rise through the ranks
Also, rise from the ranks; . Work one's way to the top, as in He's risen through the ranks, starting as a copyboy and ending up as senior editor. Originally this term was used for an officer who had worked his way up from the rank of private, a rare feat. It was being applied to nonmilitary advances by the mid-1800s. Also see come up, def. 4.
Dictionary.com presents 366 FAQs, incorporating some of the frequently asked questions from the past with newer queries.