The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS)

Updated: February 4, 2022
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    The USUHS is also known as “America’s Medical School.” It was started by Louisiana Congressman F. Edward Hébert as the “West Point for doctors.” It’s located on 100 acres of wooded land on the grounds of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

    USUHS is the foremost medical education and research center for the U.S. armed services. If you are accepted to the USUHS, you will be an active-duty service member, and your education will be paid for by the U.S. government. The school accepts both civilian and military applicants for commissioning into the Army, Navy, Air Force, and U.S. Public Health Service. It is important to note that there is a growing interest in the school because there are a lot of enlisted members interested in becoming military doctors.

    Since the school was established 40 years ago, it has produced more than 5,000 doctors, 70 dentists, 660 nurses, and 1,300 medical research doctors. All of them have become career military medical officers serving our nation. USUHS has a year-round, four-year program. Their program is 700 hours longer than any other U.S. medical school. Students come from all geographic, socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. Let’s see what it takes to get into the “West Point for doctors.”

    Do I Have To Be In The Military To Apply To USUHS?

    No. Only about one-third of the students have had some form of prior officer or enlisted military experience—but you join the military ranks once accepted. Once you are enrolled in the School of Medicine, you will serve on active duty as commissioned officers. Either as a Second Lieutenant in the Army or Air Force, or Ensign in the Navy, or Public Health Service. You’ll also get full pay and allowances of an O-1.

    What Is The Tuition For Attending USUHS?

    Nothing! You pay no tuition or fees. As we just mentioned, you’ll get the full salary and benefits of an O-1 for all four years at the USUHS. This includes free medical care for students and your eligible family members, a housing allowance, and 30 days paid leave each year. There’s more—books and lab equipment are also included at no charge.

    What Kind Of Military Training Do I Have To Go Through?

    Before enrollment, you must complete a 2 to 14-week officer orientation program (depending on the military service). During training, you’ll learn about the customs and traditions of military life and helps you transition to the military. You attend this training if you have had no prior commissioned officer experience. After training, you’ll go to USUHS to start your medical education.

    What Will My Pay Be After Graduation?

    Once you graduate, you will begin your career as an O-3. Your base pay, housing allowance, and food allowance will be around $100,000 (based on the 2020 pay chart).

    What Type Of Commitment Do I Have After Graduation?

    Once you graduate, you will have a seven-year active duty service commitment. If you choose the Public Health Service, the commitment is a ten-year active duty obligation.

    What Does It Take To Get Into The USUHS?

    General Requirements

    You must be at least 18 years old at the time of enrollment but no older than 36 as of June 30th of your enrollment year. You must be a U.S. citizen and meet the physical, medical, and security requirements for becoming a commissioned officer in the military. If you are already in the military, you must have approval from your military department as part of your application. This also applies if you are in one of the service academies, ROTC, or a member of one of the Reserve Components.

    Test Requirements

    You must take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and have a score that is not more than three years old. Your MCATs are just one of the gauges the admissions office uses to assess your applications, but a good score is important. The average MCAT for those accepted is 509. USUHS will not accept MCAT scores below 496.

    Academic Requirements

    You must have been awarded a baccalaureate degree from an accredited academic institution in the U.S., Puerto Rico, or Canada by June 1st of the year you want to start. You will also have to complete the required math and science courses to be considered for USUHS.

    How Do I Apply To The USUHS?

    • You must apply through the AMCAS online portal using designation code 821. The USUHS takes part in the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS).
    • Complete the application by filling out the required forms and include the requested material, including a personal statement form and checklists.
    • After receiving completed AMCAS applications, the admissions committee will choose who they will interview.
    • The interview trip involves in-person interviews and a tour of the campus.
    • During the interview, you will rank which services you would like to join if you are accepted. Learn about the different Military Services.
    • If accepted, you will need to get medically and physically qualified.

    Are There Other Ways To Become A Military Doctor?

    Yes. You can apply for a scholarship through the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). Just like USUHS, your tuition is paid for by the U.S. Government, and you get a monthly stipend (income)! Medical training is the same as your civilian peers, but as an HPSP recipient, you have to go to a modified form of basic military training. Training usually occurs during your second year of medical school. During your third and fourth year clinical years, you get the chance to rotate at military hospitals if you choose.

    USUHS vs. HPSP

    Here is a side-by-side comparison between the two paths to becoming a military doctor.

    Application Process Apply through AMCAS using School Code 821. Choose branch of service if accepted to USU. Apply through service specific recruiter.
    Medical School Attend USUHS. Attend any med school accepted to.
    Tuition Tuition-free until graduation or disenrollment. Full tuition paid for maximum of 4 years.
    Books/instruments Offered free to students. Reimbursed for school-required fees and expenses; rental fees for microscopes.
    Computers Computer resources available at school – Students may buy their own laptop. Computer resources available at school – Students may buy their own laptop.
    Pay Full O-1 pay, BAH and BAS. For 2020 is $5,841.78 per month without dependents. Over $2,300 stipend per month for 10½ months; 45 days active duty pay as an O-1 + BAH and BAS. One-time signing bonus of $20,000.
    Service Obligation 7 years Active Duty after graduation. Students will pay it back through a 1 to 1 payback in military service for every year of scholarship, up to 4 years.
    Benefits Active Duty benefits for self and dependents; free health care available on campus; commissary and base exchange privileges. Active Duty benefits only when on 45 days of active duty during training; limited base exchange and commissary privileges when not on active duty (with I.D. card); not eligible for health benefits for self and family when not in training.
    Military Training Attend officer training before enrollment. Attend officer training during first or second year.
    Contacts [email protected] (301)295-3101 (800)772-1743 Contact a local recruiter.

    Source: Uniformed Services University “What You Need to Know”

    If you’re still not sure if USUHS is right for you. We’ll leave you with the top 10 reasons for applying to the USUHS!

    1. You get to serve your country
    2. You will be an officer in the Air Force, Army, Navy, or Public Health Service
    3. No Boot Camp!!
    4. You earn a 4-year M.D. degree
    5. It’s tuition-free
    6. You get the starting salary and benefits of a commissioned officer while in school (>$70K)
    7. You get a guaranteed internship
    8. You have unlimited career potential
    9. You get to live in the greater Washington D.C. area while in school
    10. The government pays your moving expenses


    Attending the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences is a great way to both become a doctor and serve your country as a member of the Armed Forces. You will get a world-class education and be immersed in military life from day one.

    About The AuthorJim spent 22 years on active duty, climbing the ranks from Airman Basic to a decorated Air Force Major. Stationed all over the world, he held many high-level posts, including Chief of Foreign Military Sales at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Jim earned his Ph.D. through the Montgomery Era GI Bill and spent 13 years teaching African Studies in Pennsylvania. Jim is also an award-winning travel writer.

    Written by Team