Scope (Full or Partial): Full-time students
Target Country: United States
Target Audience: Military healthcare professionals
What is HPSP?
The Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) is a comprehensive scholarship initiative within the United States Armed Forces, providing aspiring military healthcare professionals, including physicians (M.D. or D.O.), dentists, nurses, optometrists, psychologists, pharmacists, and veterinarians, with fully-funded professional education and monthly stipends. In return for this support, recipients commit to serving as commissioned officers in non-line or special branches. HPSP opportunities are offered by the United States Army, Navy, and Air Force.
Many students who finish school, especially in medical school, have to borrow money to pay for it. In 2019, the average medical student who borrowed money owed about $200,000. Going to a public medical school in your home state might cost you around $41,000 a year, or about $164,000 for four years. But if you choose a private medical school, it can be much more expensive—around $67,000 per year or about $269,000 for four years. Some of the most expensive medical schools in the U.S. charge about $70,000 per year just for tuition and fees.
Therefore, serving as one of the most comprehensive scholarships available within the healthcare domain, the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) offers students a valuable means to finance their advanced medical degrees for ongoing and prospective medical studies. Essentially, individuals pursuing a military physician career have two primary avenues to choose from: the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU). Nevertheless, our focus in this article will be exclusively on HPSP.
The HPSP scholarship program actively encourages early intervention, diagnosis, and treatment for healthcare professionals facing health-related challenges. It also provides monitoring services as a viable alternative to disciplinary action by professional boards. Furthermore, it offers an array of benefits, including full tuition coverage, reimbursement for books and other fees, a monthly stipend designed to assist with living expenses, and various additional perks.
Types of HPSP Scholarships
The U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force offer aspiring military healthcare professionals a range of HPSP scholarships for paid medical education. In this section, we’ll explore these options to help you make the right choice.
Army Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP)
The Army Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) provides comprehensive financial support for advanced healthcare degrees, covering full tuition costs (up to $20,000) and offering a monthly allowance exceeding $2,000. Eligibility requires U.S. citizenship, enrollment in an accredited healthcare program, and a commitment to Army Reserve service. Service obligations vary by field but can be fulfilled during or after training. Joining the Army Health Care Team opens doors to diverse medical specialties and a chance to serve over three million beneficiaries.
Navy Health Professions Scholarship Program
The Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) aids aspiring healthcare professionals with tuition coverage, stipends, and expense reimbursements. Graduates commit to at least two years of service as Navy officers. Benefits include scholarships, a $20,000 signing bonus, full tuition coverage, stipends, and expense reimbursements. Eligibility requires U.S. citizenship, a maximum age of 42 at degree completion, meeting Navy health standards, enrollment or acceptance in an accredited medical school, and a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Sub-schools under the Navy Health Professions Scholarship
Health Services Collegiate Program (HSCP) Medical Service Corps
The Health Services Collegiate Program (HSCP) aids healthcare students in meeting degree requirements and obtaining a Medical Service Corps (MSC) commission, entailing a three-year active duty commitment. Benefits include a monthly salary, healthcare, retirement contributions, book reimbursements, full tuition coverage, and a $20,000 signing bonus (for some fields). Eligibility criteria entail U.S. citizenship, age below 42 at degree completion, a 3.0 GPA, adherence to Navy physical standards, and enrollment in an accredited institution. Eligible programs include Health Care Administration, Audiology, Physician Assistant, and more.
Navy Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) Dental School
The Health Professions Scholarship Program aids students pursuing healthcare careers, including a commission in the Dental Corps. Benefits: 4-year scholarship, $20,000 bonus, full tuition, $2,178.90 monthly stipend, school expense reimbursement, and 45 days of annual Active Duty pay. Eligibility: U.S. citizenship, degree completion by age 42, meeting Navy health standards, ADA-accredited dental school enrollment, 3.0 GPA, and degree fulfillment in 48 months. Dental Corps service requires a minimum of three years (four with the bonus).
Nurse Candidate Program (NCP) and Nurse Corps (NC)
The Nurse Candidate Program (NCP) supports full-time Bachelor of Science in Nursing students starting in their sophomore year with an initial $10,000 grant in two installments and a $1,000 monthly stipend for up to 24 months. After graduation, they become Navy Nurse Corps Officers with benefits including competitive salaries, promotions, medical and dental coverage, travel opportunities, and education support. The service commitment ranges from four to five years. Eligibility requires U.S. citizenship, degree completion by age 42, enrollment in an accredited nursing program, a GPA of 3.0 or higher, full-time attendance, and meeting degree requirements within 24 months.
Air Force Health Professions Scholarship Program
The Air Force Scholarship alleviates medical school financial burdens by covering tuition, fees, and textbooks and offering a monthly stipend. Recipients contribute 45 days of active duty during their scholarship period and gain diverse patient care experience while serving worldwide. After graduation, a minimum three-year active duty service is required, extending with scholarship length and residency training. Requirements include U.S. citizenship, an undergrad degree, good moral character, a clean record, health, a minimum GPA of 3.2, and specific MCAT scores, with applications accepted before medical school acceptance.
In this article, we have primarily focused on the three prominent HPSP scholarships provided by the United States Armed Services. Now, let’s delve deeper into the advantages of participating in the HPSP scholarship program, especially for aspiring medical students.
Benefits of HPSP
- Tuition is covered by the government.
- You’ll receive a monthly living stipend of $2,400.
- Reimbursement is provided for required books, equipment, and supplies.
- Stipends are paid through direct deposit twice a month.
- Keep track of expenses for submission.
- 45 days per year are spent in military medical school training.
- During this period, you receive the pay and benefits of an active-duty Second Lieutenant (Army and Air Force) or Ensign (Navy).
- A $20,000 signing bonus is granted for joining the Army, Air Force, and Navy.
- Your service branch pays your tuition upon acceptance.
- A stipend accrues from your benefit start date.
- Stipends are paid via direct deposit on the 1st and 15th of each month.
- Maintain records for expense reports.
Commitment and Service Requirements
Since the U.S. military covers the expenses of your medical education, there’s an obligation to repay this investment through a 1-to-1 commitment to military service. If you complete medical school in four years, you’ll serve as a military doctor for a minimum of four years. In certain cases, after at least one year of post-graduate training and obtaining your medical license, an alternative option is available. Instead of immediately entering a residency program, you can fulfill your service commitment as a general medical officer (GMO). In this role, you function much like a general medical practitioner, serving within a specific military unit, air wing, ship, or submarine.
Will you undergo any type of military training?
Throughout this training, you will immerse yourself in military customs and traditions as you transition into the military environment. The primary distinction between you and your peers will be the requirement to complete officer training tailored to your specific service branch, along with participating in one annual training session for each year of scholarship support you receive. During your first or second year, you will undergo a 2- to 14-week officer orientation program; the duration will depend on your chosen military service.
Attending this training is crucial if you lack prior experience as a commissioned officer. During these 45-day periods, you may engage in research rotations or clinical rotations within military healthcare facilities, contributing to your practical experience. You will be required to wear a uniform during your officer and annual training, and the scholarship program’s administrative team will maintain communication to keep you informed about upcoming deadlines and obligations, particularly if you are training at a military medical facility or during Commissioned Officer Training (COT).
Service obligations are structured on a year-for-year basis, with a minimum requirement of 2 years. If you undergo residencies or fellowships, your service commitment will automatically be extended by half the duration of the training. For instance, completing a 1-year residency or fellowship will extend your minimum service obligation by 6 months.
What Does It Take To Get An HSPS Scholarship?
You must be between 18 and 36 years old upon enrollment and undergo a physical examination to confirm your fitness for potential deployment. Specific medical conditions that may disqualify you can be found in this resource.
The location for your physical examination depends on the program you’re interested in. Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) applicants will visit a nearby Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), while Uniformed Services University of the Health Services (USU) applicants will complete their physicals through the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board. Additionally, you must pass a security investigation and exhibit the moral standards expected of both a physician and a military officer.
If you are currently serving in the military, you will need approval from your respective military department as part of your application process. The military evaluates certain conditions that could be incompatible with military medical practice and may grant waivers for specific health-related issues on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the program, applying early is advisable to allow sufficient time for the services to process any necessary waivers. This applies to candidates from service academies, ROTC, and members of Reserve Components as well.
Age limits vary by service and program:
- Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard: Up to 42
- Navy and Navy Reserve: Up to 42
- Air Force: Up to 48
- Air Force Reserve: Up to 47
- Air National Guard: Up to 47
- Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP): Up to 36 (Note: For the Navy, the age limit is 42 at the time of entering Active Duty following degree completion, unless an age waiver was granted during recruitment.)
- Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine: Up to 36 (Note: Some waivers have been granted for applicants up to age 42)
Age waivers may be available based on individual skills and the military’s requirements. However, the minimum age for military service is 18 years old (17 with parental consent)
Prospective candidates are required to complete the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), and the score must be no more than three years old. A competitive applicant typically boasts a strong academic record, with a minimum GPA of 3.6 and an MCAT score ranging between 506 and 509. It’s important to note that MCAT scores below 496 are generally not accepted at the Uniformed Services University (USU). However, for those applying through the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP), waivers may be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the specific needs and requirements of each service branch.
While MCAT scores are just one element of the admissions process, they hold significant weight in evaluating candidates. On average, successful applicants to these programs tend to have an MCAT score of 509. Scores below 496 are typically not considered competitive. For HPSP applicants, it is recommended to have a GPA of approximately 3.2 and a minimum MCAT score of 500. In addition to academic qualifications, the military conducts a comprehensive assessment, taking into account prior military service, preclinical work experience, volunteer service, research participation, and leadership potential when making selections. These diverse factors collectively contribute to the overall evaluation of each candidate’s suitability for these programs.
Prospective applicants must possess a baccalaureate degree from an accredited academic institution in the United States, Puerto Rico, or Canada by June 1 of the desired attendance year. Additionally, certain coursework prerequisites must be fulfilled, which typically include:
- One academic year of general or inorganic chemistry with a laboratory component
- One academic year of physics, including a laboratory component
- One academic year of organic chemistry with a laboratory component, or one semester of organic chemistry with a laboratory component and one semester of biochemistry
- One academic year of biology, including a laboratory component.
- One academic year of writing-intensive courses in humanities, languages, social sciences, or psychology
- One semester of calculus or statistics
How Do I Apply For An HPSP Scholarship?
To embark on the journey of obtaining a military medical scholarship, follow these key steps:
- Verify Eligibility: Ensure that you meet the military’s eligibility criteria, including citizenship, age limits, and health standards, as previously detailed.
- Assemble Necessary Documentation: Collect all required documents, such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, and test scores.
- Initiate Early Action: Kickstart the application process simultaneously with your medical school applications. It’s crucial to note that each service typically accepts a limited number of students each year, and the acceptance process usually spans approximately three months.
- Connect with recruiters: Reach out to recruiters representing the services you are interested in, whether it’s the Army, Navy, or Air Force. You have the option to apply to one or multiple services.
- Initial Interview: Expect recruiters to arrange an initial interview to explore your aspirations and evaluate your suitability for the program.
- Complete Applications: Submit applications for each service you intend to join.
- Submit Your Application Package: The application package involves two components, academic verification and Evaluation/Recommendations, which are completed by individuals other than the student applicant. The application process mandates the student applicant to complete an online application, incorporating the following elements:
- Application (Completed by the student applicant)
- Academic Verification (Completed by the Dean of the program or equivalent)
- Evaluations and recommendations:
- Required: Academic Faculty
- Required: Either an Employer/Manager or another designated source
- (VA Employee) Required: Supervisor
- DD214 (for current and former service members)
- SF50 (for current and former VA employees)
The academic verification is carried out by the dean or equivalent authority within the student’s academic program associated with the scholarship. In contrast, the evaluation and recommendations are provided by academic and personal/professional references designated by the student applicant. These parties utilize the VA Application Management System (VA AMS) to submit the necessary documentation.
- Undergo Medical Examination: Be prepared to undergo a comprehensive physical examination at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) to confirm your compliance with the military’s health standards.
- Secure Acceptance to Medical School: Once you receive admission to an accredited allopathic or osteopathic medical school, your recruiter or recruiters will finalize your application.
- Evaluation by Selection Board: An appointed selection board will meticulously assess your application package.
- Exercise Your Choice: In case multiple services extend offers to you, you will have the privilege of selecting the one that aligns best with your preferences and career goals.
Additional Ways To Prepare
When preparing for the significant commitment of joining the military and the transformative impact it can have on your medical career, keep the following considerations in mind:
- Gain Insight: If possible, shadow military physicians to gain firsthand insights into their daily responsibilities on a military base.
- Volunteer Opportunities: Explore volunteering opportunities at military hospitals through organizations like the American Red Cross.
- Prioritize Health and Fitness: Maintain your health and physical fitness, as they are vital aspects of military service.
- Prepare Questions: Develop a list of questions to discuss with your recruiter to ensure you have a clear understanding of the process.
- Interview preparation and tips: When it comes to the interview process, it’s crucial for applicants to reflect on their genuine motivation for pursuing a career in military medicine. Understand the responsibilities of not only being a physician but also a commissioned officer in the military.
- Be ready to articulate your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses, and emphasize your willingness to collaborate within a team.
- Dress professionally, even during virtual/video interviews, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.
- This interaction is an opportunity to learn about the experiences of military personnel and discuss your future as a military physician.
HPSP offers a unique opportunity to become a military physician while serving your country. To navigate this path effectively, gather essential information at each stage. You can contact your local military recruiter for guidance and answers to your questions.