Army Enlistment and Re-Enlistment Bonuses

There Are Two Types of Army Signing Bonuses

Army Re-enlist

There are two types of enlistment bonuses currently offered by the Active Duty Army: enlistment bonuses for non-prior-service recruits, and enlistment bonuses for prior-service recruits who have been separated from the military for 91 or more days. Those separated from the military for 90 days or less would use the regular re-enlistment bonus charts.

Difference Between Enlistment Bonus and Re-Enlistment Bonus

An enlistment bonus is different from a re-enlistment bonus in that the latter are offered to military enlisted personnel at the end of their previous enlistment period. These re-enlistment bonuses also depend on the service member's rank, rate, or MOS (military occupational specialty), and the needs of the military for keeping certain qualifications. If you have a critically needed skill, your re-enlistment bonus could be significant.

Army Signing Bonuses Available

Non-prior service enlistment bonus amounts are based on the MOS (job) and the number of years one is enlisting for. If you are a recruit who is about to join the military and have highly sought-after skills or qualify for challenging jobs within the military (such as specialties in nuclear, special ops, linguist, medical, and so on), you could also be eligible for an enlistment bonus or a "signing bonus" just for joining the military. Some of these one-time special bonuses can be as high as $40,000. 

Quick Ship Bonuses for Recruits

There are also bonuses for those recruits who are ready to go to basic training immediately and can ship within 30 days. These bonuses range from $8,000 to $20,000 depending on the urgency of filling a critical needs position in training and how quickly you are able to depart civilian life for boot camp. 

The U.S. Army has certain recruitment goals that it sometimes struggles to meet. This was the case in 2007 when it introduced the "quick ship" bonus. The program became effective in July of that year and it is still in effect. More than 3,800 recruits signed up within the first three weeks.

The quick ship bonus is available for qualified recruits in select military jobs. They must enlist for at least two years and agree to report for basic training within 30 days.

The bonus is $3,000 for recruits who report within 31 to 60 days. All eligible recruits must have high school diplomas and must score at least a 50 on the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). The MOS must also be listed as eligible for a seasonal bonus in the Army recruiting computer system.

This bonus may be combined with other enlistment incentives, such as an enlistment bonus with a quick ship bonus, but the maximum total combined bonus amount that any one person can receive is capped at $40,000. Not all Army jobs offer enlistment bonuses.

Payment of Bonuses

Recruits who enlist for cash bonuses totaling more than $10,000 will receive their initial payment of $10,000 upon successful completion of initial entry training — basic training and job training. The remaining bonus amount will be paid in annual increments of up to $10,000 a year until the bonus is paid in full.

Enlistment bonuses totaling less than $10,000 are paid in one lump sum upon successful completion of initial entry training.

Prior Service enlistment bonus amounts are based on the following standards:

  • MOS (job)
  • Time in service
  • Re-enlistment zone "multiplier"
  • Rank of individual
  • Years individual is re-enlisting 

If a prior-service member qualifies for re-enlistment with a certain set of skills the military needs, he or she could qualify for a bonus if they join for a new enlistment contract.

The bonus “zone” refers to the amount of time the person has been in the military:

  • Zone A: Soldiers who re-enlist with between 17 months and six years of service
  • Zone B: Soldiers, who — at the time of re-enlistment — have between six and 10 years of service
  • Zone C: Soldiers who re-enlist with between 10 and 14 years of service

The formula to compute the bonus amount is:

  • (bonus multiplier) x (monthly base pay) x (number of years re-enlisting for)

Bonuses are paid in a lump sum at the time of re-enlistment. The member must have been separated for more than 90 days, but less than four years. The soldier must re-enlist for at least three years, and soldiers with broken service selective re-enlistment bonus program will re-enter on active duty in grades E-4 through E-6 depending upon qualifications and vacancies.

A Career in the Army

Although basic pay is not known for being generous, the Army offers several perks to compensate, including cost of living allowances, superior health care, tuition assistance, and, of course, a variety of bonuses and special pay for certain skills and duties. Pay grades increase as you move up in rank. You can specialize in any one of numerous fields, including military intelligence, electronics, field artillery, or communications.

And remember, the quick ship bonus is based on a two-year enlistment, so you don't necessarily have to spend the rest of your life in the Army to collect it.