How Much Money Do You Make In The Air Force.

How Much Money Do You Make In The Air Force?

So how much money do you make in the Air Force? I used to always tell my recruits that if you are joining the Air Force with the hopes to make millions then you are joining for the wrong reasons. 

With that being said, the opportunity to become successful and wealthy is as much an opportunity for you as it is for anyone.  You’re not going to get there from your paycheck alone, but with some education, creativity, determination and luck, the world of wealth is just as accessible to an Airman as it is to every other person.

The paycheck the Air Force gives you isn’t so bad either!

The money you make in the Air Force comes in different names and clothing if you will. I will attempt to explain all the different ways you make money in the Air Force. 

The First Way You Make Money In the Air Force Is Your Basic Pay. 

This is your main monthly salary and is based on your rank. For example in 2012 an E-1 Airman Basic will come in making about 1400 a month.  The thing the progression from E-1 to E-3 is so fast that most people who join the Air Force are E-3 by the time they arrive at their first duty station.

An E-3 with less than 2 years in the Air Force will make about $1750 a month. That may not impress a lot of people but for your average 17 year old or even 23 year old that is pretty good money.  If you want to look at the pay chart you can visit this link.

Hold on though, because you actually make more money than that in the Air Force.

A normal civilian would have to live off of that income and figure out how to live. Whereas the average Amn only worries about what new truck there going to buy and what size rims there going to get on it.

How is this possible?

Simple, because just about everything else is already paid for.

The Second Way You Make Money In The Air Force Is Your Free Housing or BAH

If you are single, you will more than likely live in a dorm room.  Imagine a Studio apt and you will get the idea of your living accommodations. The Air Force is constantly upgrading their facilities and making improvements on quality of life issues.  Your dorm room comes fully furnished and you are able to decorate it as you wish (in good taste, ie no racist posters, pornography etc).

You have your own room, kitchen and basically everything you need for FREE! So that $1750 is still just spending money.

Did I mention that you do not pay for electric, gas or water? Yes that means you can run your AC all summer and your heat all winter and never worry about a bill.

If you have a family and do are not going to live in the dorms, don’t worry that $1750 is still yours (or your spouse and kids).  air force base housing

There are two options, for those not living in the Air Force dormitories. 

  • You can live in base housing
  • You can live off base in the community

If you decide to live in Air Force base housing, then just like the dorm room scenario everything is free. Yes gas, electric all that.

Just think, Dorm room = nice Apt complex, Base Housing = gated neighborhood community.

You don’t even have to pay for repairs! If your garbage disposal breaks, they come fix it. If your power doesn’t work, they come fix it. If your new 60” TV goes out…… no they don’t fix that, go buy another.

Now if you live off base you will receive extra money every month to help pay for the rent.  This pay is called BAH Basic Allowance for Housing.  The amount of BAH you get depends on your rank and where the base is located.

So for example an E-7 MSgt stationed at Moody AFB in Valdosta GA could receive less than an E-3 A1C stationed in Hawaii.

For the right person, you can actually make extra money by living off base if you can find rent that is less than your BAH.

Also you don’t necessarily have to have a family in order to live in base housing or off base. Many young Airmen I know opt to rent out a house with a buddy or two and literally make a fortune on the pocketed housing money. 

For example Airman A, B, and C each will receive $800 a month if they move off base.  They go on craigslist and find a nice 3 bedroom home with a hot tub and a swimming pool (you know for exercise and relaxation) for $1100 a month. 

You get the picture.

So you have about $1750 a month and you have a place to live. What else does one need in order to live? Oh yeah food!

The Third Way You Make Money In The Air Force is BAS Basic Allowance For Sustenance (lunch money).

The amount of money you make for BAS is determined by the Govt.  The rate is about $350 a month for enlisted and $240 for an Officer (enlisted folks eat more ;-) ). Also BAS is tax free as well. You can click here to get a good idea of what your pay will be.  

If you live in the dorms you do not get this money, instead you get to eat for free in the Air Force Dining Facilities (DFAC). I will be the first to tell you that the rumors you hear about  chow hall slop are far from true. It may not be momma’s home cooking but it’s far from slop.

Air Force DFAC


The Dining Facilities actually compete every year for an award, so they are always striving to make things tastier and more efficient.

The typical DFAC will have a beautiful salad bar, pizza station, burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, sub sandwiches and that’s  just the fast food line. You also have things like spaghetti, steak, ribs, chicken,  and all the fixins on the traditional dinner side.

And then you have your array of desserts, drinks and fruits. I’m probably leaving stuff out because there is just so much and yes it is all FREE!

So now you get a pay check (Basic Pay), You get a place to live (BAH) and you get fed (BAS or DFAC).

What more do you need?

Ahh you like to go out shopping and enjoy recreational activities.  Yep the Air Force helps with that too.

The Fourth Way You Make Money Is The Air Force Is Through Discounts.

You have all the recreational facilities and shopping on base such as the BX, Commissary, Bowling Alley Golf Course etc. You also can receive discounts for things off base.

Let’s start with on base.

The BX is basically a military version of Target (the old one before they started selling groceries). Whether you want a new pair of shoes or a laptop you will find it at the BX and it is tax free.  The commissary is a full grocery store and the meat is normally at least 25% cheaper than you will find off base.

The one thing I don’t like about the Commissary is that the baggers work for tips and they always carry your groceries to the car.  I don’t want to be a jerk, but man I can carry my own groceries.  Oh well some people like that sort of thing.

Also there are tons of recreational things to do on base and it is also very reasonably priced. Whether you want to play golf or take golf lessons you can do it. If you want to go bowling, it’s there. Take a deep sea fishing trip, depending on where you live, no problem!

If you want to participate in off base activities you can also receive military discounts.

Normally you will receive military discounts at movie theaters, clothing stores, restaurants, auto service centers (which are also available on base for cheap), and theme parks just to name a few.

I don’t remember the last time I paid full price to go to Disney World, Sea World or any theme park. Here’s a picture from our recent trip to Sesame Place in Pennsylvania. Yes my huge family all got in FREE!

sesame place


The Fifth Way You Make Money In The Air Force, Free Medical Care

If your 18 years old and bullet proof you may not see the immediate value in this but if you or your loved ones have ever experienced mounting medical bills due to some unforeseen medical problem than you know the value in having free medical care.

The free medical benefits in the Air Force is so valuable that people actually join the Air Force just for the medical benefits. 

It doesn’t matter if you break your femur or if you have a headache, you are covered 100% as long as it was not due to negligence.  You have no idea how much free 800mg Motrin I have in my medicine cabinet courtesy of the Air Force.

From free prescriptions medication to full blown surgery you are covered.

Any idea how much it would cost to get treatment for a broken arm, how about depression, or better yet how much would it cost to remove your gall bladder.

Google it.

Then try to calculate how many paychecks (that you get to keep in your pocket) that it would take to pay for it.  

The Sixth Way You Make Money In The Air Force Is Through Free Education.

Tuition assistance currently pays up to 100% of your tuition. There is a cap though. Currently it is $250 per semester hour up to $4500 per year.  The Air Force also does everything they can to make it convenient for you to utilize your education benefits as well.

You can take classes on-line, they offer classes from well known colleges on base (even overseas and in deployed locations like Iraq) or you can go to college at a nearby institution.

 I have bachelors, associates, and more professional certifications than I can count.  All Free!

The Montgomery GI bill is another great source of money for education and one that I plan to use to help pay for my kids education.  You can also use it for your spouse’s education.

The Seventh Way You Make Money In The Air Force Is Your Air Force Retirement Pay.

This one here is the golden nugget. This is so unique that civilian organizations can’t touch it. Basically you work for 20 years and you get a pay check for the rest of your life.

How many organizations offer that?

So if you join when your 17, when you turn 37 you can retire and get a paycheck every month for the REST OF YOUR LIFE.

Without splitting hairs, you basically get half of what the average of your last 3 years of your base pay was.

So let’s say year 17 I made $3100 a month, year 18 $3150, and year 19 $3250. Thats an average of $3166. Half of that which is $1583 is what you get for the REST OF YOUR LIFE!

Doesn’t sound like much huh? (did I mention REST OF YOUR LIFE!) You wouldn’t believe the number of old guys who tell me they wish they would’ve finished 20 so they could be getting that paycheck right now. 

There are so many other ways you make money in the Air Force depending on your situation.  I am not going to bore you in great detail with all of them though.

Couple Of Important Things To Mention About Making Money In The Air Force.

Your BAH and BAS is tax free.  This means that you don’t pay any tax on it. So at the end the year when you file taxes, which oh by the way is also free if you so choose it to be, you are only taxed on your base pay.

Another thing is that every year that I have been in we have gotten a raise. They may not always be as much as we would like, sometimes they are better than we expect but without fail we have always gotten a raise. Not only do you normally get a raise in your base pay but also your BAH as well.

Real Quick Then I’ll Shut Up. Here is a quick list of additional ways you make money in the Air Force.

If you have any questions about any of these items just leave a comment below and I will either answer your question, or write up a post about it.

  • Cost of living allowance (COLA)
  • Essential Station Messing (ESM)
  • Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance (FSSA)
  • Family Separation Allowance (FSA)
  • Hardship Duty Pay (HDP)
  • Hostile Fire Pay/Imminent danger pay
  • Per Diem when TDY
  • Travel Reimbursements
  • Special Duty Pays
  • Hazardous Duty Pays
  • Montgomery GI Bill
  • Innovative Development Through Employee Awareness (IDEA)
  • Legal Assistance
  • Promotions
  • VA Home Loans
  • Small Business Loans
  • Space Available Travel (free plane rides)

That’s all I got for you on this topic unless you can think of something I didn’t mention. If so just post a comment and I’ll be sure to reply.

Talk to you later.


Click here for a cool tool that will give you a snap shot of how much money you will make in the Air Force   


  1. how about the guys who went to college for 1 1/2 yrs. what kind of advantage they get when it comes to money and rank than a normal high school graduate?

  2. MSgt Reed says:

    Depending on how many college credits you have from an accredited college you can come in at a higher rank. 20 semester hours gets you E-2, 45 gets you E-3

  3. If you need a car to geat you from point a to point b will they help you get one

  4. MSgt Reed says:

    Well you will have a job so that’s a bonus. Plus every base I’ve been to offers first time car buyers classes. Then of course you have your supervision who, if asked will help you as well.

    Not sure what other type of help you’re referring to, but there is help for those who seek it.

  5. So I have my Associates of Arts Degree and an Air Force recruiter told me I could jump up to E-2 or E-3. Is he correct?

  6. I have a bachelors degree in biology and i would like a medical job. As a former recruiter what do you think are my chances of getting a medical job (preferably optometry related.. assuming my ASVAB scores are good)? What rank will i enter as? Would you suggest i try to become an officer or go enlisted?

  7. MSgt Reed says:

    First of all congrats on attaining your bachelors degree. Your degree will get you as an E-3. As far as getting a medical job much less optometry, well it all depends. I would say it’s not very good but then again things do happen. You do have a degree in biology which could help you. Ask your recruiter about the EWQ (exceptionally well qualified) program. I have been able to get highly qualified applicants their job choice granted they met the requirements.

    Do I suggest you become an officer? That would be great if you qualify. Problem is you have a non technical degree which makes it a bit harder. I recommend you first go talk with an officer recruiter and see what type of response you get. My guess will be that you would only qualify for flying or rated positions, pilot, flight engineer, etc.

    But it never hurts to ask. Alot of times it is easier to transition into the officer corp once you already have a foot in the door.

    Good luck to you.

  8. MSgt Reed says:

    Yes, you should get E-3.

  9. I’ve been in JROTC for 2 years now somebody told me if Ive been in JROTC for 3 years and then graduate high school go to afbmt I’ll be ranked as a E-3 right from the start when I go there is that true?

  10. MSgt Reed says:

    Yes Corbin that’s true. 2 yrs of JROTC will get you E2 3 or more will get you E4

  11. OK thanks for telling me that and I was also wondering what workout I can do to get ready for afbmt? Because I want to be ready for the hardcore training I’m going to do to

  12. MSgt Reed says:

    Corbin, I would really focus on push ups, sit ups and running. Don’t focus on weights and all that, you can do that once you graduate. Just increase your cardiovascular endurance by running. Increase your push-ups and sit-ups as well. If you can perform well in these areas, BMT will be much easier for you.

    Strive for 60 push-ups and 60 sit-ups in a minute. Also strive for 1.5 miles in under 11 mins. That will get you off to a very strong start.

  13. OK thanks so much for telling me a decent workout that’s easy to understand I really appreciate it and I have another question so once I graduate high school then I’ll be a E-4 right when I go through afbmt?

  14. MSgt Reed says:

    You will get E3 after basic training, you will get E4 28 months after that.

  15. OK thanks for telling me

  16. What do I do do to prepare for the adsvab and where do I take it?

  17. MSgt Reed says:

    read this post for tips on passing the ASVAB
    To take it you can talk to a recruiter. If you’re still in High School you can take it at school if they offer it. Talk to your Guidance Counselor. Good luck

  18. Hey, Ive read over your site and let me just say it seems to good to be true like why would anyone make the choice to not do this, but here’s my question, I have not made the best Choices and i feel like time is running out. I’m 20 years old and I dropped out when I was 17. I’ll be 21 in October so I really want to go into the air force before I waste any more time but I still have no GED or High school diploma everyone keeps tellin me I can’t go into the air force with a GED is this true? If so its fine I can get my diploma I just want to get in as soon as possible so I can start my life and stop depending on my dad and family for help.

  19. MSgt Reed says:

    Yes you can join the Air Force with a GED, there are stipulations though. Read about it here

  20. Tedra Sanders says:

    How fast do you leave for the military once all the paperwork is finished ?

  21. MSgt Reed says:

    That all depends on when your job comes available. You have to go to MEPS and enlist. Then you have to wait to book a job. When you book a job you will find out when you leave. The more open you are to job choices the better chance you have of getting one sooner and leaving sooner.

  22. Matt Walsh says:

    Hey I have a dep question. Okay I’m in dep right now (will be a senior next year) and I have already been to Meps and all. Now my recruiter calls me every few weeks to ask about jobs that I now qualify for or am allowed to do? I already picked me 7 and I am colorblind and some of the jobs were never on my list. So I was wondering how does that all work and is it possible to change the order. Now I’ve added jobs like loadmasters, crew chief, etc. I had intelligence as my #1 but I want to change it up for example. Structural Maintenance 1, loadmaster 2, then from there I would have to think haha. One last question. Now my job will be guaranteed. So how will that be chosen for me, and do have any way with what I get? Thank you so much for your feedback can’t wait to hear back.

  23. MSgt Reed says:

    Hey Matt,

    Check out this link and let me know if you still have questions.

  24. I was wonder because I have a 10 letter word tattooed on my right forarm does that lesson my chances on joining ?

  25. MSgt Reed says:


    Read this article and let me know if you still have questions.

  26. Wow, so basicually I can’t join becuase it shows like I can’t get it removed I’m broke lol but I was wondering does the airforce have waviers bc you only can see it if you stand behind me and I figured that their only see it when I wear pt so can they just ley it slide? aha it doesn’t mean anything bad help me out

  27. MSgt Reed says:

    Not necessarily, if it covers less than 1/4 of your forearm you may be fine.

  28. Oh ok thanks a lot you helped a lot I was really just over thinking !

  29. Hi, um well I am highly considering joining the air force after my second year of college. My major is Biology, but I would like to change it to become a translator. (seen if my test scores is good to be a linguist), is it possible for me to finish my degree to be an interpreter/translator , and then serve active duty as a linguist in the air force. I really love foreign languages and would like to finish school first because my family values that more than anything. and then I would like to serve for 10 years or plus. Is that possible? I am 19 now so if I could finish school first, I would be 22-24. I read that training is long for a linguist so that is why im asking.
    And if it is possible, could they pay for my education overseas for free or would I have to stay in the U.S.?

  30. MSgt Reed says:

    You don’t need a degree to be a linguist in the Air Force. If you want to finish school before you join, you are free to do that of course, but it is not necessary. It would at least be worth your time to talk to a recruiter to see if you are even qualified for the Air Force.

    You will have to take the DLAB test to see if you qualify as a linguist and yes the school is quite long once you are accepted and go off to training. I have never heard anyone who dislikes the job and I have put several people into it.

    It is rewarding and you will definitely have a great opportunity to travel and see the world. Yes you still can go to college if you joined now and the Air Force still currently pays up to 100% of you tuition.

    Good luck

  31. So, I should talk to a recruiter and do my best:) Thanks for the advice.

  32. De'Shun House says:

    How long do you have to be in the Air Force before you get your benefits such as dental care because I want to get my braces back on?

  33. MSgt Reed says:

    You get medical benefits from day one. However braces are cosmetic and typically not something the Air Force offers. There are cases where you can try to sign up for them, basically so the dentists can practice and stay proficient, but thats on a case by case basis.

  34. Will the military pay for ear surgery if I was born with some missing cartilage?

  35. smoore,

    There are some instances where the Air Force will do cosmetic surgery. It’s not standard practice though. For example there are women in the Air Force that have gotten breast implants courtesy of the Air Force. There is a waiting list for surgeries like this, and getting in can be difficult. They are also only performed at certain locations and you would have to pay for travel expenses and such.

    So no guarantee, and I wouldn’t get my hopes up, but it could be possible.

  36. Thanks. And ill be entering the air force as an e-3 , but is it true that about $600 will be deducted out of that $1, 750 per month for taxes?

  37. Well no matter where you work if you made $1750 they would take that out for taxes, if that is indeed the amount. It would depend on several factors and if you want an accurate tax assessment you can try this link

    But yeah taxes are taxes no matter where you work. Welcome to America.

    On a positive note, that $1750 is your base pay. That doesn’t include all the other non taxable pay you will receive each month on top of it. But if you find a tax loop hole please don’t forget to share it with me. I’m always looking for legal ways to keep more of my hard earned money in my pocket :-)

  38. check out this entitlements calculator that will show you how much you will get paid in the Air Force

  39. So roughly how much would I be making after taxes on the 1st and 15th ? Just an estimate would be nice . Also keep in mind that im an e3 and that link you gave me , the page wouldn’t load for some reaaon.

  40. On the right hand side of this page under the heading “Visit the Forum” click “Anything Goes” Theres a pay calculator there

  41. I have 12 college credits and what will my rank would be? Because I’m thinking to join airforce.

  42. Ochir,

    you don’t get anything for 12 college credits. you get E-2 for 20 and E-3 for 45.

  43. Okay my Question is I am 18 I had great grades in high school I was in the top of my class. So if I was to join where could I be stationed at because I am great with computers?

  44. Owen,
    You could be stationed at any of the many bases all over this world. (just like anybody else). You would need to take the ASVAB, get a job then you could choose where you would like to go.

  45. My concern is, I make around 30 grand a year right now,with no college education, and am wanting to join, but i feel like it would put a financial crutch on my family. The pay starting out is very low, how do people with family’s survive on that until they are able to move up in rank?

  46. MSgt Reed says:

    adrienne, let say you come in making about 1800 a month, add in lets say 900 a month for BAH (housing money, tax free) and 250 for BAS (food money tax free) you are already looking at about $35k a year. that doesnt include medical and dental care for you and your family, clothing allowance and all the other money saving benefits. You would make more than you do now, and you would be getting a free education as well.

  47. jellington says:

    I currently make around $45,000 a year. I’m married with a daughter. I also have a Masters Degree. Would I be financially sound to take care of them if I joined?

  48. maverickheart says:

    Does this article apply to the Air Force RESERVES too? Also, those medical benefits ur talking about, do they give u the money for it even if u dont have any medical problems? And is it given monthly along with other incentives even if u dont use it like (medical care, cost of living and those additional payments u mentioned last)? Or are those paid directly? How are those paid to the airman monthly? Are there certain incentives that arent paid to the airman monthly? Help me out here, thnx.

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