ROTC is an excellent avenue to eventually become a dentist in the military. Learn more about dental school and ROTC below!

An ROTC scholarship, combined with a dental school scholarship or loan forgiveness, can potentially mean zero out-of-pocket expenses after the conclusion of dental school.

The routes are different for each military service and more probable for the Army than the Air Force. This post will go over the ways you can become a dentist through the Army and Air Force.

Army ROTC and Dental School

There are two different routes for Army ROTC to become a dentist: active duty with an educational delay or reserve duty.

Army ROTC: Active Duty with Educational Delay

During the fourth year in Army ROTC, a cadet can request an educational delay to continue dental studies before going on active duty. If a cadet receives admission to an accredited dental school, the educational delay is almost always granted. Once a candidate commissions as a second lieutenant, he/she would serve in the individual ready reserve (IRR) as he/she completes dental school. Once the officer completes dental school and becomes licensed, he/she would start serving as a dentist in the active Army.

Once the education delay is granted by ROTC, candidates can apply for the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). At the moment, the HPSP scholarship for dental school is very competitive with about a 33% selection rate. Having a commission through Army ROTC probably increases the probability of selection to about 50%.

Service payback is four years for the Army ROTC scholarship (three years without the scholarship) and four years for the HPSP. The service clock starts once the dentist completes licensure.

Army ROTC: Reserve Duty

During the fourth year in Army ROTC, the candidate would designate that he/she wants reserve duty (National Guard or Reserve). The officer would serve in the Guard or Reserve while in dental school and in residency under the designation 00E67 (med student) Once residency is completed, the doctor would serve in the Guard or Reserve as a dentist.

Service payback is eight years for the Army ROTC scholarship but this can be served concurrently while in dental school as a 00E67.

ROTC Reserve officers attending dental school can apply for the Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program (HPLRP) loan repayment assistance by agreeing to up to a seven-year service commitment with the Guard ($40,000 per year for six years and $10,000 the seventh year, with a $250,000 lifetime cap). Payback for this scholarship begins upon licensure.

Air Force ROTC to Dental School

The route to become an Air Force doctor for Air Force ROTC cadets is through active duty.

Each year, Air Force ROTC identifies cadets to enter their Pre-Health program (HPP) during their sophomore year. These cadets are guaranteed an Air Force dental school four-year scholarship (AFHPS/FAP) if they are accepted into a dental school prior to graduating from their undergraduate program. Pre-Health program cadets not accepted into an accredited dental school prior to graduation have two options: they enter active duty as a line officer or apply for an educational delay. Educational delays are currently being granted at a 50% rate and are based on performance and academic qualifications.

There are also routes to dental school for non-HPP cadets. They can apply for an educational delay to attend dental school. However, only pre-HPP cadets are guaranteed the AFHPS. However, non HPP cadets can apply for the AFHPS. They can compete for a two, three or four year-scholarship.

Selection rate for AFHPS for non-HPP dental applicants is very competitive and varies from year to year. Air Force ROTC does give an advantage in selection compared to non-ROTC civilian applicants. Selection is based on the Dental Admission Test (DAT) and interview score. The four-year scholarship is more competitive than the three or two-year scholarship. In past years about 14 four-year and 45 three-year scholarships were awarded annually.

When applying for the Air Force ROTC scholarship out of high school, 70% or more of the scholarship are granted to technical majors. The technical major of Chemistry has the most overlap with the requirements for most dental schools and should be designated on the application to maximize the chances of an Air Force ROTC scholarship.

The Service payback is the same as Army ROTC cadets who decide to go on active duty if the candidate is awarded a four-year AFHPS scholarship.


There is no route at the moment to become a dentist through Navy ROTC.

Dual Admission Programs

High school candidates who know they want to be a dentist when they apply out of high school should strongly consider programs that allow for automatic admittance to dental school upon completion of the undergraduate program.

For example, Nova Southeastern provides guaranteed admission to their dental program out of their undergraduate program. For Army ROTC cadets and Air Force ROTC cadets on a Type 1 scholarship, Nova Southeastern provides free room and board. A candidate who secures admission to this Nova Southeastern program, as well as an Army or Air Force ROTC scholarship, would have zero out of pocket for their undergraduate education and a close to foolproof route to becoming a dentist.

What is Your Best Chance of Dental School After ROTC? The Verdict: Army ROTC

Overall, Army ROTC is probably the most certain route to becoming a dentist in the Armed Services and also has the possibility of serving as a dentist in the Army Reserve or National Guard. If accepted to an accredited dental school, it is pretty much guaranteed that an Army ROTC cadet will receive an education delay (if deciding on active duty) and has a 50-50 shot at a four-year Dental school scholarship. Read our guide on winning an Army ROTC scholarship here.

The Air Force route is somewhat restricted by the need to apply to the Pre-Health program (HPP) or take the chance of receiving an educational delay. A non-HPP also has to compete for an Air Force dental school scholarship (AFHPS/FAP) which is extremely competitive especially with a four-year scholarship award. Read our guide on winning an Air Force ROTC scholarship here.

The Navy does not currently have a route to be dentist through Navy ROTC.

We hope this post was helpful and wish you the best of luck as you decide to serve in the Armed Forces as a dentist.

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LTC Robert Kirkland

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Kirkland (USA, Ret.) is an expert on military admissions and leadership. He served for over 25 years in the United States Army, including stints as an instructor at West Point and as a commander of two Army ROTC programs. He has helped students win ROTC scholarships for 8 years.