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Teila K. Day | all galleries >> Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines: U.S. Military pay, Enlisted vs. Officer > Shhhhh... a few things military recruiters won't typically tell you!
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Shhhhh...  a few things military recruiters wont typically tell you!

Shhhhh... a few things military recruiters won't typically tell you!

First things first parents... if you son and or daughter is interested in the military, before they even SEE a recruiter, remind them that what they should be inquiring about FIRST are the OFFICER PROGRAMS that are available! DO NOT let a military recruiter start talking about enlisted jobs, when he or she hasn't breathed a word of OFFICER opportunities FIRST! Warn your kids that recruiters are programmed to talk about enlisted jobs. Young people enlist into the military every year without every knowing that they actually qualified (or could easily qualify) to go in as an officer, which is sad. The worse part is you still hear knuckle heads spewing "my recruiter screwed me".. when actually they screwed themselves by not doing basic homework before signing the dotted line.

* Take 3 months and study for the ASVAB (just so you know it cold). Then take the exam and get a GT (general technical) score over 110 (not hard, but a lot of folks don't make it!). Study the parts of the ASVAB that matter! Math, Science and Reading/comprehension... the rest of the exam has absolutely NOTHING to do with your GT Score, and has relatively little bearing on what job you get. The GT SCORE is usually the largest deciding factor on getting the "good" jobs, IF the job is even available.

* When talking to a recruiter, YOU or your kid should be actually leading the recruiter, not the other way around. One of the first things you should ask is "Tell me EVERYTHING (especially bonuses) that my child qualifies for". Have a list of questions for the recruiter. Ask quality questions like: "What do I have to do to become an officer in the army" (or whatever branch you're interested in). If it winds up that you don't yet qualify for a commission as an officer, and decide on enlisting- Then you should ask questions like: "What do I need to come in as an E4, E3, or E2 instead of coming in as an E1?" Being an Eagle Scout (Boy Scouts) or having earned the Gold Award (Girl Scouts) automatically qualifies you to come in as an E2. Have a college degree? You can come in as E4. Have 2 years of college, etc.? Then you qualify to come in as E3. The key is to read the applicable regulation with your own two beady eyes, and get out of the habit of believing information spoon fed to you by a recruiter who works for the Army's best interest, not yours.

SMART COLLEGE GRADUATE: "...ummm hold up there Mr. Recruiter. You say if I have 4 yrs of college then I can come in as an E4? Three enlisted ranks higher than those coming in with no college?"

RECRUITER: "Yes!! isn't that great! You'll be a Sergeant in no time!"

SMART COLLEGE GRADUATE: "ok.. well as a college graduate, if I came in as an Officer, wouldn't I come in as a 2LT (Second Lieutenant)... or, eh.. the equivalent of 10 RANKS HIGHER than the rank of E4 you were trying to sell me just a moment ago?"

[No doubt, some of you are wondering where the heck I'm coming up with "10 ranks higher". I know what you're thinking, but I'm ahead of you.. Let's count the ranks that you'd skip over by coming straight in as a commissioned officer (instead of enlisting as an E4 with a college degree).. ~~> " E5, E6, E7, E8, E9, WO1, CW2, CW3, CW4, CW5". WO1 (Warrant Officer 1)-CW5 (Chief Warrant Officer 5) are the Warrant Officer ranks (which equate to highly specialized enlisted ranks, that have the same respect, customs and courtesies as officers. Many will tell you that a Warrant Officer counts as an "officer". Without going into too much detail, thats not true. If a Warrant Officer transfers into a job in the Officer ranks... he or she will virtually never get Officer credit for being a Warrant Officer. * I think Warrant Officer (especially a Pilot) is one of the best positions in the military (Army/Navy/Marines). A warrant officer is a technical advisor and has a very narrow job scope. Unlike a Commissioned Officer, most Warrant Officers aren't in positions where they have to worry about the health, welfare, and providing leadership to enlisted troops. Unlike "NON COMMISSIONED" Officers (enlisted personnel), the Warrant Officer doesn't have to worry about doing "blue collar" or "grunt work". The Warrant Officer basically only really has to worry about him or herself... which many times in the military is the best thing in the world! (If you need clarification or more info... email; The Air Force by the way doesn't have Warrants.)

See what I'm getting at? I've been saying it for years, and you can quote me: "Education usually trumps experience.." <~~~~ say that to yourself over and over again for the rest of the day... re-read that quote 10 times.

* Usually, jobs that promote, the quickest, are the crummier jobs. In the Army, enlisted promotions are based on "promotions points" that are earned from several different areas such as: physical fitness, *college credit, military awards, and points earned at the promotion board. Promotions basically have nothing to do with whether or not you know how to do your job.. which becomes obvious once you're on active duty. You might be get promoted quicker because you might only have to earn 500pts to make the next rank as an infantry soldier. Your buddy might have to earn 770pts to get promoted to the same rank... he works in nuclear medicine...

Pay close attention, here's what often happens.. Your buddy, who like you, has been in the Army for five years.. but unlike you, had an associates degree when he came into the Army along with 3 semester hours in pre-calculus, and 3 semester hours in physics. *He uses tuition assistance and his G.I. Bill to finish his undergraduate degree at night. He puts in an application packet for Commissioned Officer, and subsequently gets accepted to Officer Candidate School (OCS). Now he is paid as a 2nd Lt, with over 5 years of active federal service. *When your buddy gets his first promotion as an officer- he'll be making the monthly pay, equivalent of what you'd be making if you had 20 YEARS EXPERIENCE doing your job in the military !!!! <~~ you might want to really think hard about that last sentence... read it 10 times veerrry sllooowwwwlly and let it sink in! it 10 times veerrry sllooowwwwlly and let it sink in! it 10 times veerrry sllooowwwwlly and let it sink in! it 10 times veerrry sllooowwwwlly and let it sink in! Get the message? Smell the coffee? Seeing reality yet? Which would you rather do.. work your ass off for 20 years for an enlisted retirement that's so small that you still have to work, or have a retirement paycheck that is equal to (or more than) the active duty pay of *MOST* enlisted personnel serving right now in the military? Which route is better if you have a family? Which route is better if you want to live in a nice area after retirement?

... it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure that one out.

* The Army has wonderful jobs that aren't typically mentioned at the recruiters office. Look at ALL JOBS the Army has to offer in the enlisted, warrant and commissioned officer ranks. The army even has jobs that most people in the army don't know about!

* Sometimes it matters "where" you sign up for the army. Recruiters in New Orleans won't have the same type of applicants as recruiters do in more affluent areas. Historically, standards have been somewhat lowered in the "hard to recruit" areas. If you can't get in at a recruiting station in Beverly Hills.. you might try New Orleans, Flint, Michigan or Gary, Indiana. You get the point.
Additionally, Recruiters often have a different set of standards that they can follow when it comes to putting people in the army. Example: Lets say that you didn't like your current army job, and wanted to try to switch jobs (called your "MOS".. Military Occupational Specialty). The job that you want might require you to have a 110 GT score, and if you have a 105 GT, then you're probably just out of luck. However, a Recruiter who is desperately trying to get people into the Army, often can get a person who doesn't quite have a high enough GT score into the job (of course this all depends on the Army's need).

* Pick a job that you want and stick to it. If you want to be an air traffic controller (ATC), then don't let a recruiter talk you into another job (assuming you have good test scores). A job that isn't available when you talked to the Recruiter, might be available in an hour, or by the end of the day. Job specialty openings come and go CONTINUOUSLY all day long because people are getting in and out of the military daily, so the numbers are always in flux. Remember, the recruiter's job is to be an agent for a particular branch of the military. *There is NO such thing as "my recruiter screwed me". As an adult, it is YOUR job to read, understand, and make absolutely no assumptions as to what is said or written. If you don't get what you want in writing, then it's all YOUR fault! You're an adult, not a child. Take responsibility for your own actions! If a recruiter forgot to hand in paper work on time in order to get you a waiver for flight school, then that's the RECRUITER'S fault (as long as you reminded him several times as the deadline approached) and that recruiter would be put out of the military if I had my way. However, If the recruiter promised you jump school, special forces school, delta force, sniper school, air assault school, and Ranger training, and you didn't get one dog-gone thing in writing on your contract, then that is YOUR FAULT! .. and YOU and only YOU are to blame for YOU winding up as a cook on some army ship out in the Atlantic.

Contracts: When dealing with the military (or any business for that matter), my rule of thumb is "If you don't have it in writing, then it isn't so." Ever hear people say "my recruiter promised me that I would go to jump school, but then screwed me" .. Really? How many of THOSE people can show you where it says "Jump School" in their contract? Get the picture?

* When the recruiter says: "oh, you can apply to jump school, ranger school, sniper school, flight school, etc.. once you're in the army" Did the recruiter lie? No! You CAN apply to those schools, but there is no promise that you'll be accepted. Again, if you failed to get it in writing.. good luck! :) Heck, anyone can apply to NASA to be an astronaut, but the chance of most getting accepted is slim to none. An F-student *CAN* apply to HARVARD, YALE, COLUMBIA, BROWN, PRINCETON... etc., but will not likely come even remotely close to being accepted. But that's common sense right? See the connection? It gets a bit more detailed than that- but basically, if you want to go to a specific school, get it in your contract ** BEFORE ** you go into the military. Ok, many of you might want to re-read the part where I said "get it in your contract ** BEFORE ** you go into the military!

* Remember, the military is notorious for using certain words to make a job sound like something that it isn't. Working with the "Engineer" unit in the military does NOT come remotely close to making you any where near the equivalent of a licensed civilian Engineer! This is where your common sense has to kick in. Do you reasonably think that an enlisted job with the Engineers is going to require you to have taken University Physics I & II, Calculus I, II & III, fluid dynamics, materials and composites, and General Chemistry? Of course not. Out of all of the enlisted people you've ever known in your life, how many have earned a B or higher in even two of those courses in college? That should be a clue to you. The army requires you to have a high school diploma or GED. That alone should make a huge light bulb turn on in your head.. what often sounds cool, ISN'T something that you really want to waste your time doing!

* Do have a GT (General Technical) score of 110 or better on the ASVAB before you sign up. Any score less than 110 GT will often make you ineligible for the "good" army jobs, and the really GOOD military schools... practically speaking, don't even think of becoming an officer or having a really great enlisted job with less than a 110 GT score. ** Read my lips... not having a GT score of 110 will generally lock you out of MANY army opportunities and schools, that would've been available to you if you had only had a 110 GT score. Go to your local bookstore, get the study guide, and study up before taking the exam.. plain and simple.

* Select jobs that require a LICENSE or TECHNICAL CERTIFICATE in the civilian sector! Unless you're a college graduate, or a military brat that knows your way around the military, you'll be best served in the long run taking only military jobs that have direct counterparts in the civilian sector; be sure that the equivalent job in the civilian sector requires a LICENSE! Why?

NOTE: These scenarios DO NOT include officers who are most often able to get decent jobs based on their managerial experience as an "Officer".

EXAMPLE #1: Bucky is an Infantry Man in the U.S. Army; gets out of the army 5 years later and finds it almost impossible to land a job that pays more than $5 per hour ABOVE minimum wage. Hard times ahead.
[Common sense hint: guy has NO education nor license]

EXAMPLE #2: Tommy is a large truck driver in the U.S. Army; gets out of the army 5 years later, and doesn't have a problem getting local trucking jobs that require a CDL (Commercial Drivers License) with a HAZMAT (hazardous material) endorsement. Even if the soldier has to take a civilian CDL course/exam and practical test, this soldier won't have a problem, and will earn enough to reasonably support a family, shortly after getting out of the army.
[Your common sense hint: commercial LICENSE required]

EXAMPLE #3: Jenifer is a practical nurse in the U.S. Army. She took the civilian LPN (License Practical Nurse) NCLEX exam while still in the army and passed with flying colours! The 5 years of experience on the job helped! She gets out of the army after 5 years, and within 2 weeks is working at a county hospital making $9 OVER minimum wage. She works most nights and weekends, while going to college to complete her Bachelors Degree in Nursing. After completion, she will make over $43,000 per year as an RN (Registered Nurse) in her locale. If she goes back into the army as an officer (with her 5 years of enlisted experience) how much will she make? *Refer to the pay charts; Find 01E on the left row, then find over 4 years on the top column.. where they intersect is her base pay, which doesn't include over $200 per month for food, nor generally over $500 per month for housing; both of which are tax free. [Guess what? ~~~~~ > Bachelors Degree AND nursing license required!] ... Basically, Jenifer will reap just over $40,000 during her first year as a 2LT, but in less than 2 years her pay goes up to slightly over $51,000! Thats more than a $10,000 raise just because of her years in service and her first automatic promotion from 2LT to 1LT! What was the result of her using EDUCATION over experience? She'll make nearly the same pay as an 0-2E (1st LT) as she would if she would've been an enlisted E-8 with ***** 18 years experience *****. Enough said. If you don't get it by now... you're just not going to get it ;)

* IMPORTANT NOTE ~~> Jenifer will likely get a "prior experience credit" for working in the same field as an enlisted soldier. She would likely come in as a 1LT (O-2), and make $45,000 per year base pay + an est. $8,000 per annum (food & housing pay), for a total of $53,000 per annum on her first year on the job as an officer. :: NOTE :: In three years, she will have made Captain (O-3E on the pay charts) and will be making only $519 less (in 3 years), than the highest enlisted rank (E-9) makes after 26 YEARS OF SERVICE !!! Ok boys and girls.. read that last part sssllloooowwwlllyy. *After only 10 years of active federal service (only 3 of those years as a Commissioned Officer), she will make almost as much as an enlisted guy at the TOP of the enlisted pay scale who has been busting his ass in the enlisted ranks for OVER 26 YEARS !!! ... as a Captain (O-3E on the pay scale), she's basically still in the Junior Officer Ranks! A TEXTBOOK EXAMPLE OF HOW EDUCATION GENERALLY TRUMPS HARD WORK AND EXPERIENCE. [Your common sense hint: Education + license]

EXAMPLE #4: Jackie was trained as a F-15 jet engine mechanic and has been doing the job for nearly 10 years in the U.S. Air Force. Got out of the military while stationed at Langley A.F.B., Virginia.. She subsequently earned her Airframe and Power plant "ticket" from the regional airport in Norfolk, Virginia. She busted her hump studying at Old Dominion University (Norfolk, Virginia), and earned her Undergraduate Degree in Electrical Engineering. She takes a job working for Boeing in Saudi Arabia. Her total benefit package with Boeing (which includes a 3,600 sf house within an American "compound") is worth $78,000 per annum.. most of which is non-taxable by the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
*you guessed it... her 4-year degree was REQUIRED by Boeing, and her A&P License and prior experience was "preferred". She later found out that without her formal education, she would not have been hired- and without her experience and A&P license, she wouldn't have been competitive in the marketplace. Experience is worthwhile, but education trumps experience nearly 100% of the time. [Your common sense Hint: Education + license= better job]

Sure, many people with minimal formal education have found great jobs, but I'm betting that you, being the intelligent person that you are, can see the obvious trend. Jobs that require formal education past high school AND a LICENSE, are usually much better avenues to a more financially secure future than jobs without such requirements.

NOTE: We've received overwhelmingly positive emails on this piece, and we appreciate those of you who've taken time out to send us such lengthy notes! When you get that degree or commission, be sure to let us know!

*** LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC (I've only scratched the surface here)


* THE PROMOTION STRUCTURE (some military jobs have higher ranking positions to "get promoted" into... others have very few! Know what jobs promote the fastest! Know what jobs are the "good jobs")


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