What is a private military contractor?

Eric Sof

A group of private military contractors (PMCs) practicing at the gun range

A private military contractor company is a private business that signs one or more contracts to provide goods or services to one or more nations militaries. Sometimes, those companies and their employees are referred to as “mercenaries,” but that term is not the appropriate fit for the actual duties they perform.


Some will say that they perform a valuable service that frees up military manpower. But, while I can understand the argument, I don’t necessarily agree with that totally. The private military companies might have filled in a certain gap that existed going into GWOT (or, still exists maybe) as far as personal protection, or security details go.

Private military companies can provide a valuable service, being that they can perform jobs that allow the military to focus upon more important tactical issues. They should not be permitted to operate autonomously in a war zone.

Former special forces soldiers are mostly engaged in private military companies doing jobs as PMCs (Private Military Contractors)
Former special forces soldiers are mostly engaged in private military companies doing jobs as PMCs (Photo: Facebook)

Who are private military contractors?

Private Military Contractors are employees of private military and security companies (PMCs) employed in war zones and other risky areas to perform a wide variety of specialized jobs, including repair and maintenance of infrastructure and pipeline equipment.

Some operate in conflict zones, while others work in a corporate environment. These professionals carry various responsibilities, from fighting in armed conflicts to gathering intelligence.

Private military company rehires veterans with significant military experience (mostly former members of special operations forces) to do the exact jobs they used to do while were serving in the military but for $400,000 a year. They are tasked with various jobs, they are pulling armed security for truck convoys carrying supplies between military bases, serve as guards for corporate headquarters and government buildings, and provide personal protection for politicians and other leading figures.

In fact, their military counterpart is replaced with civilian one. Former soldier, now veteran finds himself in the same seat doing mostly the same job. It is called a private military contractor. They are normally employed only in defensive roles and have strict rules of engagement. They are permitted to respond only if attacked. They are not generally used for offensive military operations, so the term “mercenary” may not be strictly appropriate for what they do.

Job Responsibilities and Duties

The most typical job for a Private Military Contractor is to serve as an armed guard of sorts in an environment where an attack by militants or criminals is a powerful possibility. For instance, a contractor may ride with a vehicle convoy in order to fend off any attempted ambush or kidnapping.

A contractor may patrol a corporate facility at risk of a terrorist attack. Because of the fact that private military contractors work in war zones, the job is very different from a security detail or even a bodyguard job in civilian life. Most professional bodyguards outside of war zones will never be faced with an actual attack on their clients, but hundreds of private military contractors died in combat in the Iraq war.

Most of the professionals in the industry are military veterans. Some companies will make exceptions for candidates with extensive law enforcement or intelligence agency background; depending on the type of work for which they are hiring. Still, the training and experience needed to survive the dangers of the job can usually only be gained through prior military experience. You must also possess a clean criminal record and you may need to obtain membership to an association for security professionals in order to hear about unadvertised positions.

The job duties of private military contractors may also include:

  • Contracted security services used by humanitarians organizations
  • Unarmed guards for facilities/residences/project sites
  • Physical security for premises
  • Security management consulting
  • Security training for staff
  • Risk assessment/threat analysis
  • Information services
  • Armed guards for facilities/residences/project sites
  • Standby security
  • Mobile escorts (armed)

How to find a job?

Work as a Private Military Contractor appeals to people with a need for adventure and excitement and a desire to earn high pay for risky and demanding work. Still, it is not a suitable career for anyone with an unrealistic attitude or fantasies of being “Rambo” without going through the discipline and training of a soldier. Numerous private military companies have grown into large and well-funded organizations by hiring former soldiers when the U.S. Army reduced its force size after the first Iraq war. These companies are used to working with experienced professionals and they do not provide basic training.

Welcome to the life of a contractor. Every job in the industry is obtained by your personal network and your reputation. Any given company will have a few go-to guys, who will let their buddies know about jobs and fast-track resumes to the hiring manager. If your resume makes the cut and/or your buddy’s reputation is good enough you will get a call.

Contracts that are still in the bidding process will cause the company to stall and lead you on about the start date. Contracts that have been awarded will cause the company to send you plane tickets for tomorrow morning, with your employment paperwork to follow later. For every actual job, there are a lot of false starts and last minute cancellations.

Private Military Contractor: How to find a job?
Private Military Contractor: How to find a job? (Photo: XY)

The industry is demand-driven and so are the wages. While you might hear about guys making $1000/day or more, that is for people with rare skillsets or qualifications on very specific contracts. The more organized a company is the less you are going to get paid. With a good reputation, skills, and a decent work ethic you can make pretty good blue-collar money.

You will certainly find out how good your personal relationships are. When you live with a packed bag and can be heading to the airport on a few hours’ notice, missed birthdays and anniversaries are the rules, not the exception. I can think of no other line of work that will send you overseas for months at a time on a phone call.

I hope you like airports and flying coach. You will eventually accrue enough miles to upgrade, but you will be saving those for the big vacation until you realize that after being away from home for months you don’t really want to go anywhere. When you find yourself saying “Fucking Paris again” you know that you have done some traveling. The only time you won’t fly coach is when the company is in a bind, you are paying for the upgrade, or you have unlocked the exalted frequent flyer status. It is not uncommon to have thirty plus hours of travel between home and work.

I hope you like camping. Depending on the job and the location it might be minted on the pillow, a swimming pool, and a piano bar or you might be cooking your own rice and beans in a canteen cup while fighting off malaria and hoping for a couple of hours of electricity.


There is no set salary for private contractors. It all depends on the employer, the job, the job location, and basically the contract as a whole. A lot also depends on you, as in your background and the current role/job title that you have. Defense companies provide little or no information about their payroll. The jobs listed on Indeed, Glassdoor, and other online platforms indicate that private military contractors earn $80,000 to $250,000 a year, which is a lot more compared to the average wage of an army soldier. Since this is a dangerous job, it pays better than most professionals.

Most sources state that private security contractors receive $500 to $1,500 per day based on their location, expertise, skills, and danger potential.

Private Military Contractor: How Much You Can Earn?
Private Military Contractor: How Much You Can Earn? (Photo: XY)

Those with really good credentials and generally a special operations background will have access to the best contracts and the highest paying ones. Those with more normal backgrounds like being in the infantry or other roles like MP can expect decent-paying contracts but most of the time not nearly as high as someone with a special operations background.

The job itself matters a lot as generally speaking, jobs that are not high risk, Will not be as high paying. It is highly likely that someone on a PSD job (personal security detail) in Iraq is going to make much more than someone doing static security at an airbase in Kuwait.

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