How to Become a Doctor in the Navy

Updated April 17, 2017

Navy doctors work all over the world to serve Navy soldiers and their families. Doctors in the Navy specialise in over 30 fields, including internal medicine, pathology, surgery and paediatrics. As part of the Navy Medical Corps, they also provide medical care to servicemen and women in the Coast Guard and Marine Corps.

To become a doctor in the Navy, you must have a bachelor's degree, a medical degree, and a medical license (or working towards your license). You must also be a U.S. citizen and pass a full physical examination.

Acquire U.S. citizenship. Navy doctors must be American citizens or be a foreign citizen currently practicing medicine in the U.S. (see a Navy recruiter for details on the latter). If you are not a U.S. citizen or a foreign citizen practicing medicine here, then you should apply for citizenship as soon as possible.

Obtain a bachelor's degree. You must graduate from an accredited four-year college or university to apply to medical school. Attend a college with a strong pre-med program and enrol in its pre-med major. Achieve good grades in your required courses like biology, chemistry, organic chemistry and anatomy. Maintain the highest GPA you can because you need good grades to be a competitive medical school applicant.

Register and take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). You must take the MCAT to apply to accredited medical schools in the U.S. The test covers four main areas: verbal reasoning, physical sciences, biological sciences and two essay questions. You may register for the exam on the MCAT's official website (see Resources). Consider enrolling in an MCAT prep class to achieve the highest score you can on the test.

Apply to medical school. You do not need to attend a military medical program to become a Navy doctor or to qualify for Navy medical scholarships. Go over the list of accredited medical schools in the U.S. (see Resources) and choose a few where you would like to study. Try to visit the schools or speak with current medical students attending them.

Then, apply to the programs of your choice. You should apply to one or two long-shot schools, a handful of schools where you will be a competitive applicant, and one or two backup schools.

Contact a Navy recruiter. Once you start the application process, speak with your local Navy recruiter about military funding options for medical school. You can finish medical school with no debt or very little debt if you participate in one of these programs. The Navy recruiter will help you decide which two options are best for you: the Navy Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) or the Navy Health Services Collegiate Program (HSCP).

With the HPSP, you will receive 100 per cent tuition coverage along with a sign-on bonus up to £13,000 and a monthly stipend to cover living expenses up to 48 months. With the HSCP, you will receive anywhere from £92,950 to £156,000 in military wages and housing allowance. You will also receive health benefits.

To participate in these programs, you will have to sign a contract with the Navy to serve as a naval doctor for a certain period of time (typically around eight years) after your schooling is finished.

Take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). The USMLE is a three-step exam administered by the Federation of State Medical Boards. To become a practicing doctor (not just a doctor in the Navy), you have to pass all three steps of the test. The first step must be taken after your second year of medical school. The second step must be taken during your fourth year of school. The third step must be taken during your residency.

Complete your residency. Once you finish medical school, you will start a residency program to hone your skills as a doctor. The length of your residency will vary depending on the speciality you chose while in med school. If you are currently in your residency or just about to start, contact a Navy recruiter to discuss the possibility of joining the Navy Financial Assistance Program (FAP). The FAP can potentially provide you with over £175,500 during your residency, consisting of an annual grant and a monthly stipend (up to 48 months).

To participate in FAP, you will have to sign a contract with the Navy to serve as a doctor for a certain period of time once your residency is complete.

Join the Navy as a practicing doctor. If you are currently practicing as a civilian doctor, consider joining the Navy to help you pay back your medical school loans. Contact a Navy recruiter to discuss joining the Navy Health Professions Loan Repayment Program. Through this program, you can receive up to £78,000 to pay off your student loans (up to £26,000 a year for three years). The Navy will also offer you a sign-on bonus from £117,000 to £260,000. (The bonus depends on your speciality and your service commitment.)

To be eligible for this program, you must agree to serve as an Active Duty Medical Corps Officer for each year you obtain loan payment.


Becoming a doctor is a challenging route to take. Make sure you are ready for the work and responsibility of this career before you start medical school.

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About the Author

A native of Washington, D.C., Caroline Tung Richmond has worked as a freelance writer since 2007. Her articles have appeared in both print and online publications such as the "Baltimore Sun," "Highlights" and She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brigham Young University.