Being a doctor can be a lucrative and rewarding career -- after you've finished paying off those mountains of student loans. Joining the Air Force as a doctor lets you come in under its direct commission officer program, which brings you in at the rank of captain. In return for the Air Force helping you pay off student loans and pay upfront for additional education, you must commit yourself to serving in the Air Force for a time.
Enlist in the Air Force in a medical specialty with the understanding that you will be attending a four-year university to study pre-med. You must go through the standard basic training to begin your active duty career, then serve in the university's Air Force ROTC program while you attend the school. The Air Force pays up to $15,600 per year as of 2013. Alternatively, use your own funds or student loans to pay for your bachelor's degree, then request help from the college loan repayment program when you sign up to join the Air Force after college.
Visit an Air Force recruiter to enroll in the service's Health Professional Scholarship Program. You agree to serve in the Air Force for one year for each year of education the Air Force pays for, and the Air Force agrees to pay for your medical school and internship. You must attend a medical school approved by the Air Force to qualify.
Complete medical school and begin your residency. Choose an Air Force hospital or request a civilian deferment to complete your residency at a civilian hospital. Apply for the Air Force Financial Assistance Program to help support you during your residency.
Attend the Air Force's four-week commissioned officer training, which helps you meet the service's physical fitness guidelines and teaches you how to be a strong leader.
Report to your assigned duty station to begin your career as an Air Force doctor. You must serve in the Air Force as a doctor for the agreed-upon amount of time. If the Air Force paid for four years of medical school and two years of a residency, you must serve as an Air Force doctor for at least six years. You can stay in the Air Force longer if you desire.
- If the Air Force pays for your medical school but you don't graduate, you are obligated to serve in the Air Force for the number of years the Air Force paid for your education. You can choose a health services position, such as a nurse or nutritionist, or choose an unrelated specialty. You are likely to enter the service as an enlisted airman if you don't complete your doctor training.
- After you start working as an Air Force doctor, you can apply for the Active Duty Health Professions Repayment Program to pay off any remaining student loans or other education expenses. This extends your time obligation to the Air Force by at least two years.
Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.