How to Become a Military Doctor
A career in the military is exciting. You get to get trained in special skills and get to see the world when you are deployed in off-shore locations.
This is especially true if you aspire to become a military doctor.
A military doctor provides healthcare to military personnel and their dependents. They are required to work in a variety of situations, including onboard hospital ships or at international medical centers.
They are often called to action for international relief efforts in times of global or regional disasters. Military doctors are also responsible for keeping military personnel fit for duty and treating injuries during combat or other emergencies.
When you advance in this career, you may even have to command entire medical units or coordinate the placement and deployment of military medical personnel.
Who Should Choose to Become a Military Doctor
A career as a military doctor sounds incredibly exciting but is not meant for everyone. Let’s take a quick look at some of the aspects you need to consider before deciding whether you want to pursue a career as a military doctor.
Lower salary range
On average, a military doctor earns anywhere between US$ 150,000 to US$ 200,000 per year (depending on the rank) and also includes several benefit packages.
On the other hand, a civilian doctor who offers primary care to the public may earn significantly more, with neurosurgeons and orthopedic specialists earning twice or thrice more than that.
So, if a significant salary is your major criterion, then you should consider pursuing a career as a civilian doctor instead.
Rigid practice location
Military doctors often have to work and live in unpredictable conditions. The military decides where you are needed and deploys its medical personnel accordingly.
Besides, once you complete your residency training, you can be deployed at any time. There are also additional risks when serving as a military doctor in active war zones.
Thus, if you are looking for flexibility and options for practicing medicine, then you might want to look for a career as a civilian doctor.
So, if you think you can handle these factors well, then you can choose to become a military doctor.
How do I become a Military Doctor
Here’s a simple step-wise guide to help you achieve your dream of becoming a certified and experienced military doctor:
1 – Get your bachelor’s degree
A bachelor’s degree is a must-have for admission to medical schools. You should ensure that your coursework includes science topics, especially chemistry and biology.
Additionally, you must show initiative in enhancing your hands-on experience alongside coursework by volunteering frequently at medical centers or primary healthcare providers.
If you have an additional degree or work experience in relevant subjects, your application has a higher chance of getting admission into reputed US medical schools.
2 – Earn your medical degree
Aspiring candidates looking to become military doctors must attend a certified or military medical school.
Often, you might also get the option to pursue your medical degree at a military medical school if you join the armed forces as a commissioned officer once you earn your medical degree.
It normally takes around four years to earn a medical degree. This involves taking courses and having significant hands-on experience handling patients during the first half of your medical school.
Some topics taught at medical schools include pharmacology, microbiology, medicinal law and ethics, etc.
During the second half of the medical degree, you would spend your time frequently in medical settings under the supervision of an experienced doctor.
There are two main ways that you can earn a medical degree to become a military doctor –
HPSP – Health Professionals Scholarship Program is a training program at par with civilian medical training but includes basic military training. Once you earn your medical degree, you can become active and start your rounds at local military hospitals.
The major benefits of choosing HPSP to become a military doctor include:
- Getting admission into your choice of medical school within the US
- Paid tuition with a monthly stipend for living expenses
USUHS – The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences is connected directly to the military medical school.
Some of the major advantages of choosing USUHS to become a military doctor include:
- Complete engagement in military training and exercises during medical school so you are steeped in the military culture and have experience being deployed at local and international bases.
- Free tuition for medical school and receiving a base pay salary of US$ 3,107, along with an additional US$ 2,205 non-taxable housing allowance. (Source ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
3 – Join the military
The last step to becoming a combat medic or military doctor is to join the military.
The application process for joining the military varies from branch to branch. For instance, the criteria for becoming a military doctor in the Navy vary from that of the Air Force.
However, every aspiring candidate must fulfill the mandatory health, character and age requirements. Apart from this, a security clearance is also required.
As an aspiring military doctor, you may also have to provide a current state medical license and practice actively in the US. Every armed forces member is required to sign a contract that stipulates the minimum service tenure.
Military doctors are brave, bold and life-savers. A career as an army doctor is extremely exciting, dynamic and satisfying.
If you have a passion for healthcare and want to serve your country in the best possible way, you should join the armed forces and become a military doctor.