KDF ranks and salaries: All you need to know

KDF ranks and salaries

The Kenya Defence Forces are the armed forces of the Republic of Kenya. The Kenya Army, Kenya Navy, and Kenya Air Force comprise the national Defence Forces.

KDF Ranks

The Kenya Defence Forces are the armed forces of the Republic of Kenya. The Kenya Army, Kenya Navy, and Kenya Air Force comprise the national Defence Forces. 

Like many patriotic young men and women in Kenya, you might be interested in a career in the military and wish to join the Kenya Defence Forces but you lack information about the rank structure, promotion and remunerations, etc.

This article will inform you on the military ranking as well as well as salary scales for those charged with the duty of protecting the country from external aggression.

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The current Kenya Defence Forces were established, and its composition laid out, in Article 241 of the 2010 Constitution of Kenya; the KDF is governed by the Kenya Defence Forces Act of 2012.


Like any other military in the world. KDF insists on white and strong teeth. Discoloured teeth is a sign of fluorosis which means inability to cope should the soldier be deployed in the wild where only dry rations are available. Photo: courtesy.

The President of Kenya is the commander-in-chief of all the armed forces.

The Kenya Defense Forces are mandated to defend and protect the sovereignty and the territories of the country by enhancing regional economic stability and combating terrorism to a large extent.

KDF branches

The KDF is divided into three branches; the Kenya Air Force, Kenya Army and Kenya Navy.

The general is the highest-ranking Commissioned Officer and the Chief of Defence Forces while the Private is the junior-most rank in the Non-Commissioned ranks.

Also, it is important to note that, for a person to gain promotion to a higher rank, he or she will be assessed strictly based on merit.

During the assessment, the promotion rules will apply whether he or she is a Commissioned or Non-Commissioned officer.

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Non-commissioned officers

Listed below are ranks of Non-Commissioned Officers popularly known as NCOs.

  • Private: A Private is the lowest rank occupied by non-commissioned officers. It is the first rank immediately after completing Phase 1 training.

  • Corporal: It is the second-lowest attained after serving three years as a Private or passing your Phase 2 training.

  • Sergeant: With the responsibility that comes with the rank, a promotion is after 12 years of service. It’s a second in command rank, for a platoon or troop of 35 soldiers and a responsibility of advising the junior officers.


  • Senior Sergeant: A promotion to either a Colour or Staff Sergeant is attained after two years as a Sergeant. It is the highest management of equipment and soldiers of around 120. With the rank, you can command a whole platoon or troop.

  • Warrant Officer II: It is a senior management rank with full focus on training, prosperity, and discipline of around 120 soldiers. In this rank, you can act as a senior adviser to a Major who is in command of a sub-unit.

  • Warrant Officer I: It is a rank attained after an outstanding 18 years of service. You are a senior advisor to the unit’s commanding officer. You will be responsible for leadership, welfare and discipline of around 650 soldiers and equipment.

Commissioned officers

Below are ranks of commissioned officers;

  • Cadet: This is the rank you are at while undergoing training at Lanet.

  • Second Lieutenant: This is the first rank commissioned. It’s a rank you will hold for up to three years while undergoing specialised training. In this rank, you will lead up to 30 soldiers in a troop or platoon both in operations and training.

  • Lieutenant: You will be in the rank for three years with an opportunity to gain more specialised skills out of your unit. Afterwards, you will have the responsibility of leading up to 30 soldiers in a troop or platoon.

  • Captain: In this rank, you will be second in command for up to 120 soldiers in a sub-unit. You will be part of decision making and planning processes with on-ground tactical responsibility on operations, logistic support, maintenance of equipment, and workforce.

  • Major: You will gain promotion to this rank after around 8 – 10 years of outstanding service and leadership skills. You will get to command a sub-unit of about 120 soldiers and officers. You have the responsibility for administration, welfare and training your sub-unit both on operations and in camp and also managing their equipment.

  • Lieutenant Colonel: It’s a rank you will hold for two years, commanding 4 – 5 sub-units that have up to 650 soldiers. You will be responsible for their overall operational effectiveness in general discipline, welfare, and military capabilities.

  • Colonel: In this rank, you will not be a field commander, but in the lowest of the staff ranks. You will be a senior operational advisor to the senior officers as well as serving as a staff officer between field commands at brigade or battalion level.

  • Brigadier: In this rank, you will be a Field officer, in charge of a brigade or a director of staff.

  • Major General: In this rank, you will be in charge of divisions and senior staff appointments.

  • Lieutenant General: In this rank, you will be in charge of Corps sized formations.

  • General: It’s the most senior rank, holding positions such as the Vice Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Defence Staff or Chief of General Staff.

kdf ranks-co

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How much does Kenya army officers earn?

Like any other job, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission of Kenya review salaries of army officers which are evaluated every four years jointly.

kdf action

Listed below is a categorisation of the Kenya Army salary scales for all the ranks.

  • The KDF cadets salary is around Kenya shillings 7,172 monthly while you are still in training.

  • Private is the lowest rank, and you will take home within Kenya shillings 19,941 and 30,000 monthly.

  • Lance Corporals takes home within Kenya shillings 26,509 to 50,000 monthly.

  • A Corporal takes home within Kenya shillings 32,250 to 70,000 monthly.

  • The Captains takes home within Kenya shillings 73,182 to 110,000 monthly.

  • The Majors takes home within Kenya shillings 102,106 to 150,000 monthly.

  • The Lieutenant Colonels take home within Kenya shillings 130,735 to 180,000 monthly.

  • The salary of Colonels is within Kenya shillings 153,317 to 300,000 monthly.

  • The salary of Lieutenant Generals is within Kenya shillings 632,984 to 800,000 monthly.

  • Chief of Defence Forces takes home within Kenya shillings Ksh 894,897 to 1 million monthly.

KDF specialist officer

Specialist Officers are those who enter the service with an underlying training in any professional field, especially graduates.

Depending on the rank and what you have specialised in, you should expect your KDF specialist officers salary to be different from the rest of the other officers.

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Allowances depend on your rank or the mission you have been sent to take part in, such as peacekeeping.

It is important to note all officers enlisted in the KDF are riflemen. This is to mean, for instance, a soldier who is a cook or an officer doctor in the frontline, at being tapped can pick up a weapon and fight.

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