Will the United States Military pay recruits to attend medical school? The short answer is yes, but there are conditions. Many who qualify choose a career in military medicine because the schooling is paid for and while serving there is no requirement for individual doctors to take out malpractice insurance while serving in the military.
That particular feature is billed as a perk of serving. The Army official site’s efforts to recruit doctors and nurses includes a promise that military doctors “practice in an environment free of overhead and malpractice insurance costs.”
But long before a medical student can think about malpractice insurance, there is the issue of how to pay for a medical education.
Paying For Medical School In The U.S. Military
The first thing to keep in mind when considering military options to pay for medical school and medical training is that in exchange for paying for your training, your branch of military service (Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Space Force, and Coast Guard where applicable) will require a time commitment from you–you must agree to serve a minimum time in uniform as a trained medical professional.
In general, your military commitment will depend greatly on the amount of commitment the military gives you–every year you receive military educational assistance toward a medical degree you are required to commit the same amount of time (one full year in exchange for one full year of benefits) to serving. If you enter a four-year medical program and get four years of full-time coverage for it, you will be expected (in general) to commit to four years of service in uniform.
It should be pointed out that many such programs require your military commitment to begin after residency requirements are met and not before. Resident work may coincide with or conflict with Guard or Reserve commitments. You will need to ask questions of your school and recruiter to learn how to reconcile such schedules where needed.
When You Start Counts
Military financial aid options for medical school include:
- Financial assistance options for those in or applying to medical-oriented undergrad programs (“pre-med”)
- Educational assistance funds for those accepted into medical school programs
- Compensation for those who come to military service with a medical degree they’ve already earned
- Help for those who are already serving in uniform but want to start a medical career
How You Serve Counts
The educational assistance and other perks offered by the Department of Defense to military doctors, dentists, nurses, and other professionals depends greatly on whether the applicant is serving as a member of the Guard, Reserve, or Active Duty.
Your choices may also depend on the branch of service as well as whether you are an enlisted member or an officer–for example, the Army offers currently serving enlisted soldiers the opportunity to cross-train into Nursing via the U.S. Army Health Care Enlisted Commissioning Program.
All military doctors are officers. Technicians such as physicians’ assistants, lab workers, x-ray techs, and others are enlisted. Basically the so-called blue collar jobs in any hospital would be filled by enlisted service members; jobs that require medical training such as for surgery, psychiatry, and other highly technical medical operations are staffed by officers.
Some programs offered to active duty troops are not available to members of the Guard and Reserve, and some options for part-time military service may not include paying for medical school courses in the same way as for those with an active duty service commitment.
Do You Have A Medical Degree Already?
Some incentives are offered to those who are considering or just starting a medical school program, others are offered to those who have already completed medical degrees. Consider what the Army official site says about this issue, offering separate gateways on the official site for prospective students and for current students:
“The U.S. Army offers future health care professionals the chance to complete a bachelor’s degree with less debt” and with “more advanced training.”
A similar offer states, “U.S. Army health care team offers future health care professionals the chance to finish their graduate medical education” with the same offers of “less debt and more advanced training.” But the options and outcomes will vary depending on your status, the program, and other variables.
How To Research Getting The Military To Pay For Medical School
Are you a potential recruit and not currently obligated to serve? Whether or not you have been accepted into a medical or pre-med program, it’s best to talk to a recruiter about your options. But don’t stop there.
If you have not been accepted into a program yet, your options are more open–you theoretically have the ability to look at different schools and different programs across the United States rather than being limited in your choices at home or in your current city. It is a very good idea to shop around for a program. That said, not all schools may participate in these programs–you’ll need to check about the following details:
- The school you choose has a medical program acceptable to the branch of military service you wish to join
- The school where you wish to attend has an ROTC program or there is another way for you to fulfill certain service obligations (dependent on the program you choose)
- You must make sure you qualify for both the school and the military commitment you make for the program
Military Medicine Programs You Should Know About
What follows should not be considered a comprehensive list of military programs that can help pay for medical school. These are examples of programs that have been offered by the various branches of service as an incentive for recruits to explore a career in medicine.
The terms, conditions, service obligations, and repayment issues are all subject to change at any time due to legislation, mission requirements, and other variables. It’s also critical to know that until you get or make a commitment in writing, no offers are set in stone. If you haven’t signed a legally binding agreement, your options are subject to change depending on circumstances.
Army Medical School Financial Aid Programs
The F. Edward Hébert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship offers a full tuition scholarship for medical school (graduate-level healthcare degrees) plus a $20,000 signing bonus (which is applicable at press time–these amounts are always subject to change and you should ask a recruiter about the current status of this programs, bonuses, etc.).
You can use this scholarship in the following types of programs in the United States or Puerto Rico:
- “Any accredited” medical or dental program
- Any accredited veterinary program
- Accredited psychology programs
- Accredited optometry programs
An Army Medical And Dental School Stipend Program offers qualifying students a monthly stipend (over two thousand dollars in FY 2020, payment rates are subject to change) with one of the qualifying criteria being that the student is already in a medical program.
Air Force Medical School Programs
The Air Force offers the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP)–similar to a Navy program with the same name–intended for healthcare professionals and featuring up to two-year scholarships “for Allied Health specialties” including pharmacists, optometrists, clinical psychologists and public health officers.
There are longer options (two- and three-year scholarships) for specialties for those in the “nurse corps.” Three and four-year options are available for qualifying troops studying in medical and dental programs. The requirements for these scholarships include serving one year of active duty Air Force commitment for each year the scholarship benefits are received.
A second option, called the Air Force Financial Assistance Program is offered for those who are in residency. “You will receive more than $45,000 for every year you participate in the program and receive a stipend of over $2,000 a month to cover living expenses,” according to the Air Force official site at the time of this writing. Upon completion of residency requirements, participants have “a one-year obligation for each year of participation, plus one extra year.”
Navy and Marine Corps Medical School Programs
A search for Marine Corps-specific medical school programs may frustrate some users; the Marines have not participated in the types of medical school programs (including student loan forgiveness and other programs designed to help those currently studying or soon to be studying medicine). However, the Navy has participated in the past including programs such as the Navy Health Professions Scholarship program featuring:
- 100% tuition coverage during medical school for qualified applicants
- Monthly stipends for living expenses (for 48 months)
- Significant signing bonus
- Reimbursement for books, supplies, insurance, etc.
Another program known as the Navy Health Services Collegiate Program offers assistance up to roughly $250 thousand for qualifying applicants that includes:
- Monthly military pay
- Housing allowance
- Health-care benefits package
These programs may require you to speak to a Navy Medical recruiter, not a “regular” recruiter. When calling your local recruiting office, be sure to mention that you need to speak to a medical recruiter about student loan incentive programs.
Guard and Reserve Programs
The Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program may be eligible to apply for student loan repayment assistance (as much as $250,000 for “certain specialties”) in exchange for a seven-year service commitment with the Army Guard.
To qualify, Army National Guard officers must serve in the Selected Reserve. Other specialties including physician assistants, social workers and veterinarians “may qualify for loan repayments” but you may be required to contact a specialty recruiter assigned to your state.
A set of similar Air Guard options exist. The official site advises there are several Air National Guard programs “to assist health professionals interested in joining the Air Guard, including the Student Loan Repayment Program, a stipend program, and the Montgomery GI Bill.”
There are also options to earn Continuing Medical Education credit “for training courses offered by the Air Guard.”
Other options for members of the Guard and Reserve may include specialized training assistance (the STRAP program) for those “unconditionally accepted” into a medical program or residency that requires a full year of military service obligation for every six months of access to this program. “Your obligation begins immediately following completion of your residency,” according to the U.S. Army official site.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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