Top 20 Highest Paid Military Jobs | Apply Now!- Earning substantial income in the military is possible through advancing in rank and continuing service. Depending on the military branch, military occupational specialty (MOS) and years of service, service members have numerous opportunities to increase their earning potential.
If you’re interested in a lifelong career in the military and want to earn a high income, there are several things that can affect your base income. In this article, we’ll cover top 15 of the highest paid military jobs across all branches, so you can better plan your career path as a service member.
Top 20 Highest paid military jobs
Military pay reflects rank, and each branch of the military establishes this income method. Military members often receive additional bonuses and benefits, depending on their military occupational specialty (MOS) and their sign-on status—either enlisted or commissioned.
While higher ranking military members frequently earn more than lower-ranking members, critical and valuable skill sets can be an advantage when joining the military and choosing a MOS. No matter the military branch, though, you can expect to start at a base salary with opportunities to advance and increase your earning potential. That being said, the following examples include some of the highest paid jobs in the military across all branches:
1. Military police
National average salary: $41,245 per year
Primary duties: Military police officers keep citizens and service members on Army installations secure by enforcing military laws, controlling incoming traffic and responding to emergencies. Most military police officers conduct anti-terrorism operations, force protection, area security and intelligence operations. Military police officers can have higher earning potential, depending on their years of service and specific rank. Additionally, many military police officers can earn additional take-home pay in allowances, sign-on bonuses or combat pay (if it applies).
National average salary: $43,482 per year
Primary duties: Pilots in the military fly various specialized aircraft, including helicopters and airplanes. They can work across all branches and perform flight missions to transport equipment and troops, provide support in combat and execute other flight missions that assist in the enforcement of international and national policies. Depending on the pilot’s branch, rank and specialized training, the average base pay for pilots in the military can vary.
3. Drone pilot
National average salary: $44,858 per year
Primary duties: Military drone pilots and unmanned aircraft systems operators fly remote control drones and aircraft for a variety of purposes—from taking aerial reconnaissance photographs to locating and plotting locations for military troops. Drone pilots in the military are typically members of the United States Air Force (USAF), however, the U.S. Army also enlists drone pilots.
4. Combat engineer
National average salary: $46,201 per year
Primary duties: Combat engineers support soldiers during combat missions by navigating terrain and areas of operation, constructing bridges and transport routes, preparing and using explosives to clear away obstacles and debris and locating and mitigating hazards like mines. These military members can often earn additional income in the form of bonuses, combat pay or additional compensations.
National average salary: $47,103 per year
Primary duties: Interpreters may speak one or more languages in addition to their native language and serve in all branches of the military to help troops on deployment in foreign nations communicate with local citizens. Depending on the nature of their assignments, military interpreters may work in many diverse settings in both peacetime and during combat missions. Base pay for interpreters can vary, too, based on rank and years of service.
National average salary: $47,238 per year
Primary duties: Military translators prepare technical and nontechnical written communications by converting documents from English to other languages or from non-English languages to English. They may work in a variety of capacities and assist military service members in combat zones, intelligence operations and other mission assignments requiring translating documents and special intelligence communications.
7. Army officer
National average salary: $48,499 per year
Primary duties: Army officers have several ranks that they advance into as their years of service increase. They are commissioned soldiers and oversee planning, problem-solving and executing missions for a variety of objectives. They lead soldiers on mission, give orders and direct their troops to tasks. Depending on an officer’s rank and years of service, the average base pay can certainly increase.
National average salary: $54,561 per year
Primary duties: Captain is a specific rank in the military and can mean varying base pay for different branches. Typically, though, the rank of captain is one of the higher earning ranks in the military, especially when adding allowances, bonuses or combat pay while on deployment. Captains serve as company commanders, directing and leading anywhere between 100 and 200 soldiers. They work with noncommissioned officers and give orders down the chain of command, both in non-combat and combat missions.
9. First officer
National average salary: $54,820 per year
Primary duties: First officers serve as second pilots (co-pilots) of fixed-wing and rotary aircraft. First officers typically conduct flight missions on larger aircraft where pilots require their support to operate the aircraft. Many first officers serve in the USAF and can have varying incomes, depending on their years of service and rank.
10. Intelligence specialist
National average salary: $64,207 per year
Primary duties: Military intelligence specialists oversee and direct the collection, development, analysis and communication of intelligence information for high-ranking military leaders and government officials and policy makers. The process of collecting and disseminating intelligence information helps develop targets and provides situational awareness so military personnel understand context and mission specifics during operations.
11. Aircraft mechanic
National average salary: $69,680 per year
Primary duties: Military aircraft mechanics are high-paying enlisted service members who inspect, maintain and repair military aircraft like airplanes and helicopters. They troubleshoot technical instruments necessary for operation, maintain aircraft engine and operational components and ensure mission-critical equipment like weapons systems are secure and operational. Military aircraft mechanics may work within all branches of the military where aircraft is a critical part of carrying out objectives.
12. Army IT professional
National average salary: $69,964 per year
Primary duties: Information technology professionals in the Army serve as network and system administrators for military databases for classified and nonconfidential data. They compile and perform quality control to report data and communicate information about the status of various networks and computer systems. They also assist military facilities with the installation, setup, maintenance and operation of IT equipment.
13. Contract recruiter
National average salary: $83,220 per year
Primary duties: Military recruiters working on contract serve in different domestic locations to find, select and assist military candidates with enlisting or gaining commissioned status in the United States military. They commonly serve in recruitment capacities for government agencies and U.S. military contracts. Many recruiters serve in the position for a specific period of time, and the earning potential for this military job can vary, too, depending on the soldier’s rank and years of service.
14. Information security analyst
National average salary: $93,353 per year
Primary duties: Military information security analysts, or cyber security analysts, protect military, government and national networks against enemy cyber attacks. These military members analyze, monitor, detect and mitigate risks to online networks and respond to unauthorized activities within private domains. Tech skills are highly desirable in the military, and information security analysts can work across all branches.
15. Flight instructor
National average salary: $95,114 per year
Primary duties: Flight instructors are one of the highest paying roles in the military, where commissioned officers with flight experience teach beginning pilots how to fly aircraft. Depending on the instructor’s aircraft experience, they can teach candidates how to fly airplanes or helicopters. These military members instruct students in both ground and air operations and often spend time instructing students on the operation of cockpit instrumentation and controls.
16. Military Technician
A military technician is a federal civilian employee that holds dual status as a member of the Army Reserve. This title does not refer to a specific job. MILTECH is a program meant to help soldiers returning from active duty transition back into the workforce.
In military technician jobs, you may work in any role ranging from a mechanic to an office administrator. Therefore, your responsibilities and the skills required to complete them can vary greatly. As a technician, you are a support employee who has the rights of both a civilian and a soldier.
17. Ammunition Specialist
18. Parachute Rigger
20. Imagery Analyst
Average Salary for Military College Graduates
Military schools in the United States include the United States Naval Academy, United States Air Force Academy, United States Coast Guard Academy, United States Merchant Marine Academy, and United States Military Academy at West Point.
These schools offer specialized degree programs that prepare graduates for military careers. However, you do not need a degree from a military institution to become an officer. A degree from an accredited college or university can be good preparation for an officer career.
Military pay is based on rank and pay grades for enlisted rank, warrant, and commissioned officers, rather than on the choice of college.
How to Find a Job After You Graduate
To improve the chances of being hired into a military career after college, you can take one of several paths.
Consider attending a senior military college or a service academy. Another good option is to enroll in a traditional university or college that offers a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program on campus.
Army, Coast Guard, or Navy Officer Candidate School (OCS) is a third option. In the Air Force, this is known as Officer Training School (OTS), and in the Marine Corps, it is called the Platoon Leaders Course (PLC). Both traditional college graduates and enlisted service members who wish to transition into officer positions can attend OCS, according to Today’s Military.
Officer School programs last between 9.5 weeks (Air Force) and 17 weeks (Coast Guard) and prepare graduates to enter the given service branch at the level of ensign (Coast Guard, Navy) or Second Lieutenant (Army, Marine Corps, Air Force). Base pay for these officers at rank O-1, with fewer than two years’ experience, is $3,386 per month.
Graduation from a military college or university avoids the need to secure additional training in an Officer School and guarantees job placement. For instance, U.S. Naval Academy graduates attain a bachelor of science degree and a commission as an ensign in the Navy or second lieutenant in the Marine Corps.
The cost of attending a military college or university is as affordable as it gets: free. However, a service commitment is required of all graduates and varies by branch. For example, the Coast Guard, Navy, and Merchant Marines each require five years of service.
HOW HARD IS IT TO GET INTO A MILITARY COLLEGE?
It is fairly difficult and competitive. The National Center for Education Statistics data suggests the average acceptance rate is about 9.8% across all service academies. Four of the five service academies (not the Coast Guard Academy) require a nomination from an authorized source, often a member of Congress. Applicants also need strong SAT or ACT scores, excellent high school academics, leadership experience, community involvement, and athletics and extracurricular activities on their resumes.
What does military college cost? Military colleges are tuition-free to accepted students in exchange for a period of service post-graduation.