A military physician answers a patient's questions. A military physician answers a patient's questions.


This page features some of the most common questions that health care professionals have about joining the Military. If you have any further questions, contact a recruiter.

Joining the Military

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Officer Training

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  • What does it mean to be an officer?

    If you are looking for a sense of responsibility early in your career, the Military can provide it. Officers are entrusted with a critical leadership role. Depending on the situation, you will lead other medical officers and enlisted servicemembers, who usually perform day-to-day tasks. Soon after you join, you will participate in the officer training offered by your Service branch.

  • Will I need to attend the same Basic Training as other service members?

    Since physicians join the Military as officers, you will attend a separate officer training. During officer training, physicians participate in both field and classroom exercises, and you are expected to be physically fit. For example, you must meet the height and weight standards for your Service, and you should expect to go on runs and do push-ups and sit-ups.

  • If I have prior service, do I need to attend officer training?

    Your training requirements depend on your Service and your specific situation. Contact a recruiter for more information.

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Medical School Scholarships

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  • When should I start thinking about applying to the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP)?

    You should contact a recruiter and start an application to the HPSP at the same time you begin your application to medical schools.

  • Can I apply to multiple Services at once?

    When you apply, contact a recruiter for each Service that interests you. You can apply solely to the Services that interest you, or you can apply to all three — Army, Navy or Air Force. If more than one Service accepts you, then you can choose which one to join.

  • Will I need to wear a uniform to my medical school classes?

    As a recipient of the HPSP, you will attend a civilian medical school. You will not wear a uniform to medical school classes. However, if you are on annual training and performing a military rotation or attending officer orientation, you will wear a uniform.

  • How often will I need to participate in military training during medical school?

    You are required to participate in one annual training period for every year of scholarship that you receive. 

  • What is a rotation?

    After you take classes in medical school, you will go on a series of rotations at various hospitals, including military medical facilities. Rotations allow you to apply what you've learned in the classroom and gain experience in different medical fields. The knowledge you gain during your rotation period will help you choose your specialty before applying to residencies. As an HPSP student, you may participate in either civilian or military rotations starting in your second or third year, but keep in mind that you will need to do at least one rotation at a military hospital to help you select a military residency.

  • How long is the service commitment for the HPSP?

    For every year of scholarship, your basic service commitment is one year of active-duty service in a non-training status, with a three-year minimum. 

  • Will my residency training count toward my service commitment?

    No. Your time in residency will not count toward your service commitment. Contact a recruiter for more information.

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Military Medical School

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Residency + Match Day

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  • How likely is it that I can get my residency and train in my medical specialty of choice?

    Your chances of getting your residency of choice are similar to the chances for a civilian medical student. The availability of residency slots, however, depends on the Military's need at that particular time, how competitive you are as a student and how competitive the residency is overall.

  • Will I participate in the same Match Day as civilian residents?

    Military medical students in the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) or in the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) must participate in a military match, and they will apply to the military Joint Service Graduate Medical Education Selection Board. The military match takes place in December, before the civilian match.

    Military residency programs are just as competitive as civilian programs. If you do not match with a military residency or there are not enough residency slots for your specialty, the Military may grant permission for you to participate in the civilian match.

  • If I am a medical student in the Reserve or Guard, will I participate in the military match or in the civilian match?

    Medical students in the Reserve or Guard participate in the civilian match and are trained at a civilian institution.

  • What are the differences between military and civilian residencies?

    In a military residency, you are on Active Duty while undergoing your residency training. Your time counts toward promotion, pay longevity and retirement.

    If you are a civilian resident, your civilian facility pays your salary. During your residency, you will still be an officer in the Individual Ready Reserve, which means your time in the civilian program will count toward promotion and pay longevity. As soon as you are finished with your residency and come on Active Duty, you must begin paying back your service commitment, and you will start receiving military benefits.

  • If I do not match in a military residency, will I be allowed to participate in the civilian match?

    If you do not match, you will have to match for a civilian Post Graduate Year 1.

  • What happens if I do not match to either a military or civilian residency?

    If you do not match and you cannot switch to a residency in another field, you should plan on doing a one-year civilian or military internship. After the internship, you will be able to get your license to practice medicine. Then you can either reapply for a residency, or you can serve as a General Medical Officer (GMO).

  • What does it mean to be a GMO? Is this a requirement of being a military medical student?

    The role of GMO is similar to that of a civilian general practitioner. As a GMO, you may be attached to a unit or a ship. Since the number of military residency slots can fluctuate from year to year, you may need to serve as a GMO before you can participate in the residency of your choice. It all depends on the Military's needs and the competitiveness of your desired residency.

  • What are the pros and cons of being a General Medical Officer?

    Being a GMO means that you will be taking care of the health of service members in operational environments — at sea, in diving and aviation units, and in the field. Although being a GMO does not count toward your residency training, it may give you more time to decide what specialty you want, and it fulfills your active-duty service obligation for participation in a medical scholarship program.

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Medical Resident Program

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Part-Time Service

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  • What is the difference between the Reserve and Guard?

    Each Service has an active-duty and Reserve component. Additionally, the Army and Air Force have Guard components. Members of the Reserve forces serve the nation as a whole, and members of the Guard serve both the president and the governors of their respective states.

  • Will I have time to be in the Reserve or Guard if I am a medical student?

    The Reserve and Guard welcome medical students who are willing to commit to serving part time. If you join as a medical student, you cannot be pulled away from your medical training for deployments until your studies are finished.

  • Are there any extra benefits or scholarships for medical students or residents in the Reserve and Guard?

    Both the Reserve and Guard offer the Medical and Dental Student Stipend Program (MDSSP) for medical students and the Specialized Training Assistance Program (STRAP) for residents. The obligation for these programs is one year of service in the Reserve for every six months you receive the stipend.

    The Navy Reserve also has its own stipend program for residents, called Training in Medical Specialties (TMS). If you participate in TMS, you will be obligated to serve as a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve for a minimum of three years.

  • Will I have to move elsewhere or interrupt my studies at medical school if I join the Reserve or Guard?

    Both the Reserve and Guard enable service members to be stationed close to home, and medical students in either the Reserve or Guard cannot be pulled away from medical training for deployments during their schooling.

  • How often will I need to drill?

    Reserve and Guard members are expected to drill one weekend out of the month and two full weeks during the year, and they should be prepared to deploy if they are needed. Drilling consists of training in your military medical duties as a physician.

    If you are deployed as part of the Reserve or Guard, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) will help ensure that you can return to your civilian job.

    More about USERRA

  • Can I be deployed if I am in the Reserve or Guard?

    Once finished with their medical training, members of both the Reserve and Guard can be called upon to deploy and support their active-duty counterparts.

  • What will I be doing when I am drilling?

    Your tasks will depend on the Military's needs at the time, but you may find yourself filling in for active-duty physicians who are deployed, or you may participate in field exercises and other training.

  • How long are the service commitments for the Reserve and Guard?

    Your service commitment will vary depending on the benefits you accept. For example, if you participate in a stipend program such as the MDSSP, STRAP or TMS, you will need to drill one year for every six months of benefits received.

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Licensed Physician Options

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  • What rank will I have when I join the Military?

    As a licensed physician, your education, training and experience will be evaluated to determine your rank. You will typically enter at the level of captain or major in the Army and Air Force, or lieutenant or lieutenant commander in the Navy, but you may enter at a higher rank depending on your experience and the Military's needs.

  • How long is the application process for joining the Military?

    The process can take anywhere from three to six months. The Military needs time to evaluate your eligibility if you need a medical or age waiver. 

  • How long is the service commitment for licensed physicians?

    The minimum length of time a licensed physician can serve on Active Duty is two years. Most physicians sign up for a minimum of three years. Your specific active-duty commitment may be longer if you accept a bonus or other benefits when you join.

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Specific Careers

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  • Will I be able to choose my career?

    As a military medical student, you can choose your specialty, but your specialty will also depend on the needs of the Military at that time. If you are applying for a competitive residency, you may not be selected and will have to complete a Post Graduate Year 1 (PGY-1) year and reapply. You may also need to serve as a General Medical Officer (GMO) before reapplying. If you are interested in a certain specialty, contact a recruiter for more information. 

  • What is a flight surgeon?

    A flight surgeon is a general practice physician who provides medical care for pilots and their crews. Flight surgeons are required to get flight time with their units.

  • What is a general medical officer?

    A GMO is similar to a general medical practitioner. GMOs are often attached to specific units, air wings, ships or submarines. Military medical students in the Navy and Air Force who do not match to a residency may be expected to do a PGY-1 year and then serve as a GMO before beginning a residency.

  • Can I go straight into a research field?

    You must complete a residency and obtain a state license first. 

    More about research opportunities in the Military

    More about current military medical research projects

  • What are my career options?

    The Military offers a range of specialties for those interested in both active-duty service and the Reserve and Guard components.

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Daily Work

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  • Who will I treat as a military physician?

    In general, you will be caring for service members and their families, but you may also be treating civilians, depending on your mission.

  • How much time will I get to spend with my patients?

    You will not have the same administrative and insurance concerns as do physicians in private practices, which means you can concentrate more on patient care.

  • How does malpractice insurance work?

    Active-duty physicians are covered for malpractice when working in their assigned military position. Active-duty physicians who moonlight outside their military position must pay for their own malpractice coverage. Also, physicians in the Reserve and Guard receive malpractice coverage when they are serving in the Military, but they will need to pay for their own malpractice coverage when practicing as civilians.

  • Where will I work?

    You may treat patients in a military hospital, you may also treat them on a ship, on a plane or in a combat zone.

    Where You Might Serve: Military Medical Facilities Map

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