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Military Medical Careers

Should You Be an Army Nurse or Navy Doctor? Military Provides Many Options

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Army Medevac Unit Tends To The War Wounded Near Marja, Afghanistan
Scott Olson / Staff / Getty Images News / Getty Images
The United States military offers hundreds of medical jobs, from medics to physicians, and everything in between, including nurses and allied health careers. Working for the military is one of many government-employed options for healthcare professionals.

There are four branches of the military:

  • Army
  • Navy
  • Air Force
  • Marines
Each branch of the military has different needs and entrance requirements for medical professionals. However, one requirement all four military branches share is the physical health standards. Any minor physical weakness, or deviation, from the slightest vision or hearing impairment to flat-footedness, could disqualify you for acceptance into the military. Additionally, you would have to pass physical fitness tests and endurance tests as well. The standards do vary slightly amongst the branches, but generally the requirements are very strict.

What’s to Like About Military Medical Careers:

One of the major advantages to military medical jobs is the paid training and education. In return for a pre-determined number of service years to pay back your training and education, you will not have to pay out of pocket for your medical degree, nursing degree, or other related healthcare training. Usually the service years are around four years of active duty, sometimes more or less depending upon the level of education and training you received from the military. Once your service requirements are met, you are free and clear of any debt for your medical training.

Furthermore, military medical careers are a great option for people who love medicine but do not wish to be confined to a medical office or hospital. For example, you could be a flight surgeon or work on an air craft carrier for the Air Force, or you could work as a nurse or doctor on a Navy submarine . . . there are many options!

Another perk of working in the military is that your living expenses are often paid in addition to your salary. Although your salary may not be as high as civilians’ salaries, your living expenses will be much less, and your benefits much greater, such as healthcare, military pension, and more. Additionally, as a government employee, your job stability is high, you have a set schedule and steady paycheck, and you don’t have to worry about building your practice or running a business.

What’s Not to Like:

One of the major drawbacks of a medical military career is that your life is not your own while you are training and serving in the military. “You are asked for your preferences as to where you’d like to go, but rarely do you end up at your preferred location. The military can send you to work anywhere from Cleveland Ohio to Hawaii or Alaska,” states Victoria Miller, a former Air Force medical recruiter who now recruits physicians for civilian jobs with The MD Firm. Additionally, overseas deployment during war could be a deterrent for many who do not wish to be separated from their families.

Lastly, while not a major drawback, some medical professionals I’ve interviewed have shared that the bureaucracy of the military can be daunting. While the patient load may be lighter, the administrative paperwork required is much larger. Also, as a military nurse or physician, you would only be treating military personnel and their families. Some doctors and nurses desire to expand their scope of practice to include a greater variety of patients.

Another great resource for military medical career information is About.com's Guide to the U.S. Military, Rod Powers. I have provided some links to his articles about specific medical military jobs below.

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