The Service Academies offer the chance for a select few graduates to commission as an officer and go directly to medical school to serve in the armed forces as a doctor. In this post, we discuss how to get into medical school directly after graduation and commissioning from the Air Force Academy, Naval Academy, and West Point.
Each school is slightly different in terms of the number of slots available and the requirements to get a slot, however, the underlying concept is the same. Typically, about 1.5% to 2% of each Service Academy class will go directly onto medical school. This is anywhere from 15 to 20 students out of a graduating class of about 1,000. Competition can be fierce between cadets and midshipmen.
Paths to Becoming a Doctor After Graduation from a Service Academy
There are two different programs that are available to Service Academy graduates for medical school:
- The Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP)
- The Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USU)
The Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) is a 4-year scholarship that covers tuition and fees as well as a monthly stipend (not O-1 pay). While attending a public medical school, students serve in reserve status. Medical school is expensive, with attendance averaging about $250,000 in the U.S. This is an opportunity to get medical school paid for and continue to serve in the armed forces after completion of medical school. HPSP adds a 4-year active duty commitment.
The Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USU) allows graduates to serve on active duty as a medical student rather than in the reserves. USU adds a 7-year active duty commitment.
The USU averages are a 3.7 GPA and MCAT of 509.
Get more information from USU on the F. Edward Herbert School of Medicine here.
Once you graduate from medical school and complete residency, you’ll start serving your Service Academy active duty commitment, which is 5 years. After you complete the 5 years, then you’ll start your secondary commitment, of either the 4 years from HPSP or 7 years from USU (commitments are served consecutively, not concurrently as mentioned above).
Since each Service Academy requires a minimum of 5 years of active duty service, this means for HPSP the service obligation is 9 years total after completing residency and for USU the service obligation is 12 years total after completing residency.
Keep in mind that residency length depends on the program/specialty and usually ranges from 3-5 years.
Perhaps the greatest question to ask yourself is: If you don’t get to go to medical school after a Service Academy, would attending a Service Academy still be the right choice for you?
Since the number of slots available per year is capped by each Service Academy, you may not get a slot to go. This means that you are competing against other cadets or midshipmen for a medical school slot. If you don’t make the cut, you should be prepared to find another career field that you are interested in. We highly recommend researching other careers available to you within each service so you have an idea of what you would do if you don’t get selected to attend medical school.
Even if the student would make a great candidate for acceptance into medical school – if the Service Academy doesn’t select the student, they will not be able to attend.
Medical School After the Air Force Academy
The Air Force Academy has 18 slots per year for medical school. The application includes an interview, personal essay, transcript, and letters of recommendation.
The process starts in the spring of your junior year at the Air Force Academy. The Air Force Academy has a group called the Health Professions Advisory Committee that oversees the application process of cadets into military health career fields, including doctors. They will look at your GPA and overall military performance at the Air Force Academy and provide approval in order to start applications to medical schools.
Other options in the medical sector with the Air Force include:
- Clinical psychology through USUHS
- Hospital Administrator
- Physician Assistant
- Physical therapist
- Clinical Psychologist
- Aerospace Physiologist
Medical School After the Naval Academy
The Naval Academy has the lowest number of slots for medical school of the three Service Academies. 15 slots are shared between midshipmen selected to attend medical and dental school.
The board that endorses midshipmen for medical school is known as the Premedical Predental Advising Committee. Just like the other Service Academies, students must complete all prerequisites for medical school by the end of the student’s junior (second class) year.
Here is the timeline for applying to medical school:
The Naval Academy also offers medical internships for students, so they have the chance to get hands-on experience during the summer before their first class (senior) year.
Learn more about the entire process from the USNA website.
Medical School After West Point
West Point selects 10-20 cadets in every graduating class to attend medical school after graduation. Most pre-medical cadets select the Life Science Major.
West Point offers the following courses, some of which are mandatory as prereqs for medical school acceptance.
- Organic chemistry (2 semesters required)
- Cell biology
- Human physiology
- Biochemistry (1 semester required)
West Point’s board that endorses cadets to attend medical school is called the Medical Program Advisory Committee (MPAC). The MPAC meets and interviews second class cadets in April. Here is the timeline:
During the spring of a cadet’s junior (or second class) year, they are required to take the MCAT, no later than mid-June. Here are the average GPAs and MCAT scores for cadets who were recently accepted into medical school:
The minimums are 3.2+ GPA and MCAT of 500+.
For the Class of 2020 accepted into the medical school program, cadets averaged a 3.79 GPA and an MCAT of 511.
Get the West Point Pre-Medical School Scholarship Program guide here.
Commissioned Officers Can Also Attend Medical School Later in their Careers
Just because a student doesn’t get selected to attend medical school directly after graduation doesn’t mean they are unable to go to medical school later in their career. Officers are able to apply for both programs throughout their careers.
The best recommendation we can give is to take all the pre-requirements for medical school, as serving on active duty while taking pre-medical classes can be extremely challenging.
We wish you or your student the best of luck in your goals of attending a Service Academy and hope we have given you an idea of how to attend medical school after graduating from a Service Academy.