the "captain of engineering".

The rank of captain may also be held by staff officers, such as those assigned to as a Judge Advocate General sector officer. Reaching the rank of captain in other non-command branches of Starfleet is generally considered difficult, as noticed by one security officer, who once remarked "You don't make captain by wearing a gold shirt".


Captains almost always command starships or starbases. Captains who are not actively assigned a command may also command planetary outposts or serve as division heads for Starfleet bases on major or minor worlds, or as adjutants to senior flag officers. Most Captains are the type everyone aims to be; those in command of starships.

Non-Starfleet Captains

Captain is a title typically held by commanders of merchant vessels and sometimes service craft, and it is generally recognised by all that the commander of such vessels is to be referred to and regarded as 'captain'.

The title of captain was also given to the leader of various teams, such as sports teams.

Starfleet Officer Ranks
Ensign Lieutenant JG Lieutenant Lieutenant Commander Commander Captain Fleet Captain Commodore Rear Admiral Vice Admiral Admiral Fleet Admiral