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Military pay: This is how much US troops are paid according to their rank

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US service members
Spc. James Harvey/US Army
  • This is a list of the typical pay for military ranks, from entry-level Army privates who make $20,172 a year to Air Force generals who bring home $189,600.
  • Base pay for an enlisted service member in their first six months comes out to less than $20,000 per year. But troops earn increases as they advance in rank and gain experience. The highest ranking enlisted Marine, Sgt. Maj of the Marine Corps Ronald Green, makes over $90,000 a year in base pay alone.
  • Military officer pay is much higher. Newly commissioned officers make about $38,250 a year. 
  • Base pay is only part of their compensation. Most service members also receive allowances for housing, food, uniforms, and job-specific bonuses, many of which are not taxed.

How much are US troops paid?

The answer to that question depends on their rank, time in service, location of duty station, family members, and job specialty — just to name a few. 

Other benefits, like government healthcare and tax-free portions of their pay, help service members stretch their earnings a bit farther than civilian counterparts. 

To give you an idea, we broke down their monthly salary, or base pay, for each rank. We estimated their pay rate based on how many years they've typically served by the time they reach that rank — many service members spend more time in each rank than we've calculated, while some troops spend less time and promote more quickly. 

We also didn't include factors like housing allowance because they vary widely, but these are often a large portion of their compensation. We also didn't include warrant officers, whose years of service can vary widely.

Each military branch sets rules for promotions and implements an "up or out" policy, which dictates how long a service member can stay in the military without promoting. 

The full military pay chart can be found here.

Here is the typical annual base pay for each rank. 

E-1: $20,172

Marine boot camp
Cpl. Christian Garcia/US Marine Corps

E-1 is the lowest enlisted rank in the US military: Airman Basic (Air Force), Private (Army/Marine Corps), Seaman Recruit (Navy). Service members usually hold this rank through basic training, and automatically promote to the next rank after six months of service.

Rounded to the nearest dollar, base pay (salary) starts at $1,554 per month at this rank. After four months of service, pay will increase to $1,681 per month.

The military can demote troops to this rank as punishment.

E-2: $22,608

Navy sailors USS john c. stennis aircraft carrier
Mass Communications Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ignacio Perez/US Navy

Service members automatically promote to the E-2 paygrade — Airman (Air Force), Private (Army), Private 1st Class (Marine Corps), Seaman Apprentice (Navy) — after 6 months of service. 

Their pay increases to $1,884 per month. 

E-3: $23,772

Marine Lance Cpl. USS Kearsarge
Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia/US Marine Corps

Promotion to the E-3 occurs automatically after 12 months of service. Airman 1st Class (Air Force), Private 1st Class (Army), Lance Corporal (Marine Corps), Seaman (Navy).

Basic pay is $1,981 at this rank, adding up to a $427 monthly increase in pay after one year on the job.

E-4: $27,684

Senior Airmen Air Force flag retirement ceremony
Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes/US Air Force

Although time in service requirements vary between each branch, service members who promote to E-4 typically have at least two years of service. Senior Airman (Air Force), Specialist/Corporal (Army), Corporal (Marine Corps), Petty Officer 3rd Class (Navy)

If an E-3 doesn't advance in paygrade after two years, their pay will still increase to $2,195 rounded to the nearest dollar.

For those who do make E-4 with two years, pay will increase to $2,307 per month. Some service members will promote to the next rank after just one year at this paygrade — those who remain at the E-4 level will see a pay raise to $2,432 per month after spending three years in service.


E-5: $32,136

Audie Murphy To Hell and Back sergeant Army
Bettmann/Getty Images

Promotions are no longer automatic, but troops can advance to E-5 with as little as three years in service. Those ranks are Staff Sergeant (Air Force), Sergeant (Army/Marine Corps), Petty Officer 2nd Class (Navy).

For these troops, their new paychecks will come out to $2,678 per month.

Service members will commonly spend at least three years at this paygrade. While they do not advance in rank during that time, their pay will still increase along with their time in service.

Four years after enlistment, an E-5 will make $2,804 per month. After six years of service, their pay will increase again — even if they do not promote — to $3,001 per month.

E-6: $39,048

Navy first class petty officers sailors
Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Patrick Grieco/US Navy

It is unusual for a service member to achieve the rank of E-6 — Technical Sgt. (Air Force), Staff Sgt. (Army/Marine Corps), Petty Officer 1st Class (Navy) — with fewer than six years of service.

An "E-6 with six" takes home $3,254 per month.

After another two years in the service, that will increase to $3,543 in monthly salary, equating to approximately $42,500 per year.

Achieving the next higher paygrade, E-7, before serving for 10 years is not unheard of but not guaranteed. If an E-6 doesn't advance by then, they will still receive a pay raise, taking home $3,656 a month.

Their next pay raise occurs 12 years after their enlistment date, at which point their monthly pay will amount to $3,875.


How Much Does the Military Pay? Salary, Requirements and Job Description

A career in the U.S. Army has a lot to offer. If you have a vocation you want to pursue, the Army probably has a training program for it, and you don't have to pay for it. When you complete the training courses, you will have a job for life, with no chance of ever becoming laid off.

Job Description

The U.S. Army has approximately 190 Military Occupation Specialties for enlisted soldiers. These 190 positions fall into two categories: combat missions and support for soldiers engaged in combat. Specialties range from the classic infantry foot soldier to roles such as cryptologists, linguists, engineers, signal corps, military police and financial management.

Education Requirements

An applicant for the U.S. Army must have either a high school diploma, a GED or be currently attending high school. In the absence of meeting these education requirements, the Army has recommended programs to assist applicants in securing a high school diploma or the equivalent.

After an applicant is accepted, he or she will be assigned to one of the MOS fields for further training.

All soldiers on active duty receive a basic pay. The Army ranks its soldiers from E1 through E6. E1s with less than two years experience earn an annual salary of $19,660. The wage is slightly lower for the first four months of service.

However, basic pay is only the beginning of the Army's total compensation package. If the assignment requires you to live off post, the Army has allowances for the cost of living. These include additional compensation for housing, meals, uniforms, and moving expenses.

Even better, the Army offers thousands of dollars in enlistment bonuses for certain skills. For example, an operator for heavy construction equipment can receive a $5,000 bonus. A signals intelligence analyst who interprets foreign communications is eligible for a $15,000 enlistment bonus. If you like to cook, the bonus for chefs is $12,000.

Industry and Salaries

Soldiers with special skills or duties with additional risk and responsibility receive special pay. For example, combat controllers and parachuting instructors are eligible for additional monthly pay ranging from $75 to $450. Soldiers assigned to hardship zones with substandard living conditions receive $50 to $150 per month more.

Are you proficient in a foreign language? The Army will pay a $6,000 bonus per year, and up to $1,000 per month for languages deemed critical to the military.

Aviators, medical personnel and divers also receive additional monthly compensation.

Years of Experience

Basic pay increases as soldiers move upward through the ranks and gain more years of experience.

The salary for a Private E1 starts with a salary of $19,960 and remains the same through six years of experience.

A Private E2 starts slightly higher at $22,035, but it also remains the same through six year of experience.

Experience becomes more of a factor with a Private First Class E3. An E3 with two years of experience earns a salary of $23,173. But, this basic pay increases to $26,122 after six years.

Basic pay is more attractive for Corporals E4, Sergeants E5 and Staff Sergeants E6.

An E6 Staff Sergeant with two years experience earns $30,557. This amount increases to $38,059 after six years of experience.

And retirement from the military is undoubtedly one of the best plans available. You can retire after 20 years of service with a pension based on a percentage of your basic pay. Imagine if you joined the Army at age 18. You could retire at the young age of 38 and still have plenty of years left to use the training you received from the Army to pursue another career in the private sector.

Job Growth Trend or Outlook

The demand for military personnel rarely goes down. The military has an ongoing goal of maintaining a sufficient level of forces to fight, deter and overcome threats and conflicts at the same time. When the economy is good, the Army must compete with private companies for qualified candidates. In times of war, all of the military branches need to recruit more soldiers.

In short, the Army will always have jobs available and a need for more recruits.

Joining the Army, earning a good income, getting specialized training and receiving free health and medical coverage are enticing benefits for a lifetime path to success and financial security. With skyrocketing costs of going to college, pursuing a career in the Army is an attractive way to go.


Writer Bio

James Woodruff has been a management consultant to more than 1,000 small businesses. As a senior management consultant and owner, he used his technical expertise to conduct an analysis of a company's operational, financial and business management issues. James has been writing business and finance related topics for work.chron,, and e-commerce websites since 2007. He graduated from Georgia Tech with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering and received an MBA from Columbia University.

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Q&A: What Makes up a U.S. Army Salary?

The U.S. Army establishes many different incentives and structures its basic pay to provide its service members with a secure income including additional perks. Living allowances, educational benefits and exceptional retirement pay are all salary benefits the U.S. Army pays its service members.

In this article, we explore what the salary for the U.S. Army is, the elements that make up a U.S. Army salary and several frequently asked questions to help you determine if this is the right career path for you.

What is the salary for the U.S. Army?

The salary for the U.S. Army is specialized and unique to each service member and can depend on a variety of factors including rank, job specialty and allowance criteria. Typically, a U.S. Army salary is comprised of several different elements that make up the total compensation available to all service members. According to, the first part of a soldier's salary consists of the U.S. Army basic pay. This differs between ranks, with private (E1) starting at $20,797.20 per year and major (O4) topping the basic pay scale for commanding officers at $79,189.20 per year.

The U.S. Army basic pay then increases, especially when combining bonuses, allowances and other salary benefits related to a soldier's military occupational specialty (MOS) and unique skill set. For instance, a commissioned soldier at an officer's rank who works in information technology or intelligence will typically earn more than an enlisted soldier ranking as a sergeant with artillery or infantry as their MOS.

U.S. Army salary can also depend on enlistment or commission status. Commissioned service members enter the U.S. Army with a four-year college degree and complete officer candidate school (OCS) to enter the military career field as a commissioned officer, usually at the rank of second lieutenant (O1). This factor can result in an increase in pay right after basic training, whereas enlisted soldiers usually need to earn higher ranks over time to achieve a higher status and higher basic pay.

Related:10 Best Jobs in the U.S. Army

What elements make up a U.S. Army salary?

Salaries in the U.S. Army differ between ranks and job specifications, and there are several elements that can make up service members' salary including:

  • U.S. Army basic pay
  • Specialty pay
  • Drill pay
  • Bonuses
  • Allowances
  • Health benefits

U.S. Army basic pay

The first part of a soldier's salary is the U.S. Army basic pay, which increases as soldiers advance in rank. The basic pay is the starting point, and the U.S. Army's total compensation plan adds all other allowances, benefits and bonuses. The salary varies for each enlisted rank:

  • Private (E1): $20,797.20 per year
  • Private (E2): $23,310 per year
  • Private First Class (E3): $24,512.40 per year
  • Corporal (E4): $27,151.20 per year
  • Sergeant (E5): $29,610 per year
  • Staff Sergeant (E6): $32,324.40 per year

These values represent the basic pay for enlisted personnel during the first two years of service, with salary increases after four and six years of service. The salary range for commissioned officers is structured similarly, with salaries of lower ranks less than the salaries for higher-ranking officers:

  • Second Lieutenant (O1): $39,445.20 per year
  • First Lieutenant (O2): $45,450 per year
  • Captain (O3): $52,599.60 per year
  • Major (O4): $59,824.80 per year

Specialty pay

Another element to a soldier's salary is the specialty pay the U.S. Army offers for specific military occupational specialties (MOS) such as military police or airborne infantry. The specialty pay is also dependent on rank, as soldiers who rank higher in their MOS are awarded a higher pay for their specialized skill sets.

Related:15 Different U.S. Army Military Occupational Specialties

Drill pay

The U.S. Army also offers part-time drill pay. The drill pay is in addition to the U.S. Army basic pay and applies to U.S. Army Reserve and U.S. Army National Guard soldiers who work one weekend per month for training. The drill pay scale also depends on rank, years of experience and enlistment or commissioned status. Enlisted soldiers under two years of experience start the scale and commissioned officers at the rank of major (O4) top the pay scale:

  • Private (E1): $3,639.51 per year
  • Private (E2): $4,079.25 per year
  • Private First Class (E3): $4,289.67 per year
  • Corporal (E4): $4,751.46 per year
  • Sergeant (E5): $5,181.75 per year
  • Staff Sergeant (E6): $5,656.77 per year
  • Second Lieutenant (O1): $6,902.91 per year
  • First Lieutenant (O2): $7,953.75 per year
  • Captain (O3): $9,204.93 per year
  • Major (O4): $10,229.34 per year


The U.S. Army offers a variety of bonuses and incentives for active-duty service members. Typically, different branches (like medical, security and law enforcement) in the U.S. Army have different bonus incentives. For instance, some bonuses that are awarded to recruits who enlist as infantry, military police or airborne infantry can be significantly more than other MOS enlistments. The U.S. Army also offers different enlistment bonuses that can award service members up to $20,000 just for enlisting in the U.S. Army.


The U.S. Army also offers different types of allowances that also comprise a part of a soldier's salary. U.S. Army personnel typically receives housing and food allowances, and soldiers with families usually receive a significant family allowance that can cover the costs of things like transportation and auto insurance. The allowance scale depends on a soldier's marital status and the number of family members.

Health benefits

U.S. Army service members always receive health benefits. Medical and dental insurance as well as accident protection, family medical and maternity leave are several health care perks that soldiers receive. Additionally, the U.S. Army supports family care by providing on-base medical care as well as in-network care.

Read more:All About the Branches of the U.S. Army: Descriptions and Roles

FAQs about U.S. Army salary

Use the following frequently asked questions about U.S. Army salary to help you determine if it's the career path for you:

What kinds of educational benefits are available to U.S. Army soldiers?

While not all service members use their educational benefits, the U.S. Army does provide several options for soldiers who want to attend college. One of the most well-known educational stipends the U.S. Army offers is the G.I. Bill, which covers college tuition. The U.S. Army offers many financial aid programs for soldiers to take advantage of as well, and soldiers pursuing a graduate degree can receive tuition reimbursements and other financial aid benefits.

What kinds of retirement benefits do U.S. Army soldiers receive?

After serving in the U.S. Army, soldiers receive retirement pay. The retirement allowance that a soldier receives is determined by the number of years served and the rank upon retirement. The U.S. Army structures its retirement pay much like a 401(k), which allows retired veterans to purchase a home, make investments and deposit savings. The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is another option backed by the government and offered to retirees as another means of contributing to their retirement savings.

What kinds of tax benefits do U.S. Army soldiers receive?

The U.S. Army offers additional tax benefits. Typically, soldiers are responsible for paying an initial income tax, but the tax rate for military members can be significantly lower than for civilians. This is due to an interest cap of 6%, which means the taxes deducted from a soldier's pay are prohibited from exceeding this rate.

How does the U.S. Army help with the transition from military to civilian life?

The U.S. Army offers support to service members who choose to leave the military at the end of their service terms through the Army Career and Alumni Program available at all U.S. Army posts. This program can help service members transition to civilian life with career support and educational benefits.

Rent An Army: How Much Does It Actually Cost?

Additional Pay & Allowances for an E-1

In addition to Basic Pay, a Private may be eligible to receive several types of allowances and incentive pay.

Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)

Basic Allowance for Housing is a monthly payment meant to subsidize a servicemember's housing while deployed. The amount of BAH received each month depends on the location in which they live.

The average Basic Housing Allowance for a Private with dependants is $1,548.40, or $1,228.08 with no dependants.

Basic Allowance for Subsistance (BAS)

All enlisted members of the Army receive a monthly allowance for food and drink of $
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Enlisted members' BAS is higher than officers' BAS, as enlisted members are generally responsible for buying their own food.

Hazard Pay / Hostile Fire Pay

A Private may receive hazard pay of $150.00 / mo while serving in an active combat zone or subject to hostile fire or other hazards.


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