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What the Recruiter Never Told You

Part 5 -- Military Pay


Military Pay vs. Civilian Pay. Whether or not you consider military pay to be "fair compensation" when compared to civilian pay depends on several factors, including the specific "military job" that you sign up for. Some of the "techie jobs" are underpaid compared to civilian sector, as well as a few of the comparable management (officer/senior NCO) jobs. But when you look at total compensation, a lot of us are pretty close.

Look at America's Job Bank online and type in your MOS/AFSC/Rating (or the one you're considering, for the those thinking of joining the military) in the area you want to work. Pretty surprising the range of pay for most of them, and when you consider the additional qualifications many civilian jobs require, the military's even more of an advantage, because it "hires" you without experience or training, and provides that to you, free of charge.

For someone recently out of high school, with limited work experience, the military pay scale is more than fair. Once a person gets a college degree (although the military will pay for that), plus technical training (paid for too), plus 8-10 years job experience, and it starts to fade a bit for some fields. But, for jobs like Cook, Laundry and Bath Specialist, Supply, Admin, the pay is pretty comparable.

How many cooks and secretaries make around $40,000 a year even with 10 years experience (E-6 used as an example). And for combat arms, you can't find a civilian equivalent, so what can you compare it to? If you want to be a tanker or submariner, the military is the only game in town, and you're getting the intangible benefits of a unique job you love to do.

A word About Your Pay and your first paycheck. Direct Deposit is mandatory for military pay. You should already have a bank account set up before you leave for basic training, and bring your account information and an ATM/debit card with you. If you don't have an account set up, one of the first things the staff will do is require you to establish an account at the base credit union or base bank. However, it may be several weeks before the bank can give you a debit card, which will impact on your ability to access your pay.

During your in-processing, you will complete paperwork to begin your military pay. Military personnel are paid on the 1st and 15th of each month. If those days fall on a non-duty day, you are paid on the duty day, preceding. Your pay is direct-deposited into your bank account.

So, when will you receive your first paycheck? Good question, and one that can't be answered accurately. In general, if your military pay information is entered into the Finance Computer System prior to the 7th of the month, you'll receive your first paycheck on the following 15th. If the information is entered into the Finance Computer System after the 7th of the month, but prior to the 23rd of the month, you'll receive your first paycheck on the following 1st. However, please note that the date you fill out the paperwork during in-processing and the date the information is input into the Finance Computer System are not the same dates. A Finance Clerk is going to take the paperwork you filled out, and enter it into the Computer. However, the clerk is entering the information of hundreds of other recruits at the same time, so it may take several days before yours gets entered. I always advise people to estimate that the first paycheck won't be deposited until a full 30 days after arrival. That way, if you're paid before that, it's an unexpected surprise, and if it takes the entire 30 days, it's what you were expecting anyway.

In any case, your first paycheck will contain all the pay you have coming to you at that point. For recruits without dependents, that means base pay, only. For those with dependents, it means base pay and housing allowance. Your first paycheck will be "pro-rated" to the number of days you've been on active duty. For example, if you receive your first paycheck 30 days after arrival, you will receive the full-rate of the monthly basic pay in that paycheck, and (if you have dependents), the full rate for the monthly housing allowance. If, however, you receive your first paycheck two weeks after arrival, it will contain 1/2 of the monthly base pay, and 1/2 of the monthly housing allowance (for those with dependents). Of course, taxes and other deductions (such as deductions for non-issue items, such as running shoes, soap, shampoo, laundry, etc.) are taken out.

Housing Allowance and Food Allowance

In certain circumstances military members are paid an allowance to live off base, as well as an allowance to purchase food. We'll discuss these two benefits in the next two chapters.

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