Active Duty Military Officer Looking to Attend Med School

I recently completed the Combat Systems officer training through the Air Force, earning my wings as a Navigator on B-52 bombers. I love the military, but do not want to spend my entire career serving as a navigator. Would like to know what steps I can be taking in order to make myself a more marketable candidate to attend medical school. Also any information on the process of going to med school while still serving an active duty commitment would be really helpful. I’ve been thrashing round in the blind for a few months now taking random steps I felt would lead me in the ultimate direction of becoming a military doctor. Any advice to point me in the right direction would be great.

Another road bump I don’t quite know how to deal with is my gpa. I graduated with a 3.2 in biochemical engineering. I’ve contemplated receiving a masters online in a technical field, to kind of negate that gpa and also make new contacts in academia in order to secure really strong recommendations. Would it just be better to focus on volunteering/shadowing and maybe taking some of the pre-req courses that I didn’t excel in over again. Thanks again for any input!

Hey Air Force!

Welcome to OPM! I’m battling a much worse GPA, but I’m on the path to med school regardless.

This is definitely possible for you, and you will learn a lot about the process through folks here on OPM. I suggest going to the past conferences section of the forums and going through the presentations. Lots of great info.

Best wishes in the B-52s, and stay in touch through PM if you’d like


Your GPA is not a significant detriment as long as you complete some recent course work showing academic strength and do well on the MCAT (the ultimate equalizer, it is your friend).

Good luck!!

Thanks! As far as recent course work, would you happen to know how much emphasis is put on the course work relating to science. I am looking into a lot of masters program and I’m having trouble finding an online program that relates to my bachelors and would also be relevant to some kind of work outside of the Air Force.The best thing I’ve come up with is a degree in Biotechnology with an emphasis on biodefense. Most of the course work is industry based and doesn’t delve into the science too much. Thanks again for your help and encouragement

Maybe the never retiring B-52s should be this board’s mascots.

Otherwise, to answer your question, there is the distance master’s engineering program at the University of Southern California (US), eprograms… , and the distance master’s engineering program at Columbia University, .

I don’t see that taking a master’s degree program would significantly help your application. Particularly an on-line one. There is a STRONG emphasis on the science coursework. Redoing any science prerequisites that you did not do well in (lower than a B) and/or feel you need a better grasp on is a good idea. This should not be done on-line as you will need the labs as well.

I would try for what will best prepare you to study medicine, not so much on what will make your gpa number look better, per se. Bear in mind that in the AMCAS application, (for allopathic medical schools) the gpa they calculate is for undergraduate courses…graduate course grades don’t get figured into it. They calculate an undergrad gpa, and an undergrad science gpa. Repeated courses do not replace the previous grade. Doing some upperlevel bio courses or biochemistry…other science courses…could add in and boost overall undergrad gpa and science gpa.

The AACOMAS application (for osteopathic med schools) calculates it slightly differently. They calculate both undergrad gpa and science gpa, but graduate credits count. Also, repeated courses for better grades do replace the former grade…so often you will end up with a higher gpa as calculated on this application.

the effort and money to take a masters in a field you are not planning to pursue could probably be better spent taking relevant courses, or a post-bacc premed program. You will also need academic letters of recommendation from science faculty (biology, chemistry, physics), so I’d avoid a field where you wouldn’t have those type of faculty.

Just IMHO.


Agreed - if your goal is med school, most master’s programs are not going to help you much. The exception might be a SMP, Special Masters Program, that has a heavy emphasis on science/medical science type course work. You’re far better off taking upper level science course work - especially biomedical related stuff (immunology, genetics, virology, microbiology, etc).

Just to clarify SA5454’s predicament, he (I’m assuming) is probably stationed in Minot, North Dakota. I think the only college near him is Minot State University. But with irregular training, flying, and duty hours, I don’t know how realistic it is for him to attend classes there. As SA5454 said, he plans on staying in the military for a long time. For him to be promotable, he’s going to need to get a master’s degree a within a few years. So I understand the thinking behind his questions.


Posters tec and Ltap93 are both service academy graduates who were active duty. So they including myself can empathize with your situation. In the case of tec, she left the active duty Army to enroll in a post-baccalaureate premedical program and should be right now readying to reenter active duty as an Air Force neurologist. For your situation SA5454, I recommend you check out SDN’s military medicine forum. You should be able to find someone like yourself who prepared for and applied to medical school as an active duty officer while at the same time did not neglect their duties and sabotage their career. I know officers in similar situation as yourself (they were submarine officers) who have done it, so it is doable. Unfortunately, they aren’t active on this board.

Oh, USC and Columbia both offer biomedical engineering graduate degrees. So either degree can help in both areas your looking at. One person I know who went through the USC distance program graduated from a nearby medical school a year or two ago. He said it helped him convince the medical school’s admissions committee of his abilities. He had to overcome the skepticism of his foreign undergraduate degree.

There’s also distance premedical courses offered by the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, . Again, like everyone else has said above, you’re going to need to do some research and decide for yourself what is best for your situation.

Ihopetobeado2 summarized my path well. My husband and I made the decision that I would leave active duty to attend a post-bacc program because when I was stationed at Ft. Stewart (GA) my deployment and work schedule did not allow me to take the lab science classes that I needed (bio x 2, orgo x 2). It was a calculated decision that we made after analyzing our finances. At that time, I had no idea that I could return to the military as a physician. It was during my post-bacc program that an Air Force recruiter came to speak. On July 31st, I will sign in to active duty after a 10 year break in service.

I agree with Kate, a master’s program will not be of much help for you if your goal is medical school. Ihopetobeado2 brought up that you will need a master’s degree to be promotable. I think you will need to make a decision about what your goals are, promotability to remain in the military in your current career field versus pursuing entrance to medical school.

Repeating undergrad pre-reqs that you did not do well in the first time is wise to show med schools that you can now do the work. As an aside, I retook gem chem I&2 because it had been 9 years and I wanted to make sure I had a solid understanding before entering orgo. Taking some upper level undergrad science classes such as biochem, immunology, microbiology, etc will also show adcoms that you can do the work. And as Rich always says, the MCAT is the great equalizer for med school.

Focus on getting your pre-reqs and doing well on the MCAT, the rest will take care of itself. Military folks are appealing to adcoms. I spent all of my interviews talking about my deployments, which back in the late 1990s were Kuwait and Bosnia. I can only imagine how adcoms want to pick the brains of people who have deployed to OEF and OIF.