Top 14 best paying military branch

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Top 14 best paying military branch

Top 14 best paying military branch

Which Military Branch Pays the Most? – A Complete Answer

The military has an active-duty pay chart for its military members. The rates differ depending on rank, including enlisted soldiers, commissioned officers, warrant officers, enlisted members, and service time (in years).

There is no precise answer for which military branch pays the most. Your earnings depend on your rank and pay grade, which can be affected by tax-free allowances and special pay.

If you would like to gain a better understanding of the different branches of the military before making a commitment, please read on.

Marina is a 24-year Navy veteran with a wealth of experience and knowledge to share. As a bilingual super connector and master networker, she is well-equipped to help those in need.

When she isn’t working with nonprofits or mentoring veterans, military spouses and service members, Leslie enjoys spending time with her family and taking road trips around California.

When deciding whether to pursue a career in the United States military, compensation is an important factor to consider. Base pay, housing allowance, food allowance and other unique benefits, which may be tax-free, vary by branch of the military. This article provides an overview of which military branch pays the most, promotes fastest and lists different pay grades and titles.

What are the branches of the U.S. military?

 There are six branches of the U.S. military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and National Guard.

Army

This is the main ground force of the United States and its primary function is to protect and defend the country with ground troops, attack helicopters, artillery, tactical nuclear weapons and other weapons.

Air Force

The military branch’s primary function is to defend the United States and its interests via air and space. It uses fighter aircraft, light and heavy bombers, tanker aircraft, transport aircraft and helicopters. This is also the military branch that controls nuclear ballistic missiles and military satellites.

The Navy is responsible for protecting U.S. interests at sea. The Navy handles operations on and under the sea, in the air and on the ground.

Marine Corps

The Marines specialize in assault, capture and control of beachheads. While Marines specialize in amphibious operations, they have also expanded to ground combat. It is primarily a self-sufficient branch with its own airpower of attack helicopters, fighters and bombers.

Space Force

The Space Force is the military service that organizes, trains and equips space forces to protect U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities to the joint forces. The Space Force maintains the military’s competitive edge on land, in the air and orbit with specialized training and enhances its capabilities by acquiring and developing next-generation space-based systems.

Coast Guard

The Coast Guard is technically a part of the U.S. Department of Homeland. It is primarily responsible for law enforcement, illegal immigration controls, boating safety and sea rescue in our domestic waterways.

Military Salary By Rank & Service Years

1. Active Duty

Enlisted Soldiers

  • O-10: The fixed rate is $16,974.90 for over 20 years in service to over 40 years
  • O-9: The range is $16,444.80 to $16,974.90 for over 20 years in service to over 40 years
  • O-8: The range is $11,635.50 to $16,774.20 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
  • O-7: The range is $9,668.40 to $14,445.60 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
  • O-6: The range is $7,332.00 to $12,979.50 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
  • O-5: The range is $6,112.20 to $10,384.20 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
  • O-4: The range is $5,237.70 to $8,805.30 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
  • O-3: The range is $4,636.50 to $7,543.50 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
  • O-2: The range is $4,006.60 to $5,544.30 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
  • O-1: The range is $3,477.30 to $4,375.50 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
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Commissioned Officers (For over 4 years in service to over 40 years)

  • O-3E: The range is $6,185.42 to $8,050.80
  • O-2E: The range is $5,432.73 to $6,420.60
  • O-1E: The range is $3,375.64 to $5,432.70

Warrant Officers

  • W-5: The range is $8,520.30 to $11,149.50 for over 20 years in service to over 40 years
  • W-4: The range is $4,791,90 to $8,925.60 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
  • W-3: The range is $4,376.40 to $7,676.40 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
  • W-2: The range is $3,872.10 to $6,462.90 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
  • W-1: The range is $3,398.70 to $5,873.10 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years

Enlisted Members

  • E-9: The range is $5,789.10 to $8,988.80 for over 10 years in service to over 40 years
  • E-8: The range is $4,739.10 to $6,859.00 for over 8 years in service to over 40 years
  • E-7: The range is $3,294.30 to $5,921.10 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
  • E-6: The range is $2,849.40 to $4,413.30 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
  • E-5: The range is $2,610.30 to $3,704.40 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
  • E-4: The range is $2,393.40 to $2,905.50 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
  • E-3: The range is $2,160.60 to $2,905.50 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
  • E-2: The range is $2,054.70 to $2,435.70 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
  • E-1: The range is $1,833.30 to $1,833.20 for 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years
  • E-1<4mos: The range is $1,695.00

This applies to the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard.

2. Drill

Commissioned Officers

  • O-7 (For 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $322.28 to $481.52
  • 4 Drills: $1,289.12 to $1,926.08
  • O-6 (For 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $244.40 to $432.65
  • 4 Drills: $977.60 to $1,730.60
  • O-5 (For 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: 203.74 to $346.14
  • 4 Drills: $814.96 to $1,384.56
  • O-4 (For 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: 175.70 to $293.52
  • 4 Drills: 618.20 to $1,005.80
  • O-3 (For 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $154.55 to $251.45
  • 4 Drills: $618.20 to $1,005.80
  • O-2 (For 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $133.55 to $184.81
  • 4 Drills: $534.20 to $739.24
  • O-1 (For 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $115.91 to $145.85
  • 4 Drills: $463.64 to $583.40

Commissioned Officers

  • O3-E (For over 4 years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $2206.18 to $268.36
  • 4 Drills: $824.72 to $1,073.44
  • O2-E (For over 4 years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $181.09 to $214.02
  • 4 Drills: $724.36 to $856.08
  • O1-E (For over 4 years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $145.85 to $181.09
  • 4 Drills: $583.42 to $724.36

Warrant Officers

  • W-5 (For over 20 years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $284.01 to $371.65
  • 4 Drills: $1,136.04 to $1,486.60
  • W-4 (For 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $265.46 to $306.45
  • 4 Drills: $1,061.85 to $1,023.52
  • W-3 (For 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $242.18 to $255.88 for
  • 4 Drills: $968.88 to $1,023.52
  • W-2 (For 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $207.69 to $215.43
  • 4 Drills: $830.76 to $861.72
  • W-1 (For 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $113.29 to $195.77
  • 4 Drills: $453.16 to $783.08

Enlisted Members

  • E-9 (For over 10 years in service to over 40 years)
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  • 1 Drill: $192.97 to $299.63
  • 4 Drills: $771.88 to $1,198.51
  • E-8 (For over 8 years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $157.97 to $225.30
  • 4 Drills: $631.88 to $901.20
  • E-7 (For 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $94.98 to $147.11
  • 4 Drills: $379.92 to $588.44
  • E-6 (For 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $87.01 to $123.48
  • 4 Drills: $348.04 to $493.92
  • E-5 (For 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $79.78 to $96.85
  • 4 Drills: $319.12 to $387.40
  • E-4 (For 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $72.02 to $81.19
  • 4 Drills: $288.08 to $324.76
  • E-3 (For 2 or fewer years in service to over 40 years)
  • 1 Drill: $68.49 to $68.49
  • 4 Drills: $273.96 to $273.96
  • E-2 (For 2 or fewer years in service)
  • 1 Drill: $61.11
  • 4 Drills: $244.44
  • E-1 (For 2 or fewer years in service)
  • 1 Drill: $56.50
  • 4 Drills: $226.00

Other factors that affect military pay are tax-free allowances and special pays.

3. Tax-Free Allowances

  • Clothing Allowances (Initial, Replacement, Extra, Maintenance)
  • Initial Clothing Allowance
  • Army: $8.99 for males, $298.25 for females
  • Marine Corps: $0 for males, $175.00 for females
  • Navy: $113.65 for males, $330.15 for females
  • Air Force: $0 for males, $309.87 for females
  • Coast Guard: $0 for both genders
  • Replacement Clothing Allowance (Two types: basic and standard)
  • Army – Basic: $356.38 for males, $393.25 for females
  • Army – Standard: $509.11 for males, $561.78 for females
  • Marine Corps – Basic: $695.76 for males, $692.76 for females
  • Marine Corps – Standard: $695.76 for males, $692.76 for females
  • Navy – Basic: $327.60 for males, $324.00 for females
  • Navy – Standard: $458.00 for males, $464.40 for females

Here, you can see that the Marine Corps gets paid the most.

  • Maintenance Clothing Allowance

The Basic pay rate for a male Coast Guard member is $32.93, and the Basic pay rate for a female Coast Guard member is $33.45. The Standard pay rate for a male Coast Guard member is $47.05, and the Standard pay rate for a female Coast Guard member is $47.79.

  • Cost of Living Allowances
  • Basic Allowance for Housing
  • Basic Allowance for Subsistence
  • Enlisted: $406.98 monthly
  • Officer: $280.29 monthly
  • Overseas Housing Allowance
  • Move In Housing Allowance (Miscellaneous, Rent, Security, Infectious Disease)

4. Special Pays

Hardship Duty Pay

  • Hardship Duty Pay-Location — Service members assigned to locations with living conditions below continental U.S conditions are entitled to a bonus payment paid in increments of $50, $100, or $150 monthly.
  • Hardship Duty Pay-Mission — Service members assigned to duties considered to be arduous or out of the normal are entitled to a bonus payment of $150 monthly.
  • Hardship Duty Pay-Tempo — Service members assigned to duties requiring more time outside of the typical permanent station are entitled to $495 monthly.
  • Hardship Duty pay-Restriction of Movement — Service members who are ordered to quarantine or self-isolate but cannot do so at home or quarters provided by the government are entitled to $100 a day for 15 days each month.

Military Flight Pay

  • Aviation Career Incentive Pay for Officers (For 2 or fewer service years to over 10)
  • Army: The range is $125 to $1,000 monthly
  • Marine Corps: The range is $125 to $1,000 monthly
  • Navy: The range is $125 to $840 monthly
  • Air Force: The range is $150 to $1,000 monthly
  • Coast Guard: The range is $150 to $1,000 monthly
  • Aviation Continuation Pay
  • Army: Up to $25,000 a year
  • Marine Corps: Up to $35,000 a year
  • Navy: Up to $34,000 a year
  • Air Force: Up to $35,000 a year
  • Coast Guard: Up to $35,000 a year

The military branch that offers the highest compensation is tied between the Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

  • Career Enlisted Flyer Incentive Pay (For 4 or fewer service years to over 14 years)
  • Navy: $150 to $400 monthly
  • Air Force: $225 to $600 monthly

The Army. Marine Corps, and Coast Guard do not offer this pay.

  • Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay
  • $150 to $240 monthly for E-1 to E-9 ranks.

The Navy and Air Force do not offer this pay.

Career Sea Pay

Members of the armed forces are eligible for monthly payments of $60 to $805, depending on their pay grade and number of years of sea time. The highest monthly payments by branch are as follows:

  • Army: $646
  • Marine Corps: $750
  • Navy: $750
  • Air Force: $520
  • Coast Guard: $805
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The Coast Guard is the highest paying military branch.

  • Sea Pay Premium — Pay on top of “Career Sea Pay” for members with extra long periods of sea duty (after 36 consecutive months).
  • Army: $100 monthly for E-1 to E-3 pay grades.
  • Marine Corps + Navy: $200 monthly for E-4 and E-5 to E-9 with fewer than 8 years in duty
  • Air Force: $100 monthly for E-4 and E-5 to E-9 with fewer than 5 years in duty
  • Coast Guard: $100 monthly for E-4 to O-6 pay grades.

So, the best paying military branch in this regard is the Marine Corps and Navy.

Overseas Tour Extension Incentive Program

Eligible service members can receive one of the following:

  • Up to $80 monthly
  • Up to $2,000 annual pay
  • Special Rest + Recuperation Leave

Eligibility requirements for each branch may differ, but the general premise is that a member with the desired specialty served their original assignment in an overseas location and agreed to an additional 12 months of service.

5. Australian Defense Force

This branch from down under boasts close to the highest dollar amount of Earth. But it truly takes the top slot as the benefits and allowance pay shoots it past other global military branches. In addition, base pay of approximately $30,000 US dollars, the ADF also offers allowances and benefits (including housing and uniforms allowances) that make the end resulting pay nearly double that figure for entry-level recruits.

6. United States Air Force

If you join the USAF, your initial base-pay will be around $20,000 per year. This is identical across every United States branch.

7. British Army

The British Army has a comprehensive system of compensation and benefits. Base pay for a recruit is around $28,000 USD per year. Benefits include pay for hazardous conditions and a progressive pay scale.

8. Canadian Armed Forces (CAF)

The Canadian military offers outstanding base pay for new recruits no matter which area you join. As a recruit, you earn approximately $30,000 US and that pay can range quite a bit higher.

9. Royal New Zealand Air Force

If you can meet the strict standards, then this might be one of the best military gigs you can land anywhere in the world. The base pay range is quite high, around $34,000 US a year, and does offer benefits including childcare, paid leave, and educational grants.

10. UK Royal Air Force 

One of the most prestigous and historical branches of military service is reputed to also offer high salaries. The qualifications for joining are not easy to meet, but if you can hack the standards, you can find yourself getting around 28,000$ in base pay as a recruit in the US. You will not have to find yourself in dangerous situations at the front lines.

11. French Foreign Legion

If you are interested in an international experience while earning a competitive salary, the French Foreign Legion may be a good fit for you. Although base pay is relatively low at first, serving on an overseas deployment with the French Foreign Legion can result in a substantial pay increase (up to $4,000 US per month).

12. United States Marine Corp

As a recruit in the United States Marine Corps, you can expect to earn the same base pay as members of other military branches. However, you will also have access to opportunities for payment and advancement that are not available to other service members, thanks to the grueling basic training that all Marines must complete.

13. German Army

When you join the German army, you are joining an institution with a long and proud history. Along with a competitive salary, you will have access to excellent social programs and infrastructure.

14. Japanese Self-Defense Forces

You may be taxed on the retirement payment, but many service members receive lump sum payments upon retirement that are often worth more than $100,000 US. Though base pay may not be high, retirement benefits are a key part of compensation for members of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.

 

 

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