ROTC is an excellent avenue to eventually become a doctor in the military. An ROTC scholarship, combined with a medical school scholarship or loan forgiveness, can potentially mean zero out of pocket expenses after the conclusion of medical school.

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

Army ROTC

There are two different routes for Army ROTC to become a doctor:

  1. Active duty with an educational delay (or USUHS) OR
  2. Reserve duty

Active Duty with Educational Delay – Army ROTC

during the fourth year in Army ROTC, a cadet can request an educational delay to continue medical studies before going on active duty. If a cadet receives admission to an accredited medical school or school of osteopathic medicine, 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 medical school. Once the officer completes medical school, he/she would do a civilian or military residency and then start serving as a doctor in the active Army.

Once the education delay is granted by ROTC, candidates can apply for the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). The HPSP scholarship is virtually guaranteed if the candidate has a letter of admission to an accredited medical school.

A cadet can also opt to apply to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS). He/she would serve on active duty as a medical student rather than in the IRR. This is a full scholarship to medical school and not part of the HPSP.

Service payback is four years for the Army ROTC scholarship (three years without the scholarship) and four years for the HPSP. If a cadet goes to USUHS, he/she must serve seven years for the USUHS and four for the ROTC scholarship. The service clock for either starts once the doctor completes residency.

Reserve Duty – Army ROTC

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 medical 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 doctor.

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

ROTC Reserve officers attending medical school can apply for the Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program (HPLRP) loan repayment assistance—up to $250,000 for certain specialties—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 at the end of residency.

You can learn more about Army ROTC with our scholarship guide.

Air Force ROTC

The route to becoming 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 medical school scholarship (AFHPS/FAP) if they are accepted into a medical school (or USUHS) prior to graduating from their undergraduate program. Pre-Health program cadets not accepted into an accredited medical 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 medical school for non-HPP cadets. If accepted to USUHS they have a guaranteed route to being an Air Force doctor. They can also apply for an educational delay to attend medical school. However, only pre-HPP cadets are guaranteed the AFHPS. However, non HPP cadets can apply for the AFHPS.

The current Selection Criteria for the AFHPS for non-HPP cadets are: Applicants must have a minimum 3.2 undergraduate GPA and 500 MCAT with a minimum score of 124 on each of the MCAT subsections. Applicants for 3 and 4-year scholarships with at least a 3.4 undergraduate GPA and an MCAT total score of 504 (& minimum subsection score of 124 in each subsection) are automatically selected and do not meet a scheduled accession board.

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 medical 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.

You can learn more about Air Force ROTC with our scholarship guide.

Navy ROTC

The route to becoming a Navy doctor for Navy ROTC cadets is through active duty.

Navy ROTC is generally the most restrictive in regards to medical school. At this time, a maximum of 25 NROTC midshipmen nationwide are given permission to apply to medical school each year. If admitted to medical school, they would attend immediately following graduation. To enter the program, the midshipman must gain acceptance into a medical school or USUHS. Like Army ROTC who want to serve on active duty, a midshipman is not guaranteed permission to go to medical school until the start of your senior year.

Like the Air Force, most Navy ROTC scholarships are given for Tier 1 and Tier 2 majors. The majors that most align for medical school are Biophysics & Molecular Biology, Biotechnology Cell/Cellular Biology & Anatomical Sciences, Chemistry, and General Science.

The Service payback is the same as Army ROTC cadets who decide to go on active duty.

You can learn more about Navy ROTC with our scholarship application guide.

Dual Admission Programs

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

For example, Nova Southeastern provides guaranteed admission to their D.O. 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 full proof route to becoming a doctor.

Overall, Army ROTC is probably the most certain route to becoming a doctor in the Armed Services and also has the possibility of serving out of residency as a doctor in the Army Reserve or National Guard. If accepted to an accredited medical school, it is pretty much guaranteed that an Army ROTC cadet will receive an education delay (if deciding on active duty), a medical school scholarship, or educational payback.

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 medical scholarship (AFHPS/FAP).

The Navy is the most restrictive limiting the number of midshipmen to 25 a year. This is probably too low a number to count on the Navy ROTC route to becoming a doctor.

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

Listen to our recent podcast on becoming a doctor in the military through ROTC. This episode will go over the ways you can become a doctor through the Army, Air Force, and Navy. The routes are different for each military service and more probable for the Army than the Air Force or Navy.

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