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How to Become a Military Doctor

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The military is usually referred to as the armed forces as a whole, and it is a well-equipped, well-organized force primarily designed for combat. Its members can be recognized by their distinctive military uniform, which is normally approved and managed by a sovereign state.

More than one military branch, such as the army, air force, navy, marines, space force, or coast guard, may make up this force. Defense of the nation and its interests against foreign armed threats is typically described as the military’s primary duty.

The duty of the military is basically to fight to defend the intents and interests of their state, and many times, this will involve a degree of violence and the use of weapons and ammunition. Hence, it is crucial that there are doctors who cater strictly to military personnel because of the many hazards attached to their duties.

In this article, we will examine who a military doctor is, what their duty is, and how to become one. So without further ado, let’s take a look at how to become a military doctor.

Who Is A Military Doctor?

Military doctors are always officers in addition to being medical professionals. The Army, Air Force, and Navy medical corps employ physicians in various disciplines, from fields like psychiatry to urology. They are employed at cutting-edge medical facilities like the Walter Reed Military Medical Center, where presidents receive care, as well as on military bases, aircraft carriers, and other ships at sea.

Military physicians who work in hospitals for the general public may be on active duty or reserve (whether navy reserves, army reserves or any other military reserves). Their routine duties include treating patients, identifying illnesses, and writing medication prescriptions, such as with civilian physicians.

Job Description

The military medical profession can be incredibly rewarding, thrilling, and adaptable. A military doctor can work in various locations, such as hospital ships and foreign medical facilities, and offers medical care to military members and their families. Medical professionals in the military may contribute to global relief efforts by treating victims of natural disasters.

Additionally, they may check on soldiers’ physical readiness for service and provide emergency medical care for combat-related injuries. Leadership roles may entail running medical units or organizing the hiring and deployment of medical staff.

The military employs medical professionals with specialties in common fields like neurology, family medicine, and pediatrics. Additionally, military physicians might obtain medical education and care in diving, tropical medicine, or aerospace medicine.

Military physicians must possess self-control and the capacity to cope with high levels of stress and pressure. These military doctors must also be in excellent physical condition and possess great critical thinking and decision-making abilities.

Stethoscope, military uniform and tablet on American national flag

How To Become A Military Doctor

As with any profession, there are necessary steps that you must take to become a military doctor. There are a few key steps involved in becoming not only a doctor but one that serves in the military. Here is what you need to do.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Obtaining a degree is required to enroll in medical school. It is the first step toward becoming a military physician. In addition to the arts and other academic fields, pre-medical students frequently take science courses like biology and chemistry.

Students thinking of a career in medicine may look for pertinent volunteer activities in hospitals or other settings of a similar nature. Before applying to medical school, students may want to earn another degree or gain more work experience to boost their eligibility.

Get a Medical Degree

A degree from an accredited medical school is typically required of civilians who want to join the military as military doctors. Although students can enroll in a military med school, they do not need to earn a degree from a university with a military affiliation to join the military. Students who agree to serve in the military as commissioned officers after finishing medical school may be eligible for financial aid from the military to help them pay for their education.

A medical degree typically takes four years to finish. During the first part of their program of study, medical students often attend classes and interact with some patients. Microbiology, pharmacology, medical law, and ethics are examples of potential course topics. Under the guidance of seasoned doctors, students work in medical settings for the latter part of their degree.

There are two career paths to earning a medical degree to work as a military doctor. The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) or the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) are these two possibilities.


This training is somewhat equivalent to regular medical training. Still, students also receive a basic military education and have the option to join the military service and complete rotations in nearby military hospitals. The program’s advantages include:

  • Any U.S. medical school of your choice.
  • The full cost of tuition is covered, and a monthly stipend is provided for living expenses.

The following are some drawbacks or considerations to bear in mind when selecting a course of study that is targeted at how you can become a military doctor:

  • You must serve as a military physician for the same number of years as it took you to earn your medical degree in order to recoup the years of tuition (1 to 1 payback program).
  • Rarely do these programs offer extensive exposure to military procedures like recruitment procedures, drills, and field exercises. There are frequently few HPSP recipients because the HPSP permits medical degrees to be earned at any academic school; thus, you could feel cut off from the overall military medical training.


The medical school for the military has a direct connection to this career path. Depending on your tastes, there are several benefits and drawbacks to a job at USUHS. The following are a few benefits:

  • Full participation in military education and training. Students are thoroughly immersed in military culture at the military medical school, which includes field exercises as well as an early introduction to fieldwork with the choice of rotating domestically or abroad.
  • Students earn an annual salary of $40,000, tuition-free, plus an additional $20,000 in non-taxable income for housing.

Some of the downsides of this program include:

  • To recoup the free tuition under the USUHS program, students must serve seven years in the military on active duty.
  • The USUHS, which is in Bethesda, Maryland, is the only option available, and all military medical students in the program are required to attend.

 “Although HPSP and USUHS medical students are commissioned at the rank of O-1, all military physicians who have graduated from medical school are immediately promoted to (at least) the rank of O-3. (Medical students with prior service who obtained a higher rank prior to attending medical school are generally promoted to, at least, that prior rank). “

Randall B. Case LTC, MC, USAR (Ret)

Join the Military

After you have gone through your training to become a military doctor, the next step is joining the military. All applicants must meet health, character, and age criteria; specific admission requirements will vary depending on the branch of the military. A security clearance may be necessary. Doctors may need to be currently licensed to practice medicine in their state and be citizens of the United States. Every military member signs a contract stipulating a minimum period of service time.

How To Advance Your Career As A Military Doctor

Doctors are eligible for rank advancement and pay increases, just like all other military officers. In the military, performance reviews and time on duty often determine promotions. Veteran military physicians may educate at service academies or provide guidance to other military organizations. They might also choose to quit the service and use their expertise to pursue a job in civilian medicine as civilian physicians (whether in family practice, clinical practice, or private practices).

Is It Compulsory To Graduate From Medical School Before Joining The Military?

No, because there is such a high demand for military doctors, the military might be open to helping pay for medical school, providing scholarships, supplementing your pay all through your residency, or helping to pay off the debt in exchange for a contract that commits you to serve for a set period after receiving your M.D. Medical students should be aware that the level of financial aid they can expect varies greatly depending on their chosen specialty and how seriously each military branch requires that specialty.

However, physicians who are currently in practice are welcome to apply, and they might even qualify for significant bonuses. For certification, all medical professionals enlisting in the military must attend one of the following schools: Army Officer Candidate School (OCS), Air Force Officer Training School (OTS), and Officer Development School (ODS) of the Navy.

Military Doctors Salary Scale

Military doctors are compensated according to their rank and pay grade as officers. Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an O-1, the lowest officer pay grade, makes $3,107.70 monthly at the basic level, which is the very minimum that a military doctor might make.

For some professions, such as medical experts, additional compensation known as “special pay” bonuses is applied. The government will give Variable Special Pay from $12,000 annually and as high as $75,000 for a four-year commitment to those who have agreed to a minimum of a year of service, distributed over their regular wages (militarypay.defense.gov).

Depending on the specific project, additional rewards and chances to earn more money are available. (Factors like overseas, hazards, and the branch where the army doctor serves are considered).


In this article, we have taken a look at how you can become a military doctor. It will require some military training, of course. However, your certifications as a medical doctor are most important in your quest to become a military doctor, whether in the Army, Air Force, Navy, or any other military branch. Life as a medical officer in the military is exciting and very rewarding. All the best and good luck!


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