The Navy SEALs are an elite division within the U.S. Navy that specialize in direct action small-scale warfare, combat reconnaissance, counterterrorism, and foreign internal defense.
Most people are well aware of the strenuous and honorable work that Navy SEALs do. After all, only a small number of Navy recruits enter SEAL training and of those who begin, an even smaller number ever make it to graduation.
Since the Navy SEALs are such an elite group of military service members, you’d likely think that they have much higher salaries than those in other areas of the Armed Forces. This is somewhat true but somewhat not.
In fact, they get paid the exact same salaries according to their rank as every other soldier in all other branches of the military. The disparities between the actual money they make come from bonuses, hazard pay, and other warfare payments.
These little add-ons to their base salaries often make a huge difference and are the reason why a Navy SEAL can make a decent living. So, how does it work? How much do Navy SEALs get paid?
Navy SEAL Salary
A Navy SEAL salary is made up of the following components:
- One-time signing bonus upon acceptance to SEAL training
- One-time graduation bonus upon becoming a Navy SEAL
- U.S. Navy Basic Pay based on ranking
- Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS)
- Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)
- Additional bonuses and incentives
All Navy SEALs start off in Basic Training for the U.S. Navy and they’ll get paid according to their ranking.
According to the Basic U.S. Navy Pay Scales from 2018, enlisted sailors entering as an E-1 (Seaman Recruit), the lowest rank in the Navy, will receive $1,514 per month for the first four months and $1,638 per month thereafter.
If you have a college degree, you’ll be able to enter Basic Training for the Navy at a higher rank of an officer. An O-1 (Ensign) might make around $3,188.40 per month in their lowest rank.
Signing Bonus and Graduation Bonus
Due to how incredibly selective Navy SEAL training is, those who are chosen are offered not only a bonus upon graduation, but just to make it into SEAL training earns recruits a hefty bonus as well.
To get to Navy SEAL training, hopefuls are required to pass rigorous mental and physical exams that last about a year just to even get into the program. Those who successfully enter the Navy SEAL training program receive a bonus between $10,000 and $12,000.
Then, upon graduation from SEAL training (which only about a third of everyone who enters will make it to), Navy SEALs receive another bonus of $40,000. They deserve it because of how obviously difficult this accomplishment is to achieve.
U.S. Navy Basic Pay
Any enlisted sailor who completes the Navy SEAL program will automatically rank as at least an E-4 (Petty Officer Third Class) which begins at a salary of $2,089 per month with less than two years of service and can receive up to four raises, bringing his salary up to as much as $2,596 per month at this rank.
From there, a Navy SEAL will need to be promoted to the next rank in order to receive a higher salary.
Sailors who enter the Navy as an officer will usually have earned the rank of O-2 (Lieutenant Junior Grade) after completing SEAL training with a salary of $3,497 per month.
As for the highest ranking possible as a Navy SEAL, there are three positions. An enlisted Navy SEAL can attain an E-9 (Master Chief Petty Officer) with 40 years of service and can make up to $7,845 per month.
A non-commissioned officer (NCO) SEAL can achieve up to a W-5 (Chief Warrant Officer 5) with a salary of $7,615 per month with 40 years of service.
Finally, SEALs who entered as an officer in the Navy have the opportunity to reach the level of O-10 (Admiral), an extremely coveted position as there is only one who makes $15,800 per month with 40 years of service.
To give you more of a breakdown, here are the ranges for U.S. Navy Basic Pay to help you get a better idea of the salaries that Navy SEALs might be making:
- E-2 Seaman Apprentice, $1,836
- E-3 Seaman, $1,931
- E-4 Petty Officer Third Class, $2,139
- E-5 Petty Officer Second Class, $2,333
- E-6 Petty Officer First Class, $2,546
- E-7 Chief Petty Officer, $2.944
- E-8 Senior Chief Petty Officer, $4,235
- E-9 Master Chief Petty Officer $5,173
- W-1 Warrant Officer 1, $3,038
- W-2 Chief Warrant Officer 2, $3,461
- W-3 Chief Warrant Officer 3, $3,911
- W-4 Chief Warrant Officer 4, $4,282
- W-5 Chief Warrant Officer 5, $7,615
- 0-1 Ensign, $3,108
- 0-2 Lieutenant Junior Grade, $3,580
- 0-3 Lieutenant, $4,144
- 0-4 Lieutenant Commander, $4,713
- 0-5 Commander, $5,462
- 0-6 Captain, $6,552
- 0-7 Rear Admiral Lower Half, $8,641
- 0-8 Rear Admiral, $10,399
- 0-9 Vice Admiral, $14,696
- 0-10 Admiral, $15,800
These numbers are based on 2018 data and are estimates. Base pay for Navy SEALs depends on rank and the number of years served. Still, these figures help to understand how much Navy SEALs are likely to make in a general sense.
BAS and BAH for Navy SEALs
One of the biggest benefits of joining the military at all is the fact that you’ll often receive Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) which is used to pay for food supplies and Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) which is used to pay for housing bills like rent and utilities.
BAS reflects the price of food as measured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) instead of being based on the salary of Navy SEALs. In 2018, enlisted sailors received $4,432.68 per year and officers received $3,052.68 per year in addition to their base salaries for BAS.
The amount of BAH that a Navy SEAL gets is more variable. It’s based on factors like whether or not you’re married and have children or other forms of dependents. It even takes into account that you may be divorced but still have children to take care of, regardless of whether you’re the custodial parent or not.
For these reasons, there is not a simple answer for how much a Navy SEAL makes in terms of housing allowance but in general, the U.S. Navy works to take pretty good care of their sailors and most of their housing costs are dealt with.
Additional Bonuses and Incentives
Since Navy SEALs make the same basic pay like everyone else in the military, most of the financial incentive for becoming a Navy SEAL comes from the additional bonuses they receive.
We’ve already mentioned the signing bonus and the graduation bonus but Navy SEALs also receive hazard pay and reenlistment bonuses or retention bonuses if a SEAL possesses an extra specialized skill.
Some of the most common types of hazard pay and special mission pay include:
- Dive Pay: $150 to $340 extra per month
- Jump Pay or Parachute Pay: $150 to $225 extra per month
- Demolition Pay: $150 per month
Navy SEALs might also receive what’s called Special Duty Assignment Pay. In order to qualify for this type of pay, the SEAL must hold the Navy Enlistment Classification (NEC) 5352 and will earn an extra $300 extra per month at Level 4 and $450 extra per month at Level 5.
Additionally, reenlistment bonuses make up a substantial portion of what a Navy SEAL makes. As part of an incentive to encourage Navy SEALs to reenlist, especially if they have unique skills at a high level, a reenlistment bonus ranges widely from a minimum of $30,000 to a maximum of $160,000.
So, How Much Do Navy SEALs Make?
Overall, every Navy SEAL makes a different amount of money. Everyone has different circumstances including being married or single, possessing one unique skill or being competent in many skills, or whether they enlisted or entered the Navy as an officer. All of these things make a difference when it comes to how much a Navy SEAL makes.
In general, Navy SEALs do make a lot of money since, in order to be a SEAL, it’s likely that you are the cream of the crop and have a lot of sought-after skills to offer the military. Yet, there is also a high mortality rate among Navy SEALs due to the extreme circumstances they are required to serve in.
The Houston Chronicle puts things into perspective. The highest paid SEAL in the military after 20 years of service makes $230,000 a year. Someone who’s just graduated from Columbia Business School with an MBA likely has a starting salary of $320,000 a year. In business, the mortality rate isn’t anywhere close to as high as it is for a Navy SEAL.
So, we’ll let you decide. Do you think that Navy SEALs make a lot of money?