Naval Officer in Reserves/pre-med

I’m 26 and all my life I’ve wanted to be a physician. I gave up early in undergrad by following some “advice” from a counselor. After graduating with a business degree I moved and started my professional career and a year later began an MBA program which I finished last year. I am an accomplished banker who started the dream to become a military officer 3 years ago. After a long process, I received word that I have received a professional recommendation to become a direct commission in the Naval Reserves. (not final yet) This is a dream that I’ve been working hard for and finally achieved. While I was waiting to be selected, I got the idea to go for getting into medical school- (in the process of a early career crisis, not knowing what I want in my life) I was wondering how I would be able to make both goals in my life work in harmony- becoming a military officer as well as a physician. Now I have been at this for the past few years so please do not think this has anything to do with the latest “Bachelor” series, although it really is ironic. My recruiter has been helping me plan my career and has said that I can go ahead and pin on Ensign 0-1 and start drilling while still taking my pre-reqs. I wouldn’t be eligible for a call to duty (Iraq) for over 2 years. While applying to med school if I get accepted, my obligation turns to inactive status, and already being a Naval Officer, I could be eligible for the Health Professions Scholarship Program. This is where the military funds your medical education in turn for service to them. It all sounds like a dream to me and I’m just waiting on the final word to raise my right hand, but thought I’d run it by the team here. How would being a Naval Officer look to the ADCOMS? would it give me any more favor in their eyes? I know that many students aren’t prior military before receiving this scholarship, but I want to serve for some time first, prior to just taking their money. I feel it will make me a well-rounded officer, having been in another designator prior to transferring into the Medical Corps. Thank you everyone.

Military service always looks good to AdComs. That said, you need to talk to lots more people than your recruiter. When it comes down to it, your recruiter’s job is to get you to sign on the bottom line, NOT get you into medical school or even get you lined up with a duty post that allows you to get into med school. Please be sure to talk to many more people before you make this decision. I have to wonder if you’d be better off going into med school as a civilian with an HPSP, or applying to USUHS, than signing up now. How far away from applying to med school are you?


Mary- thanks for your remarks, and I also appreciate your son’s service. I noticed he’s LTJG aviation. Go NAVY! To your question: I am starting pre-reqs next week. Gen Chem I and II for summer I and II respectively. I won’t be ready for med school for I’d say 2-3 years down the road. Right now I’m working full time and taking the classes at night. I plan to downgrade my full-time job (if I get in the reserves), and just work part time while going to school on a more active basis. this way I will be able to tackle more classes and hopefully complete them at a full-time university vs. a community college. I won’t be activated during this time anyways. Since it is not finalized, I may not even be selected so then I would do the HPSP at that time hopefully. Just wanting to do what’s best and right at the same time.

First and foremost do not believe your recruiter about your activation. What about your situation are they saying will keep you from getting activated for 2 years? I was active duty Navy enlisted for 10 years and a Naval reservist for 2 and have never heard of a guarantee of non-activation. I was guaranteed I would be activated within my first 2 years.

Second the HPSP is open to anyone who is eligible. It is nothing special. If your grades are good enough to get you accepted into medical school then barring any medical condition you are basically guaranteed the HPSP. Your recruiter is correct that after you get accepted to medical school you will not be activated. HOWEVER…that is a lonnnnnng time from now. In the military 2-3 years is never “2-3” years. If you want to become a physician then go after that. The military ain’t going anywhere.

If what you want to do is serve then I would forego the Reserves and just get your prereqs done. You can apply to USUHS and be a military officer/medical student. If not there is always HPSP. If not HPSP then you can get money after medical school with FAP.

I guess my point is that the military isn’t going anywhere. Regardless of how difficult it was to this point once you are a medical student the military will take you. Now serving because you want to serve is admirable. I just warn to be careful what you wish for. The military is not for the weak of heart or mind. That’s more about the amount of BS you will have to endure than any real test of fortitude.

well hello shipmate- great to hear from you. regarding activation. There is a specified time that a reservist has to serve prior to being called to service. As a supply Corps Officer, I will be commissioned and will have a year after my commission date to attend Direct Commission School (DCO) and then I would have to attend Supply Officer School after that. each of these schools counts as an Annual Training (AT). and is 2 weeks long. so while I am a drilling reservist, I am taking my pre-reqs and waiting to attend these schools and earning my rank and tenure. Also, most Navy reservists that are called to duty are Individual Augmentees (IA’s). That is on a volunteer basis. I am just trying to make harmony out of two things that I’ve really wanted in life. Just getting accepted to one of them has been a huge Motivation to me to go after the Other and is pushing me to succeed. I am also going through some changes in my life right now where my girlfriend has relocated and I am looking to make the move to be with her so that we can be together. Honestly, if I can get this to work for me… it will give me the drive to want to pursue other things. as crazy as that sounds, it’s what my heart is telling me. I also failed to mention that my recruiter is actually doing the same thing. He is filling his recruiting billet while in the meantime preparing for the June MCAT. so it has also been very helpful in that endeavor as well. The reserves really are more flexible than you would really think.

  • Miller J. Said:
Also, most Navy reservists that are called to duty are Individual Augmentees (IA's). That is on a volunteer basis.

Don't believe that. They feed you the line that the Reserves are different than active duty in that "they" need you and not the other way around.....not true. The only truth is you can switch to the IRR easier but that nullifies why you joined the military.

My best advice is to be skeptical. I got out of active duty to finish school.......had to do the same with the Reserves. Buyer beware.

I see what you’re saying and I did look up that school you mentioned and it looks great. seems to focus alot on Military medicine. The one thing that I worry about is … what if I start taking these pre-reqs and volunteering and decide that it’s just “Not for Me” ? if I’m already serving in the reserves, then at least I’ll already be an Officer and if I want to continue doing that - I can. and If I want to continue my education while being a reservist that’s possible as well. alot easier than being on Active duty I’d assume. Plus I was thinking of quitting my full time job for something more “part-time” and doing this would actually motivate me to do it even more… I’d have a legitimate reason not to be working full time. Full-time student and reservist. job on the side with alotted time. just seems like too good of an opportunity to pass up.

You seem pretty buzzed at the idea of becoming an officer, so… go for it IF YOU ARE WILLING TO POSTPONE AND/OR CHANGE YOUR PRE-MED PLANS. The Navy will OWN you and will have the right to tell you what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and how much to enjoy whatever it is they tell you to do.

Please, this is no joke. You seem quite starry-eyed about doing military service; while I don’t want to disabuse you of your desire to serve, and I am certainly appreciative of it, I don’t think you yet understand that YOU do not get to control your destiny once you sign up. There is the possibility that you’ll be able to coordinate all these things - reserve duty, school, postponement of reserve obligations while in med school, etc. etc. etc. But there is also the possibility, entirely OUT of your control, that the Navy will decide to activate you, send you somewhere, train you for something different, require you to keep a schedule that doesn’t permit school attendance, etc. etc. etc.

I cannot state this forcefully enough. The Navy will own you, and your destiny will be in their hands. Your ability to guide events will be extremely unpredictable. Please think hard.


Thanks Mary.

Hey Crooz. I saw you mention earlier that in the reserves it is easier to switch to the IRR. can you give me a little more info on that? I think I read somewhere that after 2 years of drilling one can switch to the IRR to fulfill the remainder of his/her service obligations. and also while you are in medical school you are put on IRR is that correct?

You can only go into IRR from the reserves. IRR is basically being out of the reserves. You are a name on a paper but are not active in any way. You do not earn any time toward rank or anything else. You are basically out of the military just waiting for your end of service date to make it official. You are still able to be augmented when on IRR. It does happen.

Once accepted to medical school and if you’re in the reserves you are put on IRR status. I have heard and had a couple people in the unit I was with not able to switch to IRR so were still drilling during medical school. They eventually got things worked out but that was only after they applied for HPSP. See the military still wanted their pound of flesh.

Recruiters paint a very easy picture for you. However once you’re in the “needs of the Navy” prevail. The needs of the Navy trump ANYTHING you have in writing because the “needs of the Navy” are in writing as well and take precedence. Don’t be fooled. I was at a nice cushy military hospital and was called into a room and informed that every 8404 HM was going to get reassigned with the Marine Unit. All of us asked about the contract stating we were to remain at the hospital for the term and without patting an eye in walked Navy legal with “needs of the Navy”.

If you think I’m being discouraging it’s because I am. Decide which one you want to be, whether military officer or physician. You can be both but at this point you should concentrate on becoming a physician. You can always join during or after medical school.

Ok, now when you say “you can only go to the IRR from the reserves” do you mean that anytime you want, you can say hey, I want to switch from selective reserve drilling to IRR status? I know you’d have to get approvals and probably have a really good reason but it can happen right? I know active duty it’s probably not an option to switch to IRR until fulfilling your active duty obligation.

When I say only reserves can go IRR I mean voluntarily. Active duty must finish their active duty time and then are put on IRR status until they’ve paid back the 8 years the military requires.

Switching to IRR as a new reservist isn’t very likely. I had 3 months left on my commitment when I switched. However I also had 10 years active prior to that and those years help when switching. They basically tell those in the chain of command you know you’ve had enough. You won’t have that and switching will be met with resistance. As a new officer I do not believe you will have the same luxury I had. Two years of drill and then I think you will have the option open. You have to understand that during that time there is mandatory training and classes which do not count as drill which you have to attend. The reserves are not just a “one weekend a month, 2 weeks a year”. That is the bare minimum. There are courses, training, appointments…that have to occur in between your drill weekends.

IRR is where everyone is put until they’ve paid back their time. Everyone has to give 8 years in any combination of payback. So someone who joins the military and does 4 years of active duty service and gets out is in the IRR for the 4 remaining years. It’s not voluntary it’s required. So signing on the dotted line means you are giving the military 8 years of your life whether directly or indirectly.

Well as an update I have decided against going in as a reserve officer prior to being accepted into medical school. as a supply officer reservist the Navy expects you to go to certain trainings and complete coursework (business in my case) which would potentially take me away and disrupt my studies… and also if I were accepted to medical school, I would have to have my commanding officer sign off as a redesignation for me to switch to the Medical Corps. I think I was using this as a backup plan I suppose in case I did not follow through with the medical plan, but all things aside… If I think of it as a failure plan… i’m planning to fail, whereas if I think of it as something that will always be open as an option, it’ll increase my opportunity. I just don’t want to hinder myself. Thank you guys for opening my eyes to this and I’ve decided that I will go to the military when and ONLY when, I have that medical school acceptance letter in my hands and then say… hey guys NOW what can you do for me!! how does that sound? am I thinkin now??

That’s exactly what my ex did. He is Army. No school loans, no debt. He is now a chief resident out in TX