US Marine Corps – Pay, Benefits and Careers

The United States Marine Corps is home to some of the most elite military members in the world. While being a Marine takes pride and determination, there are many benefits that come with the job. A regular salary and allowances are just some of the guaranteed benefits that each Marine will receive once they complete training.
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Marine Corps pay and benefits

The United States Marine Corps is home to some of the most elite military members in the world. While being a Marine takes pride and determination, there are many benefits that come with the job. A regular salary and allowances are just some of the guaranteed benefits that each Marine will receive once they complete training.

Pay and Benefits for Marines 

To become a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, you must meet the age, education, and other requirements. You must also pass physical fitness and aptitude tests, according to the Marine Corps official website

Once a Marine enters boot camp, he or she is eligible to begin to receive basic monthly pay and benefits.

Marines are eligible to receive the following benefits:

  • Military housing or a housing allowance
  • Food allowance
  • Medical care for Marines and their families
  • Education benefits
  • Retirement plans
  • Affordable life insurance

Marine Corps Salary 

Those joining the military with higher education or special skills may be eligible to start their salaries at a higher pay grade or with bonuses for certain skills, like foreign language fluency. Some with a college education may be eligible to join the Marine Corps as an officer. 

Check with a recruiter to verify current information, requirements, and available benefits before signing an enlistment contract.

The higher the rank and length of service, the more money Marines earn each month. Some pay and promotions depend on specific job training or education. Newly enlisted Marines can earn promotions based on job performance. 

For example, pay increase benefits you get after four years in the Marines, put you at about $2,714 per month at the rank of E-4, compared to $2,330 to $2,582 for less time in service at the same rank, according to 2021 pay tables.

All military salaries follow the same pay scale, regardless of which branch the service member is in. Here is the most current military pay chart.

The 2021 Military Basic Pay Charts do not include Marine Corps allowances and bonuses. In 2022, military pay is expected to increase 2.7%, based on the White House’s defense budget proposal. 

Additional Benefits of Joining the US Marine Corps


Active-duty Marines can live in on-base housing if it is available and access the base dining hall. Otherwise, they will be eligible to receive a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), and a food allowance called Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS).

Beyond the valuable technical skill and leadership training all Marines receive, they are also eligible for a variety of education benefits, like tuition assistance to pay for college courses or certification programs and the Montgomery GI Bill or Post-9/11 GI Bill for taking college classes or certification programs during or after military service.

Marines are also eligible to receive affordable life insurance through the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI). Military members can also apply for Veterans Group Life Insurance Benefits (VGLI) after leaving the service. These are group life insurance programs, which are often less expensive than an individual life insurance policy.

Other special incentives and bonus payments include:

  • Flight Pay
  • Sea Pay
  • Hazardous Duty Pay
  • Proficiency Pay
  • Family Separation Allowances
  • Overseas Housing Allowances

Marine Corps Retirement

The military offers a retirement pension of up to 50% of a service member’s base pay after 20 years of active-duty service. Pension payments start the month after an eligible Marine retires. Active-duty Marines can begin receiving pension payments before age 40 if they began serving before they turned 20. (Reservists must wait until age 55 at the earliest). 

Service members who enlist after 2018 can not use the pension, but they are eligible for the Blended Retirement System. Under BRS, the government will contribute 1% of your base pay to your Thrift Savings Plan, and match up to 4% of your own contributions (for a total of a 5% monthly pay contribution by the government). 

In addition to retirement benefits, active-duty military retirees and their eligible dependents can receive Tricare benefits for the rest of their lives. (Again, reservists must wait until at least age 55).  

Health Insurance in the Marine Corps

When you join the Marine Corps, you and your family receive access to world-class health insurance. Tricare coverage —Tricare Prime, Select, and Extra — is for active duty, reservists, retired Marines, and their families.

The military automatically enrolls recruits in Tricare Prime when they show up to boot camp. They can keep this coverage as long as they remain in active duty status. This includes recruits who enlisted as reservists until they have completed all of their training schools. 

Active-duty Marines and their families can continue receiving medical care through Tricare Prime at no cost.  

Marine Corps reservists are eligible for Tricare Reserve Select, a low-cost military-sponsored health insurance option for members of the Selected Reserve. 

When activated, service members and their families can switch from Tricare Reserve Select to Tricare Select or Tricare Prime. When they leave active duty service. They can also look into civilian or supplemental insurance.

Marine Spouse Benefits

The U.S. Marine Corps offers many programs and benefits to Marine spouses. 

Military spouses who want to further their education can earn use their spouse’s transferred Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits or the MyCAA program to earn a professional certification or college degree.

Military spouses with children can take advantage of discounted childcare at an on-base Child Development Center (CDC). If a CDC program is not available, an in-home Family Child Care (FCC) program can be used. 

Spouses have the option to enroll in the Family Servicemembers Group LIke Insurance (FSGLI) program, which offers different rates and levels of life insurance. The cost for FSGLI coverage will be automatically deducted from the service member’s pay check, along with the cost of the SGLI policy.

Medical and Prescription Drug Benefits

The VA offers comprehensive medical services to qualifying spouses and families of fallen service members and veterans. 

Some of these benefits include emergency care, surgeries, health exams, immunizations, mental health services, prescriptions, acute and specialized care and more.

  • VA Healthcare: The VA offers health care to the military at nearly 1,300 facilities for regular checkups with primary care providers and specialists. Veterans health care services also include access to prescriptions, home health care, elder care, access to medical equipment and prosthetics. 
  • Tricare: Spouses of active-duty, retired or deceased Marines, reservist or Medal of Honor recipients may qualify for medical benefits through the Tricare program. Managed by the Defense Department’s Defense Health Agency, this program offers comprehensive health coverage, prescription and dental plans. 
  • Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) program: Spouses or dependent children of an active-duty veteran with disabilities or a service member who died in the line of duty that can’t qualify for Tricare may be able to get healthcare benefits through CHAMPVA. It is a cost-sharing program that covers the cost of some healthcare services and supplies and may offer prescription benefits as well.

Qualifying for the GI Bill

The Montgomery GI Bill and Post-9/11 GI Bill help cover the cost of attending college, graduate school, technical training, job certification, on-the-job and apprenticeship training and licensing programs. 

The program also helps some family members of veterans help pay for their schooling or professional training if the service member transfers the benefit to a dependent. 

Depending on which GI Bill the service member uses, benefits may also include tuition and fees coverage, a monthly housing allowance and a stipend for books and supplies. 

The first step is determining eligibility. Veterans’ GI Bill Statement of Benefits will outline how much they are qualified to receive for their education. 

Service members can contact the admission department at their school of choice for more information. There is no time limit on when service members or veterans can use their GI Bill, as long as they fulfill their service obligations.

How Long Do You Have To Be In The Marines To Get Benefits?

Most service member benefits start as soon as the service member enlists or commissions. Some, like the Post-9/11 GI Bill, require a period of active-duty service before the service member or their family members are eligible. 

Active-duty Marines may be eligible for VA health care benefits if they became sick or injured in the line of duty and did not receive a dishonorable discharge. 

  • Marines who enlisted after September 7, 1980, or entered active duty after October 16, 1981, must have served 24 continuous months or the full period they were called to active duty to receive benefits.
  • The minimum duty requirement may not apply if a Marine was discharged for a disability that was caused by or made worse by active-duty service, discharged or early out for a hardship, or who served prior to September 7, 1980.
  • Marines who serve at least 20 years are eligible for a variety of retirement benefits. Those benefits and requirements vary between active service members and Reservists.

What Does “Commissioning” Mean?

“Commissioning” refers to the formal commission document that makes a service member an officer. 

These documents are signed with the President’s name (usually by the Department of Defense). Some military commissions – including direct commissions and commissions to higher ranks –  must have congressional approval.

Marine Commissioning Programs provide opportunities for enlisted Marines, high school and college students to earn the title of Marine Officer. Here are the Marine commissioning programs, according to Marine Corps Recruiting Command.

  • U.S. Naval Academy
  • Platoon Leaders Course (PLC)
  • Officer Candidate Course (OCC)
  • Enlisted Commissioning Program (ECP)
  • Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC)
  • Reserve Enlisted Commissioning Program (RECP)
  • Meritorious Commissioning Program Reserve (MCP-R)
  • Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Educational Program (MECEP)

Careers in the US Marine Corps

The USMC offers a variety of high tech and low tech careers, including jobs in the infantry, special forces, aviation, vehicle maintenance, electronics, communications, and more. The career and training opportunities are endless. 

When choosing your military career, you may want to consider how it will translate into the civilian workforce. Many of the jobs available will give you advanced skills or clearance levels that are valuable in the civilian workforce. Even if you plan to do a full 20-year active duty career now, you may have to leave early if you’re injured or unable to meet Marine Corps requirements later. 

Check out the Department of Labors’ military crosswalk search tool. 

You can enter your prospective military profession into the search box to see a job summary and some examples of skills you can use on your resume. 

Is the Marine Corps worth joining?

The U.S. Marines’ reputation as one of the most elite military forces in the world is well-earned. Men and women have the opportunity to enlist in all occupations and gain valuable job experience while serving the country.

Service members and their families have access to excellent health, dental care, and retirement benefits. 

Marine Corps tuition assistance, along with the Montgomery GI Bill and Post-9/11 GI Bill can help cover the cost of attending college. Marines will also find a strong sense of pride, legacy, and community among past and present Marines – sometimes referred to as “Espirit de Corps,” or, “the spirit of the corps.”

We are United States Marines, and for two and a quarter centuries we have defined the standards of courage, esprit, and military prowess.”

James L. Jones, retired United States Marine Corps four-star general
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About Kathryn Pomroy

Kathryn Pomroy is a contributor for The Military Wallet with over 15 years of experience writing for major publications, military publications, business journals and small- and medium-size business clients. She is a Navy brat with early work experience that spanning military benefits, recruiting, finances, deployment, mental wellness, and more. Kathryn holds a degree in journalism and lives in northern Minnesota.

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