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


*** 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


*All information in this chart is taken from