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The Average Income of an Army Second Lieutenant

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A second lieutenant (2LT) is the lowest-ranking commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, Air Force or Marines. As with all military ranks and occupations in the Armed Forces, pay depends primarily on the length of service, although there are other factors used in calculations. The average monthly base pay for a second lieutenant ranges from $3,107.70 to $4,854.90.

Job Description

Commissioned officers in the military hold ranks equivalent to civilian pay grades, from O-1 (2nd lieutenant) to O-10 (general). Although the names of ranks can differ according to the branch of service, pay is the same. For example, an O-1 is called a second lieutenant in the Army, Air Force and Marines, and is called an ensign in the Navy and the Coast Guard.

Depending on their education and training, second lieutenants work in a variety of military occupational specialties, in fields as diverse as combat arms, communications, engineering, Human Resources, intelligence, law enforcement, logistics and transportation.

Education Requirements

There are four paths that lead to a commission as an officer in the U.S. military: a degree from one of the academies, completion of a college-based Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program, direct commission and Officer Candidate School (OCS).

The military academies are highly selective of candidates to train as future officers. Appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (Army), the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy (Navy and Marines) is made by a government official, usually a member of Congress. Students pay no tuition and commit to active duty service immediately upon graduation.

Most officers enter the military through ROTC programs, offered at more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the country. Scholarships are available in exchange for commitment to military service. Direct commissions are offered to individuals who have professional education, such as law, medicine or ministry. Officer Candidate School (OSC) is for selected members of active duty enlisted ranks who want to transition to becoming officers. Training requires anywhere from 9 weeks (Air Force) to 17 weeks (Coast Guard).

Work Environment

An Army lieutenant, like all military officers, can work in a broad range of settings, depending on their occupational specialty. A duty assignment can be almost anywhere in the world, indoors or outdoors, in an office, hospital, hangar, courtroom or chapel, on land, in the air or aboard a ship. Service members can sometimes request an assignment, but the needs of the military always take priority. Officers usually move to a new assignment every few years.

Salary and Job Outlook

The 2018 military pay chart lists the starting base salary for a 2nd lieutenant (or equivalent O-1) as $3,107.70 per month, or $37,292.40 per year. The actual salary is much more than that, as 2nd lieutenant pay includes a housing allowance, based on the cost of living in the geographic area where assigned. Army pay, as with pay for all active duty service members, includes valuation for full medical, dental and vision benefits. In addition, service members are vested in a pension plan and can begin collecting retirement pay after 20 years of service. Extra pay can be awarded in the form of retention bonuses, combat or hazardous duty pay, and for special skills.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) only makes employment projections for civilian occupations. Opportunities for officers in any branch of the armed forces depends on the needs of the military as well as on defense spending, which is determined by Congress.


Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.

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