How Much Money Do You Make Being in the Military?

how much do you make in the military

Are you wondering how much money you can make by serving in the military? The answer depends on several factors including your rank and how long you’ve served. There are also more than 70 types of special pay and allowances enlisted members and officers can earn.

Let’s take a closer look to get a better understanding of how much money you can make in the military.

What is Basic Pay? 

Basic pay is the salary for active-duty members of the military. The pay is based on the servicemember’s grade (or rank), location of service, and the length of time served in the military.

Pay doesn’t differ among the branches. An Army Private with 3 years of service will earn the same basic pay as a Navy Sailor with three years of service.

Basic military salaries are increased about 1% to 3% each year to keep pace with wage increases in the private sector. Salaries for military members in 2022 increased 2.7% over 2021 wages.

At one time, it was guaranteed by law that this annual military pay increase kept pace with civilian increases. It’s no longer guaranteed, but the military does try to stay close to civilian pay regardless.

Basic pay does not include allowances or special pay. These additional payments can really impact how much money you make in the military.

What is Special Pay?

how much do you make in the military

Servicemembers in each branch of the Armed Forces may receive special pay on top of their basic pay for having a special skill or taking on a hazardous duty.

Here are a few common special pay opportunities:

Aviation Career Incentive Pay

Aviation career incentive pay is for officers of any branch of service who spend the majority of their military career in aviation services. Enlisted members can earn a minimum of $125 per month to a maximum of $1,000 per month. The amount depends on length of service and which branch of military you’re enlisted in. This chart lays it all out.

Unlike the majority of pay scales in the military, those who have been in aviation services the longest are not paid the most. Maximum payment comes at about 10 to 15 years, and then reduces around year 20.

Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus

Members who are certified by their branch to be proficient in a foreign language can receive up to $500 per month. Those who are certified proficient in two foreign languages can earn up to $1,000 over month. The benefit is capped at $12,000 annually.

Diving Duty Pay

Any servicemember or officer who is assigned to diving duty (i.e., SCUBA diving) and must maintain proficiency as a diver is entitled to this pay. Officers receive can receive up to $240 per month, while enlisted members may receive up to $340 per month. While the pay remains the same across all branches, each branch has its own list of qualifications for earning diving duty pay.

Submarine Duty Pay

how much do you make in the military

Servicemembers who are assigned to the crew of a submarine or submersible craft are entitled to this special pay. Rank, length of service, and duties are used to calculate submarine duty pay. Servicemembers can earn any amount from $85 to $475 per month. Officers can receive almost twice as much.

Hazardous Duty Pay

Parachute jumping, handling explosives, transporting or handline toxic fuels are a few examples of what would entitle a servicemember to receive hazardous duty pay. Hazardous Duty Pay is $150 per month, but parachute jumpers earn $225 monthly.

Special Duty Assignment Pay

Members who are performing duties that have been designated as extremely difficult or requiring a high degree of skill may be eligible to receive anywhere from $75 to $525 per month depending on rank and length of service. Servicemembers who are part of special forces or trained in nuclear-powered submarine propulsion are two examples of who would be eligible for this pay.

Hostile Fire Pay or Imminent Danger Pay

This gives servicemembers a flat $225 per month bonus when serving in an area that is designated to be hazardous. That means the member is:

  • Exposed to the potential for or actual gunfire, mines, or IEDs
  • Sustains injury by hostile fire or explosions
  • Threatened to be injured in a foreign area due to civil war, acts of terrorism, or insurrection.

Hardship Duty Pay

This is additional pay given to servicemembers forced to endure living conditions in a foreign nation that are far below the living standards in the United States. The pay can be $50, $100, or $150 per month depending on how bad the conditions are. 

These are just a few examples of the more than 70 opportunities to earn special pay as an enlisted member or officer.

Click here to see detailed pay charts for special pay and incentives.

What Are Military Allowances?

how much do you make in the military

Allowances can make up a significant portion of a servicemember’s salary. These are non-taxable payments that help eligible servicemembers pay for living costs.

Like other military payments, allowances vary based on your rank and years of service.

Here are a few examples of military allowances: Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH): A servicemember is entitled to this allowance when they are living in an area where government provided housing (e.g., barracks) is not available. BAH rates are based on the cost of rent and utilities in the specific region the servicemember is living.

  • Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS): This allowance helps pay for a servicemembers’ meals when they are at their permanent duty station. In 2022, servicemembers get about $407 per month and officers get about $280 per month. Officers get less since their base pay is much higher.
  • Clothing Allowances: There are a few types of clothing allowances available to servicemembers. They get an initial clothing allowance to cover the cost of their uniform, plus an allowance to replace the uniform when needed due to wear and tear. Extra clothing allowances are given to those who require maternity uniforms or need specific types of uniforms for duty. The Coast Guard is the only branch that pays a fixed clothing allowance to all servicemembers each month.
  • Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA): Servicemembers who are stationed overseas and are approved to live in non-government quarters may receive the OHA. This is a non-taxable monthly payment that helps offset the potentially high cost of rent and utilities in some areas of the world.

Click here for a chart of military pay allowances. 

What are Reservists or Guard Members Paid?

how much do you make in the military

Those serving in the Air or Army National Guard or as part of the reserves are paid less than full-time members of the military. They receive what is called “drill pay.” Basically, they get paid for the days and weeks they are serving the military. The majority of Guard and Reserve members perform one weekend of drill each month along with two weeks out of the year. Each weekend counts as four drill periods.

They are also entitled to receive special pay and allowances. If reservists or guard members are called to active duty, then they are paid as active-duty members.

Bottom Line: How Much Does the Military Pay? 

As stated above, each branch of the military pays the same basic pay to each of its members. It’s when you start to add in the allowances and special pay opportunities that salaries will start to vary between servicemembers.

The simplest way to determine how much you make by being in the military is to use this calculator. If you aren’t yet in the service, set your rank to E-1, which is the rank you’ll have during basic training.

And remember, military salaries, special pay opportunities, and allowances change quite often. You want to make sure that you always have the latest information available to you. You may want to sign up to receive this newsletter from to receive updates about military pay and benefits on a regular basis. 

Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for both professionals and servicemembers transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.

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