What does Marine Corps Compensation look like?

From pay to vacation days and more, Before the Corps will walk you through what Marines make

All aspects of Marine Corps compensation are the same as the rest of the military branches, with the exception of some special pays, allowances, and other small policies. This is because the military budget, including personnel requirements, are outlined in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which is passed annually by the United States Congress. We've broken down all the details for you below.

How Does Pay Work?

Pay is made of Multiple Components

Marines receive the same pay rates as every other branch of the military and are paid on the 1st and 15th monthly.  

Compensation is broken into a few different parts - primarily, compensation consists of pay and allowances.

Pay includes base pay and special pays, and is taxable. All pay rates are available at this link.

Allowances are not taxable and include Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), Cost of Living Allowance (COLA), and more.

Each of these pays and allowances is addressed below.

Compensation

Pay

Allowances

Base Pay

Special Pays

BAH

BAS

Others

 

Base Pay

Your Base Pay rate is determined completely by your rank and time in service

Every year, new military pay scales are released.

Service members can look at the charts to find their rank, and then slide right looking for the time in service. The box they land on is the base pay.

Example: A Lance Corporal (E-3) with 3 years and 6 months Time in Service wants to know his base pay.

This number may seem low, especially after taxes, but remember that non-taxable allowances make up the other half of a service member's compensation.

Service members deployed to a Combat Zone receive a Tax Exclusion, meaning they do not pay taxes on their salary while in the combat zone.

Special Pays

Special Pays are determined by MOS, Duty Assignment, Deployments, Rank, and more

Current special pays include hazard pay, incentive pays, foreign language proficiency, and more. 

 

Marines must meet certain criteria to qualify for special pays.

Some examples are included below. Click on the links to see the pay rates, eligibility requirements, and learn more:

 

Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay for Flying

Marine Corps Aviation Officer Incentive Pay

Dive Pay

Other Hazardous Pay

Foreign Language Proficiency Pay

Hardship Duty Pay

Special Pays are taxable unless the Service Member is serving in a designated Combat Zone Tax Exclusion (CZTE) area

These pay amounts are paid monthly just like regular pay on the 1st and 15th of each month.

 

Allowances

Allowances are non-taxable and a big part of the compensation package, but eligibility rules vary

There are various types of allowances that Marines may be eligible for, ranging from housing, food, uniforms, and more. Allowances and their eligibility criteria are described below:

The two most common allowances are the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS).

BAH

The Basic Allowance for Housing is provided to Marines that do not live in government housing or quarters. The payment rate is based on rank, duty station zip code, and if you have dependents (spouse, children, etc). Although the Marine Corps' policy on housing is addressed in more detail on our Housing page, we have included a link to the housing rates.

BAS

The Basic Allowance for Subsistence is provided to Marines who are not part of the Marine Corps' Meal Card Program (most Marines ranked Corporal or below are on the program. The meal card grants Marines access to free meals at dedicated cafeterias known as Chow Halls for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Officers and Staff Noncommissioned Officers are not eligible). 

 

A good rule-of-thumb is that Marines receiving BAH will also receive BAS. Marines that do not receive BAS but work jobs preventing them from using the Meal Card Program may petition to receive BAS. For 2020, the monthly rates for BAS are $257 for officers and $373 for enlisted.

COLA

The Cost of Living Allowance, also know as COLA, is issued to Marines who are stationed outside of the Continental United States and designed to offset the higher overseas prices of non-housing goods and services. It also includes Alaska and Hawaii. The COLA is based on the country's cost of living and exchange rate. For more information, click here. In the nation's highest cost of living areas, there is some circumstances in which domestic COLA is given.  

Other Allowances

There are other allowances such as those for uniform purchases and replacement. Marine Enlisted will receive all their uniforms for free at Recruit Training. This is accomplished by the payment of an initial uniform allowance, which is then immediately taken to pay for uniforms. They will also receive a uniform allowance every few years.  Officers will pay for their uniforms directly out of pocket and not receive these allowances. There are other allowances available here.

 

Vacation & Sick Days

Military Members earn 30 days of leave each year, get federal holidays, and don't require sick days

Leave

Vacation days are referred to as "Leave" in the military. Marines accrue 2.5 days per month, totaling 30 days annually. These vacation days do not expire and can be rolled over to the next year.  There is a maximum of 62.5 days that you can accrue, so be sure to use enough each year to stay under that number.

Marines typically will get extended weekends, also known as liberty periods, for federal holidays.  These range from 3 day weekends (known as 72's for the number of hours off) to 4 day weekends (known as 96's).

Between holidays and leave, military members get a large number of days off annually. This is meant to account for the number of weekends worked, late shifts, deployments, and more. The only catch is that leave must be taken from when the Marine departs their duty station until they return, including weekend days.

Illness and Injury

Marines do not have a defined number of sick days per year like many civilian jobs. If a Marine is unwell, they are able to go to the Base Medical Clinic and be seen by a doctor.  The "Doc" will issue the Marine a form known as an "SIQ Chit," which allows the Marine to miss work and remain Sick In Quarters for the period of time outlined on the form.

When Marines undergo medical procedures that require them to miss work for more than a few days, they will be placed on convalescent leave, or medical leave, which is free of charge, until they are able to return to work.

 

Total Monthly Pay

Now that we've explained compensation, we'll review some examples to help you grasp the concepts

In total, Marines are paid based on rank, time in service, special assignments, number of dependents, and housing.

Using the Military Pay Scales, COLA Calulator, and BAH rates, below are examples of what Marines earn:

Example One

E-3 with 2 years 6 months time in service, no dependents, living in the barracks, and on a meal card

Base Pay = $2,105.70

Allowances = $0

Monthly Pay = $2,105.70

Annual Pay = $25,268.40 with no living expenses (food, housing, and clothing all covered)

Example Two

E-2 with 1 year time in service, dependents, not in family housing, not receiving any special pays, stationed at Camp Lejeune (zip code 28445)

Base Pay = $1,884

Allowances =  $1,621                         BAH = $1248               BAS = $373

Monthly Pay = $3,505

Annual Pay = $42,060 

Example Three

E-3 with 18 months time in service, receiving Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay for Flying as active enlisted Air Crew, has dependents, lives in base housing

Base Pay = $1,981.20

Special Pays = $250

Allowances = $373                             BAH = $0                     BAS = $373

Monthly Pay = $2,604.20

Annual Pay = $31,250.40

Example Four

E-5 with 6 years time in service, receiving Dive Pay, fluent in Russian at 3/3 level, stationed in Okinawa, Japan (COLA locale code JP027), lives in barracks, has no dependents

Base Pay = $3,254.10

Special Pay =  $615                            Dive Pay = $215           Foreign Language Pay = $400

Allowances =   $500.23                      BAH = $0                     BAS = $373             COLA = $127.23

Monthly Pay = $4,369.33

Annual Pay = $52,431.96

Example Five

O-1 with 6 months of service, has dependents but is living in barracks while at TBS (zip code 22134)

Base Pay = $3,287.10

Allowances = $2192                           BAH = $1935               BAS = $257

Monthly Pay = $5,479.10

Annual Pay = $65,749.20

Example Six

O-3E with 8 years in service, 4 years in aviation service, 2 dependents, living in town, receiving Aviation Officer Incentive Pay, stationed in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii (zip code 96863, COLA locale code HI009), speaks Chinese at 2/1+ level

Base Pay = $6,241.50

Special Pays = $356                            Aviation Officer Incentive Pay = $206           Foreign Language Bonus = $150

Allowances = $4168.98                      BAH = $3,555              BAS = $257            COLA = $356.98

Monthly Pay = $10,766.48

Annual Pay = $129,197.76

What About Taxes?
We'll break this down for you in the pay-stub section up next.

 

Pay Stubs

Although you are paid biweekly, you will receive a monthly pay stub known as an LES

The monthly pay stub received by all service members is known as a Leave and Earnings Statement, or LES for short.  This is received at the end of the month and will show all pay and leave activity for the month.  It is accessible here.

The LES shows your pay (base pay and allowances), leave activity and balance, allotments (401K contributions), or deductions (state and federal taxes, FICA, Social Security, pay corrections, etc).

The LES is explained well in the video below.

 

Cash Bonuses

Marines are eligible to receive a continuation bonus between 8 and 12 years of service and other reenlistment perks

Career Continuation Bonus

Marines can claim a one-time cash bonus between their 8 and 12 year mark on active duty. This continuation bonus comes with an additional 4 year commitment to active duty and pays a bonus amount between 2.5 and 13 times a Marine's monthly pay.

Reservists are also able to claim this cash bonus, but must consult Marine Corps regulations to locate the amount during a given year.

Reenlistment Bonuses

Each year, the Marine Corps publishes a list of critical MOS's for which it offers bonuses. In 2018, the Marine Corps paid out $136 million in bonuses to retain qualified Marines.

These bonuses vary by year and MOS, but can be taken every time a Marine reenlists.  These bonuses have been reported as 6-12 months pay in the past.

Reenlistment Bonuses can be taken in conjunction with the career continuation bonus.

 
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