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How Much Do Navy SEALs Get Paid a Year?

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From the Navy SEAL signing bonus to the incentives for hazardous duties, Navy SEAL pay reflects the rigors of training and the importance and scarcity of each SEAL's unique skills.

SEAL stands for SEa, Air, and Land. Navy SEALs may insert troops, teams or single operatives behind enemy lines, or extract high-profile enemy targets; they also rescue allies when needed. SEAL teams perform reconnaissance and destroy strategic objectives via land, sea or air. When missions in any branch of United States military service go sideways, a SEAL team will haul everyone's chestnuts out of the fire if necessary.

Salary and Experience: How Much Do Navy SEALs Make?

The average Navy SEAL salary includes a one-time signing bonus upon your acceptance into SEAL training, plus the Navy's Basic Pay, Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) and Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). A Navy SEAL may also receive special consideration for possessing critical skills, bonuses for separation from spouse and children, as well as retention bonuses and incentives for hazardous or special duties. Salary ties directly to each service member's years of experience.

Theoretically, you can qualify for SEAL training straight out of Navy boot camp, but you must top the fitness charts and possess an extraordinary level of resilience and determination. As of January 2018, a newly sworn sailor will earn $6,058.80 in Basic Pay for the first four months of service. After that, they make another $13,106.40 over the next eight months, for a total of $19,165.20 for the entire first year. After 40 years of service, basic pay amounts to $96,397.20 annually for enlisted members, while warrant officers receive $119,570.40 every year. Serve four years as an enlisted sailor or warrant officer before you opt to become a commissioned officer, and your pay rises from $19,659.60 per year to a high of $89,899.20 after 40 years. Commissioned officers receive $189,601.20 per year after 40 years of service.

BAS offsets the cost of a sailor's meals. The amount reflects the price of food as measured by the USDA food cost index. This bonus does not reflect prevailing wages. As of 2018, enlisted sailors receive $4,432.68 per year for their meals, while officers take home an additional $3,052.68 per year.

Finally, the BAH that each sailor receives varies. Service members with spouses and children receive more BAH than single sailors. The Navy ensures that noncustodial parents fulfill their duties, so divorced sailors live in single housing but receive differential BAH based on the amount they pay in child support.

On top of everything already discussed, SEAL and SWCC (Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen) team members receive the following incentives:

  • Dive pay: $150-340 per month
  • Jump pay: $150-225 per month
  • Demolition pay: $150 per month  
  • Special duty assignment pay: $300 per month at Level 4 [Must hold Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) 5352, the designation for a Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen]/$450 per month at Level 6 [Must hold Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) 5352, the designation for a Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen].

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In sum, Navy SEAL income increases with your time in service and expertise as well as your combat experience.

Education Requirements

A prospective Navy SEAL must acquire leadership skills and learn to operate within a team as early as possible. If you plan to participate in the Delayed Entry Program and join the Navy at age 17, focus on any foreign languages your school offers. Hone your math skills and scientific knowledge base. Learn to listen first before taking action. Lead by example: Follow the rules and support your fellow leaders. Enlisted applicants do not have to attend college, but they might score higher on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) if they do so. Enlisted applicants must pass the following assessments:

  • Pre-enlistment medical screening
  • Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)
  • Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT)
  • Computerized-Special Operations Resilience Test (C-SORT)
  • SEAL Physical Screening Test (SEAL PST)

SEAL officer-candidates must graduate from a four-year college just like all other commissioned naval officers. Unless you are already an enlisted SEAL, you must have excellent scores on the PST. Your score must be better than 100 actual Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) students, or you will not qualify for BUD/S training. Although the Navy SEAL website states otherwise, women have been eligible to take qualification tests for training since January 2016. Only 1 percent of all Navy personnel serve as SEALS.

Take SCUBA classes and learn to handle small watercraft during high school, while still in college or before BUD/S if you want the best qualifying score to become an officer-candidate.

Job Growth Trend

Annual performance reviews determine who may continue to serve past their 20th year and who must retire. This forced retirement system ensures that junior officers and enlisted sailors have the chance to move upward in rank. Close to 8,700 senior enlisted men face reviews as of August 2018. Of the nearly 45,000 sailors reviewed since 2010, though, only 1,761 were forced into retirement. Despite the low number of sailors forced to retire, those wishing to pursue a Navy career should feel confident about the Navy plan to add 25,000 sailors between 2018 and 2023.

Industry

The Navy falls under the Department of Defense, just like all other branches of military service. If spending remains constant, the defense industry offers job security and above-average earning potential through January 2024.

About the Author

Smith has been a student, independent contractor, entrepreneur, car salesperson, beauty consultant, and a water treatment salesperson. All of those career changes had their benefits and drawbacks. Smith believes in experiential learning as key to success in the work world, so don't be afraid to try something new that does not match your official qualifications. Smith urges business owners and job seekers alike to dig deep and discover what motivates you to give your best.

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