Military Officer Training

You're not just training to be a physician. You're also training to be an officer. In fact, as soon as you join the Military, you’re an officer, whether you have completed medical school or not. While there are variations in what you learn among the Service branches, you will immerse yourself in military culture, study the leadership skills required of all officers and participate in physical officer training.

By serving as an officer in the Military, you will be a leader. You will be expected to support and inspire not only officers but also enlisted service members, who usually perform day-to-day tasks. The leadership, problem-solving and management skills you learn in this position can be applied anywhere, whether you continue in the Military or stay on with your civilian career. 

Commissioning + Rank

When you join the Military, you will be commissioned as an officer. If you join during medical school, either through the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP)the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) or the Medical and Dental Student Stipend Program (MDSSP), you will enter as a second lieutenant (Army/Air Force) or as an ensign (Navy). After graduation you will advance to the rank of captain (Army/Air Force) or lieutenant (Navy).

If you enter as a licensed physician, your rank will typically begin at captain or major (Army/Air Force) or lieutenant or lieutenant commander (Navy), but it may be higher depending on where you are in your civilian career.

When you apply to join the Military, a professional review board will evaluate your work experience and prior service, if any. Once your rank is determined, it must be approved by Congress or the Secretary of Defense. This process may take several months.

Learn More About Military Ranks


Military Training

Physicians do not attend the same Basic Training required for enlisted service members, but they must participate in officer training. Since this training can take between two and 14 weeks, it is preferable to complete officer training as soon as possible so that your training does not unnecessarily interrupt your medical studies or career, though the timing may depend on your situation.

Below you will find the name, length and location of officer training for each Service:

U.S. Air Force: Commissioned Officer Training (COT) Overview

See a typical example of what a Commissioned Officer Training module entails.

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U.S. Air Force: Commissioned Officer Training (COT) Overview

See a typical example of what a Commissioned Officer Training module entails.

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JUBY: I'm Lieutenant Colonel Shannon Juby. I'm the Director of Operations here at the 23rd Training Squatter at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. Commissioned Officer Training is a 23 day program comprised of 4 different phases. Initially we have an orientation phase, where we bring our new students in. Some of them have never even worn a uniform, so we introduce them to military customs and courtesies. "Do not follow me with your eyes! Your eyes will stay straightforward!" Really the attention to detail that's required of a military officer. From there we develop them, in the development phase. Our goal is to fill their tool bag with as many skills as we possibly can. They go through hours of classroom and they learn a lot of leadership skills. From there we go to an application phase where they take the lessons that they've learned in the classroom and they apply them literally in a leadership laboratory. And then finally, we've got a phase that helps them transition from student to their new role as an officer in the Air Force. A typical day here at Commissioned Officer Training starts generally with a 4:30 wake-up and then PT or physical training. Then they've got breakfast then they go into a full day of academics/field activities depending on what phase they're in and then finish up with dinner, generally around six o'clock. It's a physically and mentally demanding course. The better prepared you are, which includes fitness really, I think helps you overall. We really get a wide range of students here and they're all for health profession, judge advocate, or chaplain career fields. Some people come in with already some prior military service experience. Some people have never put on a uniform. Nonetheless the changes I see really have to do with the confidence that they've built. You're gonna be pushed mentally, physically, emotionally, more than you've probably ever been in your life. But I tell you, hang with us give us your 110 percent and you will be amazed at what you see at the end of this.

Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard

Officer Basic Course (OBC)

  • 10–14 weeks for Active Duty
  • Two weeks for Reserve
  • Fort Sam Houston, Texas
  • Officers must also attend the Direct Commission Course (DCC) at Ft. Sill, O.K.
  • More About OBC 



Officer Development School (ODS)


Navy Reserve

Direct Commission Officer (DCO) School


Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard

Commissioned Officer Training (COT)


If you have prior commissioned service in the branch to which you're applying, you may not need to attend officer training. Contact your recruiter for more information.

Classroom Studies + Etiquette

Although officer training seems brief, the Military packs a lot of knowledge into a short amount of time. Expect to learn about the following subjects:

  • Military customs, courtesies and etiquette
  • Information about your Service branch and its specific role in the Military
  • Leadership skills, including how to work with enlisted service members
  • International diplomacy

Field training exercises will complement what you learn in the classroom. Although your officer training may not be considered as strenuous as Basic Training, you should start physical training early. Most importantly, you must be within the height and weight standards for your Service, and you will be expected to pass a fitness test. Your exercises will include runs, pushups and planks.