If you’re a Navy SEAL—or even a prospective SEAL who’s checking out career options— you’ll want to know what effect being a SEAL has on your pay scale, versus that of a regular service member. After all, if you make it into the SEALs (and not many do), you’ll be the front line of our nation’s defense. You’re a valuable commodity—and our country rewards you accordingly.
Signing and Graduation Bonuses
These rewards start at the very beginning. Once you qualify for SEAL training, you’ll receive a $12,000 bonus. But ask any SEAL—you’ll earn every sweat-soaked penny of that bonus during the year-or-more training you’ll do to become a SEAL.
If and when you survive Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training and don’t ring out (give up), you’ll receive another $40,000. Believe me, surviving Hell Week alone is reason enough to earn that chunk of change. Less than 20 percent of SEAL trainees graduate. When you factor into the equation the intense process to even qualify for SEAL training, that’s a mighty small group.
An elite group. Though we’d never say so.
As someone who served in the SEALs, I know that we would have done what we did for absolutely nothing. After you survive BUD/S, there are no egos. Only a team.
We’re grateful, though, to our country for recognizing our work—not just with an attaboy and a chest of medals—but also with substantial bonuses, starting at the very beginning with the aforementioned signing and graduation bonuses.
SEAL Bonus Pay
That’s not all. All SEALs get extra salary boosts every month for certain skills, as well as for hazardous duty pay. These include:
Dive status pay: $150 to $340 per month
Jump status (parachute) pay: $150 to $225 per month
Demolition status: $150 per month
Also, SEALs with specific skills in needed areas, including classified ones, receive even more bonus payments. All told, these bonus payments can total around $10,000 per year—on top of the SEAL’s regular pay, depending on their rank.
SEALs also receive extra pay for special duty assignments. Bonuses for serving as a special warfare combatant craft crewman, for example, range from $300 to $450 per month, depending on the individual's level.
If you reenlist after your first tour of duty, you’ll receive at least $30,000. From there on out, you’ll receive a reenlistment bonus of at least that amount up to a maximum of $160,000. If you have special skills (and if you’re a SEAL, you most likely will), you might receive additional reenlistment bonuses.
SEALs' Food and Housing Allowances
Furthermore, Navy SEALs, like other sailors, receive a basic pay allowance for subsistence (BAS) and a basic allowance for their housing (BAH). BAS covers the costs of an average sailor’s meals based on the USDA food cost index. BAH varies by family status. SEALs with children and spouses, for instance, receive more BAH pay than do single SEALs. If duty separates them from their spouse and children, they also receive monthly bonuses.
On top of all those bonuses, a SEAL will receive the same base salary that other sailors at the same rank receive. These salaries are divided into two categories: enlisted personnel and officers.
Navy SEAL 2019 Enlisted Personnel Regular Pay
Recruits must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify to enlist in the U.S. Navy. After basic training, they must undergo extensive physical and academic testing to qualify for the elite BUD/S school—a grueling series of mental and physical challenges that test each candidate for their intense missions.
Enlisted sailors entering the service at the lowest rank, E-1 (Seaman Recruit), receive $1,514 per month for the first four months of service and thereafter, $1,680 per month.
The following are monthly pay scales for sailors with less than three years of service at the given rank, beginning with sailors at rank E-2.
E-2, Seaman Apprentice, $1,884
E-3, Seaman, $2005.83
E-4, Petty Officer Third Class, $2312.25
E-5, Petty Officer Second Class, $2,775.50
E-6, Petty Officer First Class, $3,169.20
E-7, Chief Petty Officer, $4,021.35
E-8, Senior Chief Petty Officer, $5,017.50
E-9, Master Chief Petty Officer, $6,448.65
E-9, Command Master Chief Petty Officer, $6,448.65*
E-9, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, $6,448.65**
Although enlisted sailors normally begin at the lowest rank, by the time they graduate from the SEAL program, they’ll be at least an E-4, Petty Officer Third Class. SEALs, like all military personnel, receive a limited amount of pay raises at each rank. An E-4, for example, who begins with a salary of $2,194.50 a month, can receive a total of four raises over four years, with the last raise bringing his salary to $2,555.40. Thereafter, the only way to receive a salary increase is to advance to the next rank.
*Although a command master chief petty officer earns the same paycheck as a master chief petty officer, their duties differ somewhat. A command master chief petty officer is the head chief on both shore-based and ship-based units. They serve as part of the command team that includes both a commanding officer and executive officer.
**Likewise, the master chief petty officer of the Navy receives the same pay as their peers but serves as the top enlisted advisor to the Chief of Naval Operations.
Navy SEAL 2019 Officers’ Regular Pay
To earn their commission as a Navy officer, a prospect must have a four-year university degree. Officers hold managerial roles and are tasked with making critical decisions, including planning and directing operations. Some officers enroll in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) as cadets, earning a free university education in the process. Before they are accepted into the program, cadets commit themselves to serve as naval officers after they graduate.
Once they graduate and become commissioned as naval officers, they go through a two-phase process, starting with intense screening in their junior year in either the Naval Academy, NROTC, or the Officer Candidate School and ending with the SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection (SOAS), conducted at the Navy’s Special Warfare Center, located in Coronado, California. Those who pass the first screening go on to Coronado for even more intensive training, including the brutal Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.
O-1, Ensign, $3,426.75
O-2, Lieutenant Junior Grade, $4,167.50
O-3, Lieutenant, $5,315.10
O-4, Lieutenant Commander, $6,143.70
O-5, Commander, $7,198.50
O-6, Captain, $8,863.35
O-7, Rear Admiral Lower Half, $10,522.50
O-8, Rear Admiral Upper Half, $12,377.35
O-9, Vice Admiral, $14,967.60
O-10, Admiral, $15,583.20
The flip side of all those numbers, though—we who’ve been there must warn you—is that mortality rates for SEALs are high. If you do survive (and some have) to retirement, your body will have paid quite a physical toll.
All that for a top salary—when you add up all the numbers—of way less than Ivy League MBA grads make for their first job out of college. It’s a good living—but you won’t get rich.
As I mentioned earlier, we don’t do what we do for the money. We serve to keep our nation free.