Become a Military Doctor: Step-by-Step Career Guide
In the military, physicians provide the same care as in a civilian setting but receive additional training specific to the armed forces. Doctors in the military may work in the U.S. or in a variety of international locations.
Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree
A bachelor's degree is necessary to enter medical school. Premedical students in an undergraduate program usually take classes in science - such as biology and chemistry - in addition to humanities and other disciplines. Students considering a career in medicine should seek out relevant volunteer opportunities in medical centers or similar environments. To strengthen their candidacy, students may wish to pursue an additional degree or more work experience before applying to a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) program.
Step 2: Secure a Medical Degree
Civilians entering the military as medical officers generally need a degree from an approved medical school. While students can attend a military medical school, it isn't necessary to have a degree from a military-affiliated school in order to join the military. Students may qualify for military financial aid to support them during medical school, with an agreement that they join as commissioned officers once graduated.
Students usually need four years to complete a medical degree. Typically, medical students take courses and have some contact with patients during the first half of the program of study. Possible course topics include microbiology, pharmacology, medicinal law and ethics. Students spend the second half of their program working in a medical setting under the supervision of experienced physicians.
Step 3: Meet Military Requirements
Exact admission prerequisites will vary between different branches of the military; however, applicants need to meet health, character and age requirements. In addition, a security clearance may be required. Doctors may need to hold a current state medical license and currently practice in the United States. All military members sign a contract that includes a minimum amount of service time.
Step 4: Join the Military
Like a civilian doctor, a military doctor diagnoses and treats ailments. Military physicians can apply previous experience and receive new training in treatments pertaining to diving, tropical environments or aerospace medicine. The military also employs doctors with specializations in more common types of medicine such as pediatrics, family care and neurology.
A military doctor provides health care to military personnel and their families and can work in a variety of settings, including hospital ships or international medical centers. Doctors enlisted in the military take part in international relief efforts by providing care to victims of natural disasters. Doctors may also be responsible for ensuring that soldiers are physically fit for duty and treating injuries during combat and other emergencies. Leadership positions involve commanding medical units or coordinating the placement and employment of medical personnel.
Step 5: Advance Within the Military
As with all military officers, doctors can advance in rank and receive commensurate pay raises. Promotions within the military are generally based on time served and performance evaluations. Experienced military doctors may instruct at service schools or advise other military units. They may also leave the military and apply their skills to a career in civilian health care.
The rate of pay for a military physician varies according to experience and rank and whether they receive special pay, incentive pay and a housing allowance. These are just some of the factors used to compute pay. The website, Payscale.com reported that those in the military with Doctor of Medicine degrees earned between $91,514 and $218,449 as of 2014.
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