How to Become a Doctor in the Military

by Maureen Malone
Doctors serve in the medical corps of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Doctors serve in the medical corps of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Military doctors pursue their passion for medicine and helping people while serving their country. As a doctor in the military, your patients are fellow service members and their families, and you perform many of the duties you would as a civilian doctor, including diagnosing and treating patients. In addition, you provide leadership as an officer and may provide care for soldiers in combat when you are deployed.

Get Your Medical Degree

Complete a bachelor's degree program. You may choose any major you want, but most future doctors choose a science-related degree, such as biology or chemistry. Check with the medical schools you are considering to make sure you complete all of the prerequisites needed for admission.

Apply for admission to a medical school accredited by the American Medical Association or the American Osteopathic Association. Take the Medical College Admission Test, which is required for admission into most medical schools. Specific application procedures vary by school but may include undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation and an essay.

Complete medical school. Programs are typically four years in length and consist of lectures, laboratory work and rotations in medical specialty areas.

Complete residency or graduate medical education. Residencies usually last three to seven years, depending on the medical specialty you are pursuing. Some examples of medical specialties include neurology, oncology, emergency medicine and family practice. Because military doctors provide complete health care services for service members and their families, all specialty areas are in demand.

Obtain a license to practice medicine in your state. Specific requirements vary, but most states require you to complete your residency and pass a series of exams.

Contact a military recruiter from the Army, Navy or Air Force. These three branches have medical corps where you can practice as a doctor. The Navy provides medical services for the Marine Corps. A recruiter can guide you through the steps necessary to get your commission as an officer and doctor in the military. Find out whether you qualify for a sign-on bonus or tuition reimbursement for your schooling. For example, the Navy offers a sign-on bonus of $220,000 to $400,000, depending on your specialty and the length of service you commit to. The Army's Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program will help you repay as much as $120,000 in student loans.

Complete military training. A commissioned officer does not have to complete basic training, but you do have to complete an officer training program to learn about your branch of the military, become familiar with the expectations of military life and develop your leadership skills.

Attend Military Medical School

Complete a bachelor's degree program in any field. Make sure that you complete the prerequisites to attend the Uniformed Services University F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland. Enroll in physics, organic chemistry and calculus courses during college.

Apply for admission to medical school at the military's Uniformed Services University. In addition to holding an undergraduate degree, you must be a U.S. citizen between the ages of 18 and 36. You must also meet medical and physical fitness standards. Take the MCAT and complete the application process using the American Medical College Application Service. If you are already a military service member, including ROTC or reserves, you must submit an approval form from your department.

Enter the medical program by commissioning as a second lieutenant in the Army or Air Force, or as an ensign in the Navy at the O-1 pay grade. Attend the four- to six-week officer training program to learn the traditions and customs of military life.

Complete military medical school. The first 16 months of the program -- the pre-clerkship period -- helps you develop a foundation of scientific and medical knowledge, including the mechanisms, treatment and prevention of human diseases. You will also develop leadership and skills to succeed in a military medical practice. The 12-month core clerkship period consists of clinical clerkships in nine areas, including family medicine, surgery, psychiatry and pediatrics. The final 17 months, or post-clerkship period, includes preparation for the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination, advanced clinical electives and a capstone project. Medical school is tuition-free, and students receive officer base pay and a housing allowance to cover expenses.

Accept your promotion to the O-3 pay grade. This is equivalent to the rank of captain for the Army and Air Force, and lieutenant for the Navy. Complete a service commitment of at least seven years as a military doctor.

Complete residency training at a military hospital to become certified in a medical specialty. You may complete your residency immediately after graduation from medical school or after completing a tour of duty. Time spent in residency does not count toward your service commitment.


  • If you know you want to be a military doctor, consider joining the military while still in school to take advantage of medical school scholarship programs. For example, the Navy Health Professions Scholarship Program pays your tuition and offers a monthly stipend for living expenses. All scholarship programs require you to serve as a commissioned officer after graduation.


  • The military has physical fitness, medical and age requirements that you must meet, in addition to your qualifications as a medical doctor. For example, the Army requires you to be between 21 and 46 and pass the Army Physical Fitness Test.

About the Author

Maureen Malone started writing in 2008. She writes articles for business promotion and informational articles on various websites. Malone has a Bachelor of Science in technical management with an emphasis in biology from DeVry University.

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