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:

Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard

Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC)

  • 10–14 weeks for Active Duty
  • Two weeks for Reserve
  • Fort Sam Houston, Texas
  • More About BOLC 


Navy, Navy Reserve

Officer Development School (ODS)


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.