You're not just training to be a physician. You're also training to be an officer. In fact, you’re a military officer as soon as you join, whether or not you have completed medical school. While there are variations in what you learn among the Services, you will immerse yourself in military culture, study the leadership skills required of all officers and participate in physical officer training.
Military Officer Training + Rank
Being an Officer
By serving as an officer in the Military, you will be a leader. You will be expected to support, manage and inspire not only officers but also enlisted service members, who usually perform day-to-day tasks. The skills you learn in this position can be applied anywhere, whether you continue on in the Military or move to a 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 Services Scholarship Program, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences or the Medical and Dental Student Stipend Program, you will enter the Military as a second lieutenant in the Army or Air Force or as an ensign in the Navy. After graduation, you will advance to the rank of captain in the Army or Air Force or lieutenant in the Navy. If you join through the Financial Assistance Program, you will serve at the rank of at least captain (Army/Air Force) or lieutenant (Navy).
When you join the Military, you will be commissioned as an officer.
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 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.
What to Expect from Your Training
Physicians do not attend the same Basic Training required for enlisted service members, but they must participate in officer training. Since training can take between two and 10 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 Leaders Course (BOLC)
- 10–14 weeks for Active Duty
- Two weeks for Reserve
- Fort Sam Houston, Texas
- More about BOLC
Officer Development School (ODS)
- Five weeks
- Naval Station Newport, R.I.
- More about ODS
Direct Commission Officer (DCO) School
- 12 days
- Officer Training Command, Newport, R.I.
- More about DCO
Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard
Commissioned Officer Training (COT)
- Five and a half weeks
- Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
- More about 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 + Physical Training
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 and courtesies
- Information about your Service and its specific role in the Military
- Leadership skills, including how to work with enlisted service members
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 important, 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, push-ups and sit-ups.