May 2007- Featured Occupation: Armed Forces - Pay Grades

Military Pay Grade Guide*

In the United States Military, a pay grade is a system denoting rate and indicates the rate at which a member receives basic pay. It is also a way to compare ranks, which may have different names in the different services. A servicemember's basic pay is determined strictly by pay grade and the amount of time they have been in the military (known as time in service).

There are 3 tiers: Enlisted (E), Warrant Officer (W), and Commissioned Officer (O)

All U.S. military services have pay grades E-1 through E-9 and Commissioned Officer grades O-1 through O-10; all but the Air Force have Warrant Officer pay grades (W).

Individuals who were enlisted but then receive a commission may, for a few years, be paid at a different rate (O-1E, O-2E, and O-3E), but this doesn't change their rank (and is usually not an issue except strictly in matters of pay).

The names of the enlisted ranks vary from service to service, but the officer ranks carry the same names in all but the Navy and Coast Guard.

Pay grade is essential when determining a member's entitlements such as basic pay, BAH, or to determine seniority among a group of members from different services.

Pay grades and associated ranks by branch of service

Pay Grade Rank (Army) Rank (Marines) Rank (Air Force) Rank (Navy, Coast Guard)
E-1 Private Private Airman Basic Seaman Recruit
E-2 Private Private First Class Airman Seaman Apprentice
E-3 Private First Class Lance Corporal Airman First Class Seaman
E-4 Specialist
Corporal ***
Corporal Senior Airman Petty Officer Third Class
E-5 Sergeant Sergeant Staff Sergeant Petty Officer Second Class
E-6 Staff Sergeant Staff Sergeant Technical Sergeant Petty Officer First Class
E-7 Sergeant First Class Gunnery Sergeant Master Sergeant Chief Petty Officer
E-8 Master Sergeant
First Sergeant ***
Master Sergeant
First Sergeant***
Senior Master Sergeant Senior Chief Petty Officer
E-9 Sergeant Major
Command Sergeant Major
Sergeant Major of the Army ***
Master Gunnery Sergeant
Sergeant Major
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps ***
Chief Master Sergeant
Command Chief Master Sergeant
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force ***
Master Chief Petty Officer
Command Master Chief Petty Officer
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard ***


*** Denotes same paygrade but different rank.

Pay Grade Rank (All branches except Air Force)
W-1 Warrant Officer One
W-2 Chief Warrant Officer Two
W-3 Chief Warrant Officer Three
W-4 Chief Warrant Officer Four
W-5 Chief Warrant Officer Five
Pay Grade Rank (Army, Air Force, Marines) Rank (Navy, Coast Guard)
O-1/O-1E Second Lieutenant Ensign
O-2/O-2E First Lieutenant Lieutenant Junior Grade
O-3/O-3E Captain Lieutenant
O-4 Major Lieutenant Commander
O-5 Lieutenant Colonel Commander
O-6 Colonel Captain
O-7 Brigadier General Rear Admiral Lower Half
O-8 Major General Rear Admiral Upper Half
O-9 Lieutenant General Vice Admiral
O-10 General Admiral


*All information in this chart is taken from