A military physician evaluates the child of a service member. A military physician evaluates the child of a service member.

Military Deployment + Service

Whether you join after residency or as a licensed physician, you will enter Active Duty, Reserve or Guard duty soon after your training. Your specific job will depend on your specialty and the Military's needs at that time, but if you are in the Military, your medical license allows you to practice anywhere.

Regardless of what you do, you will accumulate experience that will serve you well whether you stay in the Military or transfer to the civilian world. In general, you can expect to participate in any of the following three missions: deployment, serving at military medical centers or humanitarian missions.

Deployment

Deployment is a temporary assignment which occurs as a part of a military operation or exercise. During deployment, all your military, medical and leadership training comes into play. The frequency of your deployments will depend on your military Service, your specialty and the needs of the nation. The length of deployments can range from three to 12 months. Keep in mind that a deployment is different from being stationed in a specific location, such as a military medical center, for a longer term.

The frequency of your deployments will depend on your military Service, your specialty and the needs of the nation.

As for those in the Reserve and Guard components, you are expected to drill one weekend a month and two full weeks during the year, but you may also be called up to assist in missions at home and abroad. All  Reserve and Guard deployments depend on whether or not your skill is needed at a given time. In that case, you will deploy alongside the active-duty Military, and the length of your deployment will be the same.

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects members of the Reserve and Guard and helps ensure that you return to your civilian job after a period of deployment.

If you are a medical student participating in the Health Professions Scholarship Program or attending the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, or if you are a resident in the Financial Assistance Program, you will not deploy until you are finished with your medical training.

Serving at Military Medical Centers

If you are not deployed, you may serve at a base hospital or clinic, caring for service members and their families. Or, if you have a background in primary care, you may become a General Medical Officer attached to a specific unit. Either way, you will provide wellness for service members, making sure they are fit enough to carry out their duties, while also keeping their families healthy. The longer you stay in the Military, the more there is a chance that you may choose an administrative, research or academic track.

Humanitarian Work

Military physicians may be deployed to provide relief after natural disasters. For example, Navy physicians have traveled on the USNS Comfort to provide aid to earthquake victims. They may also provide relief to civilians in war zones. Closer to home, physicians in the Army National Guard or Air National Guard serve both the governor of their respective states and the president, so they may be asked to assist in local emergencies.