The men and women who serve in the U.S. Army start off as privates, from which they can progress in rank and pay as enlisted soldier, or proceed to an officer track. In any case, their jobs can be hazardous, since they face enemy combatants in defense of their country. The government compensates these dedicated individuals with salaries and bonuses that often add up to total amounts greater than similar jobs in civilian life.
Basic pay applies to army privates who are on active duty and varies by rank and experience. This rank has three grades: private with no insignia (E1), private (E2) and private first class (E3). According to military pay tables effective January 2011, for two years or less of service, the E1 grade gets $1,467 per month, E2 earns $1,644.90 and E3 receives $1,729. At over three years of service or greater, the E2 grade still gets $1,644.90 monthly and the E3 grade reaches $1,950. (The E1 grade does not continue beyond the first two years.) Compensation does not increase beyond these numbers.
Privates receive free room and board as long as they live on an army base. Those who prefer to live off-base receive allowances to cover their expenses. For example, the E1 and E2 grades get a monthly housing allowance of $462 without dependents, and $615.90 with dependents. Grade E3 allowances run at $484.80 and $646.20. Food allowances pay $325.04 per month for all enlisted soldiers, with an addition for families that is not to exceed $1,100 per month. Those who are separated from their families get $250 a month, and all enlisted soldiers get a one-time standard clothing allowance of $1,441.68 for males and $1,673.18 for females.
Privates who perform jobs that entail more responsibility or more skill receive special pay. For example, those who are aviators can qualify for flight pay ranging from $150 to $400 a month depending on experience. Those assigned to sea duty receive $70 to $620 a month, while those in areas where living conditions are substantially below U.S. conditions receive hardship duty pay of $50 to $150 per month, depending on the area. Certification that is no older than 12 months in reading, speaking and understanding a foreign language can garner up to $1,000 per month for active duty soldiers. This information is as of 2011 from the Go Army website.
All enlisted soldiers, including privates can receive one time bonuses for choosing specific Army jobs, completing training or incurring extra responsibilities. For example, enlisting again in the service may gain a combination of bonuses up to $40,000. Those who get college degrees can earn $2,000. Skills brought in from civilian life such as X-ray or animal care specialties can earn $5,000, and those enlisting in the Army Selected Reserve as Translator Aides for specific Middle-Eastern languages can receive bonuses of $35,000.