The Netherlands officer corps is essentially composed of two groups:
- Military academy graduates with college degrees (and a very few non-academy in-service transfers with college degrees) who make up the full-career officers; and
- Officer school graduates without college-level education who compose the limited-career officers.
In principle, all officers can expect to remain in military service to age 55 and retire with a relatively high pension of about 80% of their last pay level (at least for five years, then 75%; others may stay at 80%, depending on category of officer and grade at retirement).
Limited-career officers are capped at the grade of major though not all will be promoted beyond captain. To be promoted, each officer in this category must apply and be selected for a position requiring a major. Limited-career officers get promoted later (up to several years depending on grade) than full-career officers and are likely to spend most of their careers in line-type assignments at brigade or lower-level units. Few limited-career officers transition to full-career status due to the need to obtain a college education and to acquire an experience base similar to contemporaries already in a full-career status.
Only professional specialty officers are allowed to enter laterally. Those that are conscripted come in as a first lieutenant and may enjoy a full-career status based upon their higher education, similar to academy graduates. Others may be obtained voluntarily and enter laterally at ranks commensurate with contemporaries at their age.
Military academy graduates and full-career officers are expected to reach the grade of lieutenant colonel in due course. However, officers in this category must be selected to attend the War College (about 10% of a year group) and complete their studies to be eligible for promotion to colonel and higher.
These officers form the General Staff Corps and receive special pay (higher pay at each grade than normal course officers of the same grades). Promotion depends upon a vacant recognised requirement (billet) at the next higher grade. The national parliament approves all organisational changes and creations, thus effectively approving the number and grade of all officer positions.
Officers must manage their own careers to ensure that they obtain appropriate qualifying skills and military training as well as sufficient experience to ensure qualification for senior positions and later promotion. Assignment to corps and military department staffs is limited to career officers, which ensures that these positions are filled with the best educated and most experienced officers.
Few officers leave service in mid-career. “Officership” is considered a profession with a commitment to a full-term career to age 55.