Vice Admiral William McRaven wears the SEAL's trident. As the top SEAL and commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, McRaven makes $15,912.90 a month in base pay. If he goes out into the field on an operation, he gets an additional $2,577.74 in family separation, food, personal, hazardous duty and hostile fire pay, making him the highest paid Navy SEAL, at $18,490.60 per month, or $221,887.68 per year.
Top Money for Enlisted SEALs
Admiral McRaven’s pay is nice pay if you can get it, but the work-a-day SEAL is usually an enlisted guy in pay grades E-4 through E-9, led by a youngish officer, usually under the rank of commander. A master chief petty officer, the top enlisted rank, E-9, earns between $4634.70 per month with 10 years’ service and $7195.80, with 38 years’ service. Add to that a total of $2163.24 in the special pay that SEALs earn, and the top enlisted SEAL earns between $6797.94 per month, or $81,575.28 per year, and $9,359.04 per month, or $112,308.48 per year.
Top Pay in the Warrant Officer Ranks
Warrant officers are enlisted personnel who are so adept at their job they apply for classification as a warrant officer. The top pay for a warrant officer with 38 years’ service is $8,925.90 per month. This works out to $107,110.80 per year. The additional pay for food, family separation, hazardous duty and hostile fire comes to $2225.94 per month and raises the warrant officer’s monthly pay to $11,151.84 and his annual pay to $133,822.08.
Pay for Officers Serving as SEALs
Junior officers in NAVSPECWAR – the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command – start out as ensigns, an O-1, the lowest officer rank. They’re college graduates, perhaps from the U.S. Naval Academy, Navy Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs in civilian universities, or the Navy Officer’s Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. Eventually, they’ll work their way up the ranks of SEAL officers, perhaps to vice admiral and the $194,729.28 per year paycheck.
Enthusiasm is wonderful, but performance, in training and in the field, is what keeps you alive as a SEAL. Performance, in the form of additional Navy training and civilian education is one of things that keeps you growing in the Navy. The Navy offers a variety of educational opportunities, allowing you to advance your education or complete a degree while serving. You may be a SEAL throughout your career, or you may enter another career, in the Navy or as a civilian. Either way, continuing your education or training, coupled with performance, moves you closer to the top ranks – and the top pay -- of the Navy’s special warfare operators.