The Military is looking for individuals seeking medical careers that will take their skills above and beyond the expected. Every day these driven individuals distinguish themselves mentally and physically, and work toward a cause that is greater than themselves.
Regardless of your age, you must have a physical to indicate that you are healthy enough to serve in case you are deployed. Review this resource to learn which medical conditions may disqualify a prospective applicant.
Where you take your physical depends on the program you want to enter. Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) applicants will take a physical at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) near them, and Uniformed Services University of the Health Services (USU) applicants will take their physicals through the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board. You are also required to pass a security investigation and demonstrate the high moral standards expected of a physician and a military officer.
The Military screens for certain conditions that may be incompatible with a military medical practice. Waivers for certain health-related issues are available on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the program, you may want to apply early to give the Services enough time to process your waiver.
To join the Military, you have to be at least 18 years old (17 with parental consent), or granted a waiver. As for the upper age limit, it depends on the Service and the program:
- Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard: 42
- Navy and Navy Reserve: 42
- Air Force: 48
- Air Force Reserve: 47
- Air National Guard: 47
- Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP): 36 (for the Navy, you can be no older than 42 at the time you enter Active Duty, following your degree completion — unless you were granted an age waiver when you were recruited)
- Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine: 36 (Note: waivers have been granted for applicants up to age 42)
Age waivers are available, but they depend on your skills and the Military's needs.
Since all military physicians serve as commissioned officers, you must be a U.S. citizen in order to apply. For some Service branches, such as the Army Reserve, permanent U.S. residents may become commissioned officers. Contact a recruiter for more information about other options that may exist for non-U.S. citizens.
Prior Service + Prior Military Commitments
Those with prior service or prior military commitments can apply to be military medical students, residents or physicians, although some individuals may need to fill out extra applications. For example, Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) cadets must be approved for an educational delay because of their existing military commitments before they apply to HPSP or USU. Likewise, cadets and midshipmen in Service academies and ROTC must be approved by their respective Service before accepting admission to medical school.
If you are an active-duty service member, you must receive permission from your Personnel Command to leave your current assignment and apply to medical school and scholarship programs. In that case, any preexisting service obligation for your military education and training will be added to any obligation related to your participation in a medical scholarship program.
Although test scores are just one of the indicators, in general an applicant for the HPSP should have a 3.2 GPA and a minimum MCAT score of 500. USU applicants should have a minimum GPA of 3.0 (which can include undergraduate, graduate, or postbaccalaureate undergraduate coursework) and an MCAT score of at least 496 or higher. A competitive applicant should have a GPA of at least 3.6 and an MCAT score between 506 and 509. MCAT scores below 496 are not accepted at USU; however, waivers are possible on a case-by-case basis for the HPSP depending on the specific needs of each Service branch. The Military also evaluates and considers prior military service, preclinical work experience, volunteer service, research experience, and leadership potential during the selection process.
Applicants must have been awarded a baccalaureate degree from an accredited academic institution in the United States, Puerto Rico, or Canada by June 1 of the year of desired attendance. Generally, applicants must have completed certain coursework, examples of which include:
- One academic year of general or inorganic chemistry with lab
- One academic year of physics with lab
- One academic year of organic chemistry with lab or one semester of organic chemistry with lab and one semester of biochemistry
- One academic year of biology with lab
- One academic year of writing-intensive humanities, languages, social sciences or psychology
- One semester of calculus or statistics
For additional requirements and considerations, please contact a recruiter.
Degrees + Licensing
HPSP and USU require all applicants to have baccalaureate degrees from accredited programs in the United States, Canada or Puerto Rico. For the HPSP application to be final, applicants must be accepted to, or enrolled, in an accredited physician of medicine (M.D.) or physician of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) degree program in the United States or Puerto Rico.
If you hope to enter the Military as a full physician, you must have a degree from an accredited M.D. or D.O. program from the United States or Puerto Rico. Accreditation must come from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education or the American Osteopathic Association.
Physicians with degrees from foreign medical schools must also:
- Pass either the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination in the Medical Sciences or hold an Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates certification
- Be certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties
- Complete internship in the United States, Canada or Puerto Rico
- Have an unrestricted license to practice in the United States and its territories
- Be currently engaged in a clinical practice
Finally, physicians need to have completed one year of graduate medical education, must have a valid state license issued by a state, territory or commonwealth of the United States or the District of Columbia, and should be board certified or board eligible.
Additional Ways to Prepare
Joining the Military is a big commitment that can alter the course of your medical career in new and fulfilling ways. Keep these in mind as you prepare for your next step:
- Shadow military physicians if you have access to a military base to learn more about their real-life day-to-day responsibilities
- Consider volunteering at military hospitals through the American Red Cross
- Ensure you are maintaining your health and overall physical fitness
- Develop a list of questions for your recruiter
While there are many opportunities for those interested in becoming military physicians, it is imperative that you have as much information as possible to make informed decisions throughout the process.
- Military Medicine 101
- Applying + What to Expect
- Education + Training
- Careers + Lifestyle