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Fire Emblem games always have a huge bunch of classes you can choose between. This adds a lot to the strategy, as you need a balanced team to survive.

Archers can use bows to attack the enemy from a distance. The downside is that they cannot fight close range, so if they are attacked, they won't be able to defend themselves. Try placing him behind other warriors, that way he'll be safe from attacks, but can still deal a lot of damage. Never send an Archer alone into battle unless you're fighting a boss without long range attacks or magic. Thomas and Gohdon are Archers.
The Armor Knight could be described as a walking tank. A weak walking tank that is. They won't fall easily, but due to their low speed they usually won't get more than one attack per round. And they move slowly too. And they can't promote. On top of that, they're weak against Armor Killers and Hammers. I don't really like this class. Their defense doesn't quite make up for their low speed and movement. They're kinda useful for keeping enemies occupied while your archers attack from a distance though. Tomth, Roger, Dohga and Michelan are Armor Knights.
Bishops heal people. Sadly, that's all they do. They can't attack the enemy, so instead they get experience by getting hit. Levelling up Bishops is often tedious, but they are really useful after the first few stages. They can be promoted to Priests, who can nuke people with their black magic. This makes them a lot more useful, but until then, you have to drag these guys around. Maria, Lena and Riff are Bishops.
Commandos are.. odd. They have the special ability to transform into an exact duplicate of the character they stand next to. This includes stats, level and what weapons/magic/items they're allowed to use. But there's a few problems about this. You see, the transfomation doesn't last forever, and when time's up, the Commando will transform back. You wont gain any exp from fighting while transformed, so the original form is probably very weak. This isn't a good thing in the heat of battle. It's nice to suddenley double your level 20 Hero and kick twice as much ass, but commandos just aren't very user friendly, and you need to watch out for them all the time. Besides, you'll eventually get more than enough super-powerful guys on your side to be able to fit someone who's only superpowerful for a short time, and need another superpower next to him to transform. Meh. Cheine is a Commando.
The Dragon Knights are promoted Pegasus Knights. They have higher Strength and defense, but unless you promoted them, they'll suffer in speed and skill, which isn't good. But if you promoted a Pegasus Knight to get this class, you have yourself an extremely powerful fighter. Keep at least one of these around, preferrably more. Minerva is a Dragon Knight.
The Generals have insane defense and strength, but are lacking in the movement and speed areas. Their high strength is needed, since their low speed won't give them more than one attack most of the times. Their high defense make them almost invulnerable (except when it comes to magic), so they're useful to have around. The General act a lot like Armor Knights, but are better in every field, and a worthy addition to your team, especcially if you give him some Boots. Lawrence is a General.
Heroes are promoted Mercenaries, and my favourite class in the game. They have extremely high stats, no weaknesses, and can use powerful weapons. How can you not love them? Of course, they are really nothing but regular fighters, but who cares, look at their stats. Yeah, they rock. Use them. A lot. Astoria and Samson are Heros.
Horsemen are pretty much Archers/Hunters with horses. They can move further than both units, but can't move on as much terrain. Also they don't promote. It usually doesn't matter much wether you use these or Hunters. Archers promote, so they are more useful than both anyway. Wolf and Zagaro are Horsemen.
Hunters are basically Archers with higher offense and movement, but lower defense. So they're pretty much better versions of Archers. Sadly for them, they can't promote, so they kinda lose their usefulness once the Archers get promoted. Ah well, they're still a decent class. Kashim is a Hunter.
The Lord isn't really much of a fighter. He's weak, and gets killed fast. And if he dies, it's game over for you. And he can't even promote. Blah. The Lord has a few good sides though. He doesn't have any weaknesses, and can use a few special weapons, like the Rapier. To win a stage, you must let the Lord take over the castle or throne at the end. There's only one Lord in the game, Marth.
The Magician is a very powerful class. They use Black magic, which is basically long range weapons that defense doesn't apply for. You need magic defense instead, and very few classes have that. To make up for their stregth, magicians have pretty bad defense, and should never fight alone. Still, a great unit. Marich and Linda are Magicians.
The Mamkut has horrible stats, and can't promote. Yay. On the plus side, the mamkuts are the only characters in the game who can use Dragon Stones. And since Dragon Stones boost defense, in addition to being powerful weapons, the mamkuts are pretty useful after all. And best of all: they won't ever run out of weapon uses. A very useful class. Use them as much as possible. Banut and Chiki are Mamkuts.
The Mercenary is a very well-rounded fighter. They don't excel in any stats, but they don't have any huge ugly weaknesses either. When they promote to Hero, they become extremely good fighters. Radei, Caesar, Oguma and Navarre are Mercenaries.
The Paladins are promoted Social Knights. They have higher stats in every field, most notably speed and skill. Other than that, they're pretty much the same as they used to be. Well-rounded fighters with no real streghts or weaknesses. Alan, Midia and Jeigan are Paladins.
The Pegasus Knight isn't very strong at all. But they're fast, and can move over any terrain without any movement cost. Neither their defense or offense are very impressive, and they're weak against bows. Due to their low defense, this can kill them easily if you don't watch out. They promote into Dragon Knights, which make them a lot better, so try to keep them alive until then. Paola, Katua, Est and Sheeda are Pegasus Knights.
The Pirate is cool. Yar. Um, anyway, Pirates have pretty bad stats overall, uses axes, one of the less useful weapons, and can walk on water. Since they aren't overly powerful, the walk-on-water ability isn't very effective when it comes to attacking the enemy from behind, since they usually outnumber you unless you got a bunch of Pegasus Knights as backup. Daross is a Pirate.
The Priest is a promoted magic user. He has the ability to use both White and Black magic. Uh, yeah. That's it. He's basically a Magician that can heal people. Keep them in the front line, like Magicians, and let them fall back to heal people when nessecary. They don't get experience from being attacked, like Bishops, but at least they can fry the enemy and get exp. that way. A very useful class. Boha and Wendel are Priests.
The Shooters are a mixed bag. They use pretty powerful weapons, and their defense is high, but they're really really REALLY slow. If you get any speed or movement increasers, give them to shooters. They need it. Other than that, they're good long-distance attackers. Always handy to have around. Jake and Beck are Shooters.
The Snipers are promoted Archers. They have good stats, which is rare for bow users. Of course, that makes them a lot more useful than the other bow guys, since the Sniper doesn't get himself killed all the time. Extremely useful class to have around. George is a Sniper.
The Social Knights are pretty average fighters. They're pretty useful for killing off enemies, but later in the game, you got better guys to handle that. The Social Knights can promote into Paladins, which make them a lot more useful. They are weak against Knight Killers. Birak, Hardin, Machis, Roshe, Kain and Abel are Social Knights.
The Thieves are really fast characters. They'll almost always get two hits on the opponents, which is really needed, since they're very weak. They also have pretty high movement, and can open chests and use the exclusive Thief Keys. Enemy Thieves can destroy villages and chests, so take them out quickly. Julian and Ricard are Thieves.
The Warriors are Pirates with higher speed and lower weapon level. Also they can't walk on water. Just like the Pirates, they aren't overly useful. Saji, Maji and Barts are Warriors.

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