Highest-Paying Jobs in the Air Force

Oct 20, 2021

The Air Force pays its service members according to rank and time served. We will explore the five highest-paid enlisted ranks in the Air Force. In addition, we will also explain the requirements needed to move up to each of the ranks.

Career Comparison

Rank Median Entry-Level Monthly Salary (2018)* Applicable Military Skills/Traits
E-9 Chief Master Sergeant $5,173.80 Mentor skills, leadership skills
E-8 Senior Master Sergeant $4,235.40 Management skills, leadership skills
E-7 Master Sergeant $2,944.20 Management, operations
E-6 Technical Sergeant $2,546.40 Leadership skills, attention to detail
E-5 Staff Sergeant $2,332.80 Writing performance reports, addressing memorandums

Source: *Defense Finance and Accounting Service

E-9 Chief Master Sergeant

The highest-paid enlisted rank in the Air Force is the E-9 Chief Master Sergeant (CMSAF). The CMSAF's pay increases automatically every year or two but does not exceed $8,033.10 per month.

A promotion to Chief Master Sergeant is hard to achieve. The most important aspect of receiving a promotion to Chief Master Sergeant is obtaining the approval of the centralized promotion board. After serving 14 years of active duty service and 21 months time-in-grade, a Senior Master Sergeant has the time served and time-in-grade requirements needed to move up to the rank of Chief Master Sergeant. On average, it takes over 22 years to reach this rank.

E-8 Senior Master Sergeant

The E-8 Senior Master Sergeant (SMSgt) is the second highest-paid enlisted rank in the Air Force. After 40 years of the service, the Senior Master Sergeant's pay will reach a top ceiling of $6,040 a month.

In order to move up to the rank of Senior Master Sergeant, the E-7 Master Sergeant Officer must pass strict requirements. They must receive approval from a three-person Central Evaluation Board (CEB). The CEB examines past promotion records, performance reports, technical skills, military experience, and level of education achieved. In addition, the SMSgt must successfully complete the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Correspondence Course.

E-7 Master Sergeant

E-7 Master Sergeant (MSgt) is the third highest-paid enlisted rank in the Air Force. The MSgt receives raises in accordance with their increasing experience, reaching a maximum base pay rate of $5,291.40 per month.

A Master Sergeant is a senior noncommissioned officer. The rank of E-7 Master Sergeant can be achieved by reaching a 7-skill level, serving 8 years of time-in-serve (TIS), and serving 24 months of time-in-grade (TIG). On average, it usually takes 17 years of active duty to reach this rank.

E-6 Technical Sergeant

The E-6 Technical Sergeant (TSgt) is the fourth highest-paid enlisted rank in the Air Force. As experience in this rank is gained, corresponding raises are issued until the pay is $3,944.10 a month (after 40 years of service).

A E-5 Staff Sergeant with 23 months of time-in-grade and five years of active duty is eligible for a promotion to E-6 Technical Sergeant. On average, this rank is achieved in 12 years. The Technical Sergeant and the Senior Master Sergeant are the hardest promotions to achieve.

E-5 Staff Sergeant

The fifth highest-paid enlisted rank in the Air Force is the E-5 Staff Sergeant (SSgt). Their starting base pay is $2,332.80 a month.

The average active service member can achieve the rank of E-5 Staff Sergeant in four years. Once the minimum journeyman 5-skill level is achieved, the prospective staff sergeant is required to accumulate promotion points using the Weighted Airman Promotion System and successfully completing the Airman Leadership School course. While serving as Staff Sergeants, active service members are expected to earn a degree, either associate's or bachelor's, if they do not already have one.

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