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How do I become a military surgeon? What are the possible ways I can take to achieve this goal?

I want to know how to become a military surgeon. I know there are programs in colleges where you can get military training and that to join the military as a doctor, you will need a PH.D. But I am unsure of this fact.

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Joshua’s Answer

Good question! To start you don’t need a PhD. Which may be a good thing. A PhD is a 5-8 year research only degree. Most medical doctors in the the US get an MD or DO type doctorate, which is 4 years of classroom and clinical work. (Medical degrees can be 3years, and may be combined with a PhD) This is followed by 3 to 7 years of residency(intense job training). Surgical training varies from 5 years for general surgeons to 7 for neurosurgeons. If you want the action of trauma surgery that will be 5 years of general surgery training post medical school plus a 1-2 year fellowship in acute care surgery or surgical critical care. On the military, they will take anyone who has gotten into medical school, pay for the while thing and promote to captain on graduation. This route can be tricky as the military has some say in what residency you are able to do and where you end up. They can, depending on the branch, even delay your residency training while you pay back medical school with service time. Another route is to sign up after you have become a surgeon. Also of note would be USUHS the militaries medical school. I would get involved with JROTC and shadow a surgeon to learn more about this career field. Be careful signing up for the military until you have guarantees of medical school training as ROTC, enlistment, and other contracts may prevent you from attending medical school, though they can be good ways to break into the field of military healthcare in general. Also, their are lots of different surgical careers in the military! Military dentistry may interest you, or even tactical emergency medicine if your looking more for the action.
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this is amazing! I really needed it. Diya
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Rachel’s Answer

I would suggest talking to a recruiter in your area (just simply search a "military recruitment office near me"). They will know the best route for the military paying for your education. The Navy is known for being the branch that has the most medical jobs within a branch. The hospitals on base are primarily filled with Navy service members, but if you have a strong pull to another branch it never hurts to talk to a recruiter. I know there are programs within branches if you join right away, then you can attend college while getting a housing allowance and not paying for your degree. Good luck to you!
Thank you comment icon Thanks, can't wait to put this advice into action! Diya
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Kaylie’s Answer

To add onto what Joshua said, you also need to look at what branch you want to commission in (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines). If you have your heart set on being a surgeon in the military than you should look for a pre-medical school that has a ROTC program for the branch you want to commission in. How it works is, if during ROTC you are offered a commission then the military branch will select a follow on assignment for your residency it may be in the military or sometimes you can do it through a civilian installation. I hope this helps!
Thank you comment icon I am really grateful you took the time to answer this question. Diya
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Sabrina’s Answer

Hello, this is a great question. The first step toward becoming a Navy doctor is completing your undergraduate education and earning a bachelor's degree. You can either go to school to become a surgeon and then speak to a commissioned officer at the recruiting station, or you could even start as an enlisted Navy Corpsman and start going to school while serving as an enlisted sailor to get experience in the medical field. If you start as an enlisted Navy Corpsman, you can begin to take advantage of the free schooling and then go commissioned once you earn your degree. Please consider the requirements you must make before becoming a doctor in the Navy. These requirements include a specific SAT, ACT, or ASVAB score. You will also need to meet set physical Fitness Requirements and height and weight standards. These are just a few essential requirements to consider upon your journey to becoming a doctor in the United States Armed Forces.
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Jacob’s Answer

Hi, Diya,

You've gotten a lot of good information already so I'll just add a couple of thoughts.

I can only speak from the Army perspective since that's the branch I served in. For Army ROTC programs and for the United States Military Academy at West Point, you are not guaranteed to receive your branch of choice. I'm not sure if there is a separate process for those who want to become medical doctors (including surgeons) but for the broad cadet population, your ability to select your branch/military occupational specialty (e.g. infantry, field artillery, aviation) is based on an order of merit list. Check out the first link below for more information (note, it is a little old but, based on some quick googling, it looks like it is basically how the process still works).

Another option outside of an ROTC program or one of the branches' service academies is Uniformed Services University. I'm not super familiar with the details but a friend attended and is now a doctor in the Navy. I added a link to the university's "About" page so you can take a closer look.

Good luck - feel free to add any other questions as a comment on this answer.

Jacob recommends the following next steps:

https://career-satisfaction.army.mil/resources/pdfs/ROTC_BRADSO_Briefing_slides.pdf
https://www.usuhs.edu/about
Thank you comment icon Thank you for taking the time to help. Diya
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