What Is E-4 Pay?

Updated August 3, 2023

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There is a man in a uniform with a boat in the background. There is also a list with the title "Common roles that earn E-4 pay" and these roles are listed:

Army Specialist
Navy Petty Officer Third Class
Marine Corporal
Air Force Senior Airman
Coast Guard Petty Officer Third Class

Every military branch has its own rank structure with different pay according to branch, role and years of service. Middle-ranking enlisted officers earn salaries in the E-4 pay grade.

In this article, we discuss what E-4 pay is, which military roles earn this enlisted pay grade plus possible benefits, and their primary duties. We also offer a pay chart of various military compensation rates.

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What is E-4 pay?

E-4 pay is the fourth enlisted pay grade for United States military service members. Military employees with this level of pay are paid at the same rate in an effort for the U.S. Department of Defense to maintain equivalence throughout the various military services. Just as each pay grade corresponds to a rank, the E-4 pay grade corresponds to the E-4 rank.

For enlisted officers, the pay grades begin at E-1 and end at E-9. Recruits or privates start at the E-1 pay grade. To receive the E-4 pay grade, enlisted members need to work their way from E-1 and earn a promotion to the rank of corporal or specialist 4, as these ranks correspond to the E-4 pay grade.

Obtaining E-4 pay

Active-duty members with the E-4 pay grade have more experience than members with the E-1 pay grade. It also means they have lower-level responsibilities than an E-7 ranked officer. To move up in the ranks, members need to have good performance, good test scores and experience in their particular pay grade. Also, rank advancement will depend on service needs.

Though the E-4 pay grade ranks of specialist 4 and corporal are different, they both earn the E-4 pay rate. This is the case no matter the length of time they've served in the military. For example, if a corporal has three years of service and a specialist three years of service, they will both receive a basic pay of $2,507.10 per month as of 2020.

Benefits in addition to E-4 pay

It's also worth noting that though the pay grade is the same rate at the E-4 level, an enlisted member's final paycheck may also include added income such as bonuses, allowances and special pay. Two allowances that military compensation can include are the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and Basic Allowance for Subsistence.

If living quarters on post are unavailable, service members will receive BAH. Concerning Special Pay, this can include additional pay for performing hazardous or other specialized tasks. It's important to note that military service members can only receive two special pays at the same time.

Related: Job Search Guide for Military Veterans

Military pay chart

As with any job, the pay you receive will vary based on several factors. For the military, this includes your rank and time in the service as well as your military branch. There are six military branches which include the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and the Space Force.

The following is the 2020 monthly basic pay chart for active, enlisted members of the military. It excludes pay for the Space Force since the Space Force was newly signed into law at the time of publication.

Keep in mind that the pay for E-1 will be slightly lower than the amount listed during their first four months of service. In addition, the following pay does not account for any bonuses, allowances or other benefits, and the pay for the E-8 and E-9 ranks does not begin until members have at least eight years of service:

Rank Less than two years of service Two years of service Three years of service Four years of service Six years of service
E-1 $1,602.30 $1,602.30 $1,602.30 $1,602.30 $1,602.30
E-2 $1,942.50 $1,942.50 $1,942.50 $1,942.50 $1,942.50
E-3 $2,042.70 $2,171.10 $2,302.80 $2,302.80 $2,302.80
E-4 $2,262.60 $2,378.40 $2,507.10 $2,634.60 $2,746.50
E-5 $2,467.50 $2,634.00 $2,761.20 $2,891.40 $3.094.50
E-6 $2,693.70 $2,964.30 $3,095.10 $3,222.30 $3,354.90
E-7 $3,114.30 $3,399.00 $3,529.50 $3,701.40 $3,836.10

Related: Veteran Career Advice: Making a Transition To Civilian Life

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Common roles that earn E-4 pay

Your pay in the E-4 rank is the same regardless of your role as a military service member. Here are some common military roles that earn E-4 pay:

  1. Army Specialist

  2. Navy Petty Officer Third Class

  3. Marine Corporal

  4. Air Force Senior Airman

  5. Coast Guard Petty Officer Third Class

1. Army Specialist

Primary duties: Army Specialists are responsible for supervising a small team of lower-ranked soldiers and privates of all classes. Using their leadership abilities, they ensure their assigned soldiers are keeping up with their various duties and maintaining military and Army standards. They are knowledgeable about individual soldiers and have at least two years of military service.

2. Navy Petty Officer Third Class

Primary duties: Petty officers third class are responsible for supervising and training junior sailors in the Navy regularly. They have similar duties to petty officers second class in that they both ensure all junior sailors have a full workday. Petty officers third class are the fourth enlisted rank in the Navy and are considered the lowest-ranked non-commissioned officer.

3. Marine Corporal

Primary duties: Marine Corporals are tasked with overseeing military service members and enforcing military standards. Marine Corporals also train their subordinates in military skills, serve as a connection between service members and higher-ranked officers and personnel, and are accountable for all members of their team.

4. Air Force Senior Airman

Primary duties: One rank above an Airman First Class, the Air Force Senior Airman is responsible for supervising their subordinates and acting as a model for military standards. They use their leadership skills and technical abilities daily, which can include the supervision of a lower-ranked airman.

5. Coast Guard Petty Officer Third Class

Primary Duties: Petty officers third class in the Coast Guard are responsible for supervising their subordinates and using their technical and leadership skills regularly. They are tasked with training and educating the overall professional development of lesser-ranked service members on their team.

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