Mercenaries -- often called private military contractors -- have been around for thousands of years, and still exist today. The Romans hired barbarian mercenary forces at various times during the decline of the empire, and were backstabbed by their paid soldiers more than a few times. The Hessians were German mercenaries hired by the British in the Revolutionary War. Mercenaries have historically been paid more than national soldiers, and that is still true today.
Almost every nation has a national military. National armies exist to protect a country from encroachment from another country, to assist in national disasters and help civilian police forces to deal with violent criminals or terrorists. Many national militaries are formed by conscription of citizens, but a growing number of national armies today are all-volunteer forces. All-volunteer military organizations forces tend to pay higher and be more professional than conscript-based military forces.
U.S. Military Pay
The wages of members of the U.S. military have gone up significantly since the 1990s. Signing bonuses, which are not officially counted as wages, have also increased dramatically in certain specialties. Base pay in the U.S. Army starts at $19,184, as of 2013. A staff sergeant with six years of experience earns $35,226 annually. Note, however, that members of the military receive various bonuses as well as clothing and housing allowances that can add up to tens of thousands of dollars a year.
Private Military Contractors
Private military contractors have become a fact of life in the 21st century. While there is some demand in the private sector for this kind of high-powered security, the majority of private military contractors are hired by the State Department or other U.S. government agencies. According to "The New York Times," there were more than 20,000 private military contractors working in Iraq for several years in the mid- 2000s. Most private military contractors are ex-military.
Private Military Contractor Pay
Most private military contractors earn a lot more than the members of a national military. According to Hank Gutman, a professor at the University of Vermont, government agencies typically pay between $500 and $1,500 a day for experienced military personnel. This means private military contractors frequently earn $150,000 to $250,000 per year. Chris Boyd of Kroll-Crucible Security reports that most military contractors earn $350 to $1,500 per day. "The New York Times" also reports that some contractors are earning $1,000 per day or more for their skills and willingness to work in high-risk areas.