I've used the character builder java-app, it's proved very useful. (for anyone living under a rock its at "http://sto-builder.binarybit.ch/")
I've noticed something though.
to reach the next tier, the points requirement seems to be that you _have_ to spend the required amount of points in the highest possible tier.
what I mean is ... according to this char builder, to get out of T-3 (Commander) I have to spend 16,000 more points and according to this char builder app I have to spend them in the 3rd column. and by the 3rd column I mean the one which has quantum projectiles and research science vessel captain.
on this char builder if I add the points in an earlier column, like say the 2nd column on starship beam weapons it DOES NOT COUNT towards putting me at the next tier. T-4 .... whatever is after commander.
is this true?
I hesitate to test this ingame as we can't get points back right now.
You can put them in to lower tiers if you like since all you need to do to advance is spend the points. I am currently Cmdr 5 and have been going back and putting points into some of my Tier 2 abilibites that I had I had not put many points into earlier. I have noticed it has helped my shields, engine speed, aux battery level etc.