There are a ton of different reasons to join the military, and for most people, money isn’t a big factor. But it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Despite popular belief, the military offers plenty of opportunities to become a high-earner. Many of the same jobs you see in the civilian world — such as intel analysts and doctors — exist in the military world, too. And those civilian jobs typically don’t come with the same housing and healthcare benefits.
One major difference between the civilian pay scale versus the military pay scale is that you typically know what you should be earning in the military. Instead of hemming and hawing over salary expectations and pay raises, the military actually releases their pay grades and leaves the guesswork out of it.
What you shouldn’t expect is to be cashing a fat check as an E-1. The military pays based on rank and experience. For example, an E-1 just starting out in the military can expect to make $1,680.90 per month. But an E-9 with 10 years of experience might make $5,308.20, and an E-9 with 30 years could be taking in $7,474.80.
If you really want to make the big bucks, though, you should set your sights on becoming an officer, which typically requires a bachelor’s degree or special schooling within the military. An 0-10 (the highest officer rank) with 20 years of experience earns around $15,800 a month.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at 10 of the highest-paying military jobs. Even though the military pays you based on your rank and experience, you can learn valuable skills in service that translate to more money later on.
Highest-Paying Military Jobs
- Median annual salary: $115,820
It’s hard to become a lawyer. Four years for your undergrad, three years of law school, and you still have to pass an extremely difficult written bar exam to practice law in your state. However, it pays to be a lawyer. The top 20% of earners made $182,490 in 2018.
- Median annual salary: $117,290
Becoming a pilot usually requires a two- or four-year degree, an FAA certification, and at least 250 hours of flight experience. However, if you wish to work for a commercial airline, you’ll need to bump up that flight experience to 4,000-plus. It’s a lucrative career, though, where top earners can expect a salary of around $257,000. It’s also one of the more popular of the highest-paying military jobs.
- Median annual salary: $119,340
Podiatrists are doctors for feet and lower legs, a surprisingly in-demand and lucrative field. These positions require undergrad and medical degrees, as well as national and state certifications. But the payoff is large; top-earning podiatrists can expect $182,690 yearly.
7. Natural Sciences Manager
- Median annual salary: $120,160
Like any managerial job, this position demands critical oversight and leadership skills. Oh, and a science degree. Many natural sciences managers have a PhD, although a select few can manage with a bachelor’s and lots of experience as a scientist. Low earners may make as little as $65,000, but the top 10% take in around $208,000 annually.
6. Air Traffic Controller
- Median annual salary: $122,950
Air traffic controllers have a very important job: to direct the flow of plane traffic and make sure everything goes smoothly. In the civilian world, they almost always work for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is a government job that comes with government benefits. Forbes reported that New Hampshire was the best state for air traffic controllers, who earn $147,350 a year.
5. Engineering Manager
- Median annual salary: $132,800
This is a great job for those with analytical minds who don’t mind getting their hands dirty once in awhile. They’ll be coordinating and directing operations within industrial plants. This requires not only the specialized knowledge of a degree, but also vital on-the-job experience (that you can definitely get in the military). Top-earning engineering managers make around $166,410 on average.
4. Computer and Information Systems Manager
- Median annual salary: $148,070
Most successful computer and information systems managers have a master’s degree, which tells you the level of skill you’ll probably need to make it in this career. They’re involved in researching, implementing, and running computer systems in their company. This is a fast-growing position where top earners make around $208,000.
- Median annual salary: $151,850
Everyone needs a dentist, and with the demands of an undergrad degree and four years of dental school, there’s always a need for the specialized skills of a dentist. As such, they tend to make quite a bit of money. The highest-earning dentists bag around $208,000.
- Median annual salary: $194,500
A bachelor’s degree, med school admission, and then four years obtaining that medical degree are high asks. It’s why very few people gain the title “Dr.” (and maybe why they’re so insistent on using it). If you were savvy enough to let the military pay for your degrees, after you’re done serving your time you can enter the civilian workforce with a financial leg up on the competition. Top earners can expect to take in $208,000-plus.
1. Chief Executive Officer
- Median annual salary: $809,071
This position is the most lucrative of the highest-paying military jobs. The CEO is the core of a company; everything they do directly impacts its success. To earn this position, most people have undergrad degrees or more, with many years of managerial experience. Another way you can get there — without having to climb the corporate ladder — is by founding and running your own company. Top-earning CEOs of big companies make $1,185,096.
Find out 10 things E-1s spend their paycheck on that they probably shouldn’t.