Private military contractors are civilians employed by private military companies (PMCs) that fill employment gaps in the United States military and government. Depending on where and how a contractor is employed, daily pay rates typically can range from $500 to $750. Most private military contractors work as independent contractors, meaning that they must pay for their own health care and retirement plans.
According to Professional Overseas Contractors, a group of contractors who work with the U.S. forces abroad, the average private contractor earned about $93,961 per year in 2012, with defense contractors without security clearances making an average of $84,000 in 2013. In comparison, the monthly pay grade for military workers ranged from $1,516.20 to $15,913.20 per month, depending on rank. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the military also typically covered troops' housing fees and offered benefits that private contractors do not enjoy.
As of 2010, the POC estimates that there were 95,461 contractors in Iraq and 112,092 contractors in Afghanistan. An area's danger and the number of contractors willing to work there affect private military contractors' pay. For example, CNN estimates that contractors could expect to earn $750 per day in Iraq at the start of the war in 2003. As the war zone became glutted with workers, however, PMCs lowered their contractors' daily rates, sometimes to $500 per day.
Ranking & Security Differences
According to Private Military Companies, a website that tracks PMCs around the world, PMC detail leaders could expect to earn the most of any member of the profession, taking home more than $250,000 per year. Assistant detail leaders earned an average of $225,000 annually. PMC agents earned the least, at about $150,000 per year, with senior agents earning slightly more annually at $175,000. According to POC, contractors with security clearances earned higher salaries than their uncredentialed contractor counterparts, taking home about $20,000 more per year than military with the same clearance.
The US. military's use of contractors is, by design, secretive, so official hiring data is not available. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not estimate employment data for PMCs, it does estimate that the number of military personnel -- numbered at 1,162,825 in 2012 -- will remain consistent through 2022. The level growth rate for military is attributed to the predicted removal of troops in conflict zones, which is also likely to affect the hiring of contractors. "The New York Times" estimated that there were more than 180,000 private military contractors in Iraq in 2008, a number that can be expected to decrease by 2022.
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