Military Service + Work Environment

As a military physician, you’ll serve your country and the world. With facilities and deployments available to you from around the globe, your medical practice offers a range of experiences and care that few civilian roles can match, which include humanitarian response and disaster recovery for some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.


Deployment is a temporary assignment which occurs as a part of a mobilized military operation or exercise. During deployment, all your military, medical and leadership training comes into play. The frequency of your deployments will depend on your military service, your specialty and the needs of the nation at the time.

Deployment length can vary from three to 15 months. Keep in mind that a deployment is different from being stationed in a specific location, such as a military medical center, for a longer term. This is referred to as a Permanent Change of Station, or PCS. 

Reserve and Guard physicians are expected to drill one weekend a month and two full weeks during the year, but you may also be called up to assist in missions at home and abroad. All Reserve and Guard deployments depend on whether your skill is needed at a given time. In that case, you will deploy alongside the active-duty Military, and the length of your deployment will be the same.

Medical Treatment Facilities

If you are not deployed, you may serve at a medical treatment facility, such as an installation hospital or clinic, where you will care for service members and their families. Or, if you have a background in primary care, you may become a general medical officer attached to a specific unit. In either case, you will provide wellness for service members, making sure they are fit enough to carry out their duties, while also keeping their families healthy.

In addition, the longer you stay in the Military, the more you increase your chance of choosing an administrative, research or academic track.

Humanitarian Missions

Military physicians can be deployed to provide relief after natural disasters.

For example, Navy physicians have traveled on the U.S. Navy Ship (USNS) Comfort to provide aid to earthquake victims. This humanitarian part of the mission may also extend to providing relief to civilians in war zones. Closer to home, physicians in the Army National Guard or Air National Guard serve both the governor of their respective states and the president, and in these roles may be asked to assist with medical needs and recovery during local emergencies.

While the humanitarian mission of each Service branch will vary, generally you can be expected to provide health services to tens of thousands of people at home and abroad. Services range from routine primary care, with specialties that can include:

  • Dentistry
  • Emergency medicine
  • Family medicine
  • General surgery
  • Infectious disease
  • OB/GYN
  • Optometry
  • Physical therapy
  • Pediatrics

Additionally, civil engineering programs, disaster relief, and international medical training initiatives are often associated with these missions. Regardless of where a humanitarian mission might occur, the goal is the same: to facilitate regional, military, civilian, and non-governmental cooperation and interoperability while building up communities in need.

Practicing in Different Settings

As a military physician, you will practice medicine in an incredible range of facilities, locations and conditions. This is not a job where you’ll be tied to a single office. 

While you may treat patients in a military hospital or clinic, there is also the chance to treat them on a ship, on a plane or, more rarely, in a combat zone. Military hospitals and clinics, also known as direct care military treatment facilities (MTFs).

Furthermore, the research and resources afforded to the Military mean you will be working with tools and technology that are as good as, if not better than, what you will find in any civilian hospital.

Patient Pool

With millions of beneficiaries, you’ll discover that military service members, veterans and their families represent a diverse, rewarding patient population to treat and help with their healthcare needs. 

And while most patients will be active duty service members and their families, there are also military veterans who comprise a particularly special patient pool. Many physicians who help treat and heal this unique patient population often feel an incredible sense of reward hearing a veteran’s stories of service and of serving something bigger than themselves. Note that this does not include Veterans Affairs medical responsibilities or working at a VA hospital, which fall under a different mission than that of the Department of Defense. 

Medical aid is also provided to countless domestic civilians and international audiences as part of the U.S. Military’s global humanitarian efforts. These initiatives can include aid for national and humanitarian disasters, as just one example. 

Ultimately, serving warfighters and veterans represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve some of the most dedicated people in the country. These men and women have dedicated their lives and careers to defending the country and ensuring the freedom of all citizens. Military physicians have been serving alongside our Active Duty since the foundation of the United States and are an essential part of the Military.

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)

The USERRA protects members of the Reserve and Guard and ensures that you return to your civilian job after a period of deployment.

If you are a medical student participating in the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) or attending the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), or if you are a resident in the Financial Assistance Program (FAP), you will not deploy until you are finished with your medical training.

More About USERRA