Men and women in uniform endure physical and emotional duress for the love of their country and to protect citizens from threats of all kinds. In return, the U.S. government provides benefits for military personnel and veterans — such as military pensions — as well as pay.
But just how much do military personnel get paid? The military pay scale in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps varies by rank and years of service.
Click through to find out which military jobs pay the most.
Airman Annual Salary
In the U.S. Air Force, airman salary depends on pay class and cumulative years of service.
An airman in the E-1 pay grade with less than four months of service will earn an annual military salary of $18,176, but those with more than four months of service will earn $19,666 a year, according to the military pay chart 2018. Those in the E-2 pay class earn an annual salary of $22,036, regardless of time served.
Airmen first class have a starting salary of $23,173, but that increases with years served. Those with three years or more of service can earn an annual salary of $26,122.
Read on to find out what money lessons you can learn from people in the military.
Private Annual Salary
In the U.S. Army, privates are paid according to their class. E-1 privates are paid $18,176 to $19,660 annually, E-2 privates second class are paid $22,036 and E-3 privates first class are paid $23,173 to $26,122, according to the Army pay chart.
The Marine Corps recognizes two classes of privates: E-1 privates and E-2 privates first. E-1 privates are paid $18,176 to $19,657 annually, and E-2 privates first class are paid $22,036.
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Seaman Annual Salary
In the U.S. Navy, E-1 personnel (seaman recruit) earn $18,176 to $19,660 annually, and E-2 personnel (seaman apprentice) earn $22,036, according to the Navy pay chart. For seaman recruits, the salary is bumped up after four months of service, but for seaman apprentices, pay does not change within the rank no matter how long an individual has served.
E-3 Navy personnel (seaman) are paid between $23,173 to $26,122 annually, depending on their years of service.
Corporal Annual Salary
In the Army, those who rank just below sergeant — E-4 specialist or corporal — are paid between $25,668 and $31,158 annually.
In the Navy, E-4 personnel rank as petty officers third class. They earn between $25,668 and $31,158 annually.
An individual with the rank of E-4 in the Air Force is a senior airman. He or she will earn between $25,668 and $31,158 annually, according to the Air Force pay chart.
In the Marines, E-4 personnel are corporals, and they earn between $25,668 and $31,158. Lance corporals rank just below corporals in the Marines. They are paid between $23,173 to $26,122 annually, depending on their years of service.
Salary isn’t always the most important thing, however, because it’s not the only thing that will make you wealthy.
Sergeant Annual Salary
The Army, Marine Corps and Air Force all have five levels of sergeants: E-5 through E-9. The Navy has five levels of petty officers, a sergeant’s equivalent. Sergeant salaries are based on years of service, ranging from 2 or less up to over 40:
- E-5: $27,994 to $39,726
- E-6: $30,557 to $47,329
- E-7: $35,330 to $63,497
- E-8: $50,825 to $72,486
- E-9: $62,086 to $96,397
Sergeants can stow their hard-earned money away in banks and credit unions that offer military discounts.
Lieutenant Annual Salary
There are two classes of lieutenant in the Army: second lieutenant (O-1) and first lieutenant (O-2). Second lieutenants earn $37,296 starting out. After three years, they earn $46,922, which is where their pay is capped.
First lieutenants with two years of experience or less are paid $42,966. After four years, they get a salary bump to $59,259. And after six years, they can earn $59,461.
In the Navy, O-2 personnel (lieutenant junior grade) receive between $42,966 and $59,461. The equivalent of a captain in the Navy is a lieutenant (O-3). A Navy lieutenant is paid between $49,727 and $80,899. O-4 personnel (lieutenant commander) are paid between $56,556 and $94,432 yearly. The pay range is broken down into tiers according to years of service.
A second lieutenant in the Marines is paid between $37,296 and $46,922, but a first lieutenant is paid $42,966 to $59,461.
In the Air Force, a second lieutenant can make between $37,296 and $46,922, and a first lieutenant can earn between $42,966 and $59,461.
Captain Annual Salary
In the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force, a captain (O-3) can make between $49,727 and $80,899 annually.
Major Annual Salary
In the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force, a major (O-4) can make between $56,556 and $94,432. Majors are bumped up to the highest salary range after 18 years of service.
Colonel Annual Salary
In the Army, O-5 personnel are lieutenant colonels. They are paid between $65,549 and $111,362 annually. O-6 personnel (colonels) earn between $78,628 and $139,198.
O-5 personnel in the Navy are commanders. They earn between $65,549 and $111,362. O-6 personnel (captains) can earn anywhere from $78,628 to $139,198.
In the Marines, lieutenant colonels are paid between $65,549 and $111,362, depending on years of service. Colonels receive a salary between $78,628 and $139,198.
Air Force lieutenant colonels are paid anywhere from $65,549 and $111,362. Colonels earn between $78,628 and $139,198, depending on how long they have served.
General Annual Salary
The highest rank in the military, generals can earn a salary of more than $150,000. O-7 through O-10 personnel in the Army, Marines and Air Force are all called brigadier general (O-7), major general (O-8), lieutenant general (O-9) and general (O-10).
The Navy has its own classifications of these pay grades: rear admiral lower half (O-7), rear admiral upper half (O-8), vice admiral (O-9) and admiral (O-10).
According to FederalPay, military personnel in these branches receive roughly the same pay:
- O-7 personnel receive between $103,687 and $154,915
- O-8 personnel receive between $124,783 and $179,892
- O-9 personnel receive between $176,357 and $189,601
- O-10 personnel receive a salary of $189,601
In addition to these officer ranks, the Army and Air Force have general positions that are reserved for wartime: general of the Army and general of the Air Force. Similarly, the Navy has a fleet admiral position that is reserved for wartime.
Click through to read more about higher-paying jobs you can get without a four-year degree.
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Salary figures have been rounded to the nearest dollar amount.
About the Author
Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street’s investment community in New York City.