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How to Become a Military Nurse

Military nurses have served the nation since the beginning of the 20th Century. Before that time, as early as the Civil War, the armed forces were treated by civilian nurses. The U.S. Army and Navy each had a corps comprised of nurses recruited from the ranks of civilians by 1908, while the Air Force created its nursing corps upon that branch's separation from the Army in 1947. Today, nurses in the military hold ranks and ratings and serve in hospitals and clinics, at mobile hospitals, on ships, in operating rooms and as flight nurses.

You can become a military nurse by enlisting in the armed forces--with or without your nursing degree. Nursing students who enroll in ROTC or a nursing candidate program can take advantage of military student aid to help pay for their training. Of course, you'll make a commitment to one of the armed forces upon graduation. Other candidates can receive their entire nursing degree or training in the military. You may also be eligible, based on your branch, for post-graduate degree work in nursing specializations.

Commitments for nurses in the military

The Navy requires candidates to complete a bachelor's degree in nursing and license to practice, and enlist for a minimum of three-years of active duty. It will cover up to $180,000 in tuition costs for high school students accepted into its Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps. The Army ROTC program offers two-, three- or four-year scholarships for undergraduate nursing students and a paid, three-week Nurse Summer Training Program. Students must also agree to a three-year commitment--four years for those who obtain scholarships. The Air Force also sponsors a competitive ROTC program with paid tuition. All services accept applicants from those who already hold a nursing license. All military nurses begin active duties as an officer in their selected service branch.

Military nurse benefits

Army nurses receive full health and military benefits in addition to salaries, along with a $50,000 nursing loan repayment incentive. Sign-on bonuses are up to $30,000 for qualified candidates. Armed forces advanced degrees and training courses can prepare you for post-service careers in specialties including certified nurse anesthetist, critical care nursing, family nurse practitioner, OB/GYN nursing, and psychiatric nursing. In sum, the armed forces pay for your advanced training whether you choose to remain in service or go on to higher paying nursing positions in civilian life.

Military nurse pay is based on rank and time of service. Base pay can range upwards to a maximum of $10,488.90 per month, not counting basic allowances for housing, subsistence, hazardous duty pay, specialty pay, sea pay, aviation pay, and submarine service pay. Bonuses are paid for military nurses who re-enlist after completing their initial commitment. A large percentage of special or hazardous duty pay, housing, and subsistence pay is exempt from taxes.

Transitioning after the service

Many who serve as nurses in the military can return to civilian nursing careers, with exceptional credentials for experience, post-graduate degrees, and specializations. They may also continue service in the Army, Navy or Air Force reserves, drawing a supplemental income. In the civilian sector, some 581,500 new jobs for registered nurses will open during the 2008-2018 decade. The nearly 2.6 million registered nurses in 2009 earned a mean annual income of $66,530.

Discover military nursing opportunities. Serve your nation while you build a rewarding, lifelong career.


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