The U.S. Marines encompasses more than two dozen different ranks, ranging from a private to the three four-star generals at the top of the Corps. In military-speak, that's E1 to E9 for the enlisted and noncommissioned ranks. Warrant officers ranks are W1 to W5, and officer ranks go from O1 to O10. In addition to their base pay, Marines, like other military members, receive benefits.
What Different Ranks Do
The backbone of the Marine Corps is formed by the enlisted ranks: privates, sergeants, gunnery sergeants, corporals and sergeant majors. Starting at E6, the staff sergeant level, they're considered noncommissioned officers. NCOs are responsible to their superiors for the welfare, morale and the performance of the Marines under them. At E8 and E9, some Marines serve as senior advisors to the commanding officer in the company. E8 master sergeants and E9 master gunnery sergeants provide technical leadership.
Warrant officers are technical specialists in various fields. Promotion gets tougher the higher you rise in rank, so becoming a specialist often offers an attractive alternative career path. The best specialists may become limited duty officers (LDOs) whose work focuses entirely on their technical field of expertise.
Commissioned officers are college graduates. Their responsibility is to command lower-ranked Marines. The O1 or second lieutenant is the lowest rank among commissioned officers.
Paying the Marines
Military salaries aren't set in stone. The government frequently raises pay to keep up with inflation or to make the USMC more attractive to recruits.
As of 2018, E1 privates start out at $1,514 per month. At four months, they get a pay boost to $1,638. If they don't rise in rank beyond that, their pay doesn't go up at all. Once a Marine makes corporal (E4), pay rises some with time. Corporals start at $2,139, and after six years, they receive $2,596 a month. Beyond six years, they don't earn more unless they rise in rank.
Starting pay for a sergeant major, the top enlisted rank, is $5,173. A W1 warrant officer starts at $3,037, and a W5 starts at $7,614. A rookie second lieutenant receives $3,910 a month, while four-star generals earn $15,800.
Benefits include a housing allowance, health insurance, money for college and access to on-base stores, which are cheaper than stores in the private sector.
Earning Gunnery Sergeant Pay
For a more detailed example, consider the gunnery sergeant or E7 marine. Gunnery sergeants are the equivalent of an Army sergeant 1st class. Despite the name, their typical duties aren't associated with crewing the guns. They may be in charge of training units or recruiting stations – drill sergeants in movies are often gunnery sergeants – or advising captains on the company's material and personnel readiness. A gunnery sergeant's monthly pay is:
- 1-2 years: $2,944
- 2-3 years: $3,213
- 3-4 years: $3,336
- 4-6 years: $3,499
- 6-8 years: $3,626
- 8-10 years: $3,845
- 10-12 years: $3,968
- 12-14 years: $4,186
- 14-16 years: $4,368
- 16-18 years: $4,493
- 18-20 years: $4,625
- 20-22 years: $4,676
- 22-24 years: $4,848
- 24-26 years: $4,940
- Over 26 years: $5,291