Career and pay

It’s often said that the army is a job for life with a wage that compares well with civilian jobs. How true is this?

The average full-time wage in the UK is just over £37K.

The wage of a new army recruit is just under £16K.

But the rank of sergeant, which may be reached in 10-12 years, earns £36K, close to the average UK wage.

So how many soldiers reach the rank of sergeant in a reasonable amount of time – say, 10 years?

Let’s imagine I’m thinking of joining up. All else being equal, what are the chances that I’ll be a sergeant in ten years and so be earning close to the average UK wage?

  • 1 in 10?
  • 1 in 100?
  • 1 in 1,000?

The answer is 1 in 1,000.

Here are the numbers…

On average, for every thousand people applying to join the army as enlisted soldiers:

  • Only 52 people end up actually joining the army – the rest change their mind after they apply or the army rejects them before they enlist.
  • Of these 52, 41 will complete their basic training.
  • Of these 41 newly trained soldiers, most will leave in the first four years, leaving only 18.
  • Of these 18 soldiers, only 9 will still be in the army after 10 years.
  • Of these 9, only 1 will have reached the rank of sergeant (the rest will be at lower ranks).

So – 1 in 1,000 people who apply to the army reach the rank of Sergeant after ten years.

Just under half of soldiers who complete their training still leave the army within four years, according to Ministry of Defence figures. Infantry soldiers are particularly likely to drop out – more than half have gone in the first four years.