There are many aspects to being an officer, both good and bad. Some of them are less obvious than the others.
You get paid better! This may be a no brainer, but it needs to be said anyway. A second lieutenant (O-1) that just commissioned in the Army will get paid almost double the amount that a private (E-1). An E-1 that is just coming into the army without dependents will get $1,516.20 in base salary. An O-1 that has just commissioned will get $2,876.40. For an enlisted Soldier to get that same salary that would need to be an E-5 with 8 years! A Captain (O-3) with 6 years in the army would have about the same salary as a Sergeants Major (E-9) with 18 years in the Army. Is it a little unbalanced? Yes. Can you also become an officer? Yes.
You can make real change. Yes, enlisted Soldiers are the backbone of the Army. Yes, NCO’s lead the way. Yes, our enlisted ranks do most of the real work in the Army. However, all of the big changes in policy and standards happen with officers. They do take into consideration the sound advice of the NCO’s that serve under them, but the fact of the matter is the most senior NCO is still out ranked by the most junior officer. An officer will take his enlisted Soldier’s advice with a grain of salt but ultimately the decision lies with the commissioned officers in the US Army.
Generally you get treated better. The officer corps is usually a lot more understanding than their NCO’s. If a young lieutenant screws up, in most cases his or her commander will take them under their wing and take the mess up as an opportunity for officer development. The officer might get a slap on the wrist, but in the end it is usually not made into a huge deal. The NCO corps is a little different. They eat their own, and the smallest mistakes can be treated harshly.
Officers are (almost) bulletproof. Now, you will get major ass chewings if you f*ck up, but unless you kill (or get someone killed with incompetence), rape someone, or get a DUI while you are a lieutenant, you are 95% guaranteed to be promoted to Captain. Heck, I have seen Captains that were removed from command get promoted to Major. If you don’t mess up that much or that regularly, you can expect to hit Lieutenant Colonel by 20 years. The worst most commissioned officers can expect if they screw up is an ass chewing. As an officer, you are not bulletproof, but you are pretty dang close.
If your Soldier screws up, you screwed up. Lets say its Friday afternoon and you have your Platoon lined up for a safety brief. You spout the usual crap “don’t drink and drive, wrap your tool, don’t get into any fights.” You release them for the weekend and guess what? Your phone rings at 1 AM and its your platoon sergeant saying one of your Soldiers got arrested for DUI and is in jail right now. Who’s fault is it? Common sense would dictate that its your Soldiers fault. According to the Army, who’s fault is it? Your fault. You should have done more DUI training and maybe that Soldier wouldn’t have been drinking and driving (I can hear you saying “that doesn’t make any f*cking sense!” and I am totally with you).
You can never just hang out. There is a line socially that you just should not cross with your Soldiers. Yes, you can have lunch or a BBQ with them as a group but, you do not just “hang out” with them (especially on an individual basis). This is an important line because there always needs to be that division. If you socialize with your Platoon, Company, etc. can you really stay impartial? What if they are the ones caught driving while drunk. Could you give them that UCMJ? Fraternizing with enlisted Soldiers when you are a commissioned officer undermines your authority, creates an environment of special treatment, and compromises the chain of command.
The only real time you will have being a Soldier is as a platoon leader. Platoon leadership lasts anywhere from 12-18 months typically. After that you are basically chained to a computer doing Excel spreadsheets and Powerpoint slide decks. The only time you will really have to be with the troops is when you are a platoon leader. After that you are just a staff jockey. That means in your 20 year career you would have at most 2 years of time running and gunning with Soldiers.
It is a lot of politics. As an officer you are expected to go to all the social events like lunches, balls (formal dress balls, not the ones between your legs), and dining events. You are expected to press the flesh, and get your name to the brass. Suck up to the colonels. Basically be the biggest brown noser you can be to further your career. If your bosses boss likes you, your boss has to give you a good rating right?
If you want more information on what it is like to be an officer, and what it takes to be one you might want to take a look at The Armed Forces Officer.