Become a Military Doctor: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Jan 16, 2020

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.

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  • 00:01 Essential Information
  • 1:15 Bachelor's Degree
  • 1:45 Medical Degree
  • 2:33 Join the Military
  • 2:55 Career Advancement

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Should I Become a Military Doctor?

Degree Level Doctor of Medicine (completion of undergraduate, medical school, and residency)
Degree Field(s) Biological sciences or pre-med
License/Certification Licensed to practice medicine in the U.S.
Key Skills Self-discipline; ability to handle stress and pressure; critical thinking and decision-making skills; able to pass security clearance and physical requirements to contract with the military branch of choice
Annual Salary (2020) $100,000 - $275,000*


A military doctor provides health care to military personnel and their families and can work in a variety of settings, including hospital ships and international medical centers. Doctors enlisted in the military might take part in international relief efforts by providing care to victims of natural disasters. They also might ensure that soldiers are physically fit for duty and treat injuries during combat and other emergencies. Leadership positions might involve commanding medical units or coordinating the placement and employment of medical personnel.

The military employs doctors with specializations in common types of medicine such as pediatrics, family care, and neurology. Military physicians also might receive training and treatments pertaining to diving, tropical environments or aerospace medicine. Military doctors need self-discipline and the ability to handle intense stress and pressure. Additionally, they must be physically fit and have exceptional critical thinking and quick decision making skills. reported that those in the military with Doctor of Medicine degrees earned between $100,000 and $275,000 as of January, 2020.

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

The first step to become a military doctor is to earn a bachelor's degree, which is necessary to enter medical school. Premedical students 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 might wish to pursue an additional degree or more work experience before applying to a Doctor of Medicine program.

Step 2: Earn 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 to join the military. Students might qualify for military financial aid to support them during medical school with an agreement that they join the military as a commissioned officer after graduation.

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 medical settings under the supervision of experienced physicians.

Step 3: Meet Military Requirements and Join the Military

Exact admission prerequisites will vary between different branches of the military; however, all applicants need to meet health, character and age requirements. In addition, a security clearance might be required. Doctors might 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.

Career Advancement

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 might instruct at service schools or advise other military units. They also might leave the military and apply their skills to a career in civilian health care.

In summary, becoming a military doctor requires earning a bachelor's degree and a medical degree and enrolling in the military.

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