The U.S. Navy employs thousands of medical professionals around the world to provide care for current and former sailors, Marines and their families. Many of these professionals work in the Navy's world renowned hospitals and medical centers, including two hospital ships. Be aware, however, that many active-duty medical personnel spend some of their time outside of hospitals, providing medical support to sailors and Marines in the field.
Navy hospital corpsmen are enlisted men who serve in a role similar to that of medical or dental assistants in the civilian world. Common duties for hospital corpsmen include dispensing medications and injections, performing clinical tests, assisting physicians and surgeons, operating imaging equipment, maintaining records and performing preventative care. Prospective hospital corpsmen do not need a college degree, and all necessary training is provided by the Navy before you begin your duties. In addition, you may be able to use your experience as a hospital corpsman to earn credits from colleges and universities.
Navy nurses serve as officers and perform many of the same duties as civilian registered nurses. To qualify to join the Navy Nurse Corps, you need to have completed, be enrolled in or plan to enroll in a bachelor's of science program in nursing accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Additionally, nurses must be ages 18 to 41, be U.S. citizens, commit to at least three years of service and must obtain a license to practice in any state less than one year after starting active duty. Navy nurses may choose from nearly 20 specializations, including emergency trauma, anesthesiology and pediatrics. High school and college students may qualify for programs that provide full-tuition coverage or stipends while in school. Prospective sailors in these programs do not need to start active duty until they graduate.
Navy physicians enter service as officers and opportunities are available in nearly all specializations that exist in the civilian world. Physicians must be ages 21 to 64, though exceptions can be made for older physicians, and must commit to at least two years of service. To begin active duty, physicians need to have completed medical school, a medical training internship or residency of at least one year and must be licensed to practice less than one year after starting active duty. The Navy offers education benefits programs that have the potential to allow you to finish medical school with no education debt, as long you meet minimum requirements and complete your commitment.
You may qualify to work for Navy hospitals part time through the Navy Reserve in many of the same roles available to active duty personnel. Navy Reserve health care professionals need to participate in drilling for at least 16 hours per month and training for at least two weeks per year. The requirements for specific positions are generally the same as those for active duty sailors, and the pay scale for reservists is essentially a prorated version of active-duty pay. Financial benefits beyond those available to reservists in other areas are common for medical professionals. For example, nurses may qualify for higher sign-on bonuses and student loan forgiveness.
Navy hospitals also employ a considerable number of civilian nurses and doctors. People in these positions receive pay that may be slightly lower than what is offered by civilian hospitals but receive excellent insurance and retirement benefits and may qualify for sign-on bonuses. Opportunities for civilians in Navy hospitals are listed on USAJobs.com, which is the same employment listing database used by most federal agencies and organizations.
Pay for medical professionals working in Navy hospitals is dependent on rank and years of service, not specific jobs, experience or skills. The largest factor in determining how much you will be paid is whether you will enter the Navy as an officer or enlisted person. In general, positions that require a bachelor's degree require that you enter as an officer, while those that require only a high school diploma or equivalent require that you enter as an enlisted person. The minimum monthly pay for enlisted sailors is approximately $1,500, while minimum monthly pay for officers is approximately $2,900.
Jon Gjerde worked as a journalist in northern California where he covered topics ranging from city, county and tribal governments to alternative transportation. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from University of California, Davis.