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How Much Does a Sergeant Make?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Commanding Respect as a Team Leader in the Military or in Law Enforcement

Sergeants, whether they work in the armed forces or within a department of law enforcement, are responsible for leading teams of individuals trained to serve and protect. Excellent communications and interpersonal skills are necessary for a job that can be high-energy and high stress, but ultimately rewarding. Because work hours can be long and irregular, reliable child care is a must. Being a sergeant is a full-time job.

Job Description

A sergeant is a non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the armed forces. There are nine enlisted ranks, labelled E-1 through E-9. Sergeants are E-6 and above; different names are used to designate ranks in each branch of the service. Enlisted individuals start at E-1 when they arrive at basic training. They achieve higher ranks sequentially based on length of service, education and training, and other factors.

Police departments also have sergeants. Whether military or public servant, a sergeant leads a team of individuals working together to perform a job or mission. Sergeants relay messages from a higher command. Since they provide direct oversight, it's their job to ensure that members of their unit have the required skills and training and can work effectively. As sergeants are promoted to higher ranks, they oversee larger units and have greater responsibilities.

Education Requirements

To enlist in the military, you must be a U.S. citizen or green card holder. Non-citizens must currently reside in the U.S. and speak, read and write English fluently. You must be between the ages of 17 and 40 (requirements may vary by branch of service) and in good health. You must pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, a written exam that will help determine job placement and your career path as an enlisted service member.

Although a general education diploma (GED) may be acceptable, it could limit your opportunities once you're in the military. The majority of enlistees have earned a minimum of a high school diploma.

Requirements to join the police force vary from state to state and even from one community to another. It may be possible to join the force in some municipalities with a GED, but most of today's police officers have a high school diploma at minimum. Many have earned associate's or bachelor's degrees in criminal justice or a related field. Police recruits must pass an entrance exam to be admitted to a police academy.

Work Environment

Work environment in the military depends as much on job specialization as it does on rank. Sergeants lead on the battlefield and during training exercises, but they also work in administrative positions in supply depots, hospitals and medical/dental clinics, communications centers, mechanical repair shops and more. The military usually requires its personnel to change duty stations on a regular basis, so it can fill job openings as needed. It's an opportunity for service members to enhance the training and skills as they advance through the ranks. There are military bases all over the world. In a military career that spans 20 years, you probably will live on several continents.

Police sergeants work in a variety of settings, depending on the size of the department for which they work. For a major city such as New York or Los Angeles, a sergeant works within a division, like homicide or narcotics. In a small town with few individuals on the police force, a sergeant will oversee the investigation of a wider range of criminal activity.

Years of Experience

A standard pay scale is used for ranks in all branches of the military. Education and training, along with years of experience, affect level of pay. Variations may exist due to bonuses, hazardous duty and other factors. Ranges in monthly base pay, by rank and years of service, are:

  • E-6: $2,539.22‒$3,932.74
  • E-7: $2,935.58‒$5,275.97
  • E-8: $4,222.94‒$$6,023.01
  • E-9: $5,158.64‒$8,009.43

It takes a minimum of eight years to attain the rank of E-8 and a minimum of 10 years to attain the rank of E-9.

Salaries for police sergeants depend on experience and geographic location. The median salary for police sergeants is $69,685, meaning half earn more, and half earn less. Here are typical salary ranges based on years ranked as sergeant:

  • 0‒1 year of experience: $60,973‒$68,855
  • 3‒4 years of experience: 61,579‒$69,46
  • 7‒9 years of experience: $63,802‒$70,721
  • 15‒19 years of experience: $67,440‒$72,920
  • 20+ years of experience: $68,450‒$73,531

Upon completion of service (usually a minimum of 20 years), military and police sergeants are eligible for retirement benefits.

Job Growth Trend

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers employment projections for the civilian workforce only, the outlook is expected to be good for individuals looking to make a career in the military. When the economy is strong, there are generally fewer people enlisting in the military. During an economic downturn, however, when employment opportunities are weak, more individuals often enlist. At various times in modern history, Congress has voted to increase or decrease the size of the military in response to the perceived needs for security.

For police officers, job growth is expected to be average when compared to other occupations. Demand will vary by location.