The Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) pays for students to attend medical school in exchange for time spent in the military. Students who participate can attend the medical school of their choice, as long as it's in the U.S. or Puerto Rico.
What requirements must you meet to qualify?
The basic qualifications for an HPSP scholarship are the same for all branches of the military that offer it. To qualify, you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Be physically able to be commissioned as an officer in your enlisted branch
- Have proof of acceptance, or enrollment, in an accredited graduate, doctoral, or medical school program within the U.S. or Puerto Rico.
- Have, or be in the process of obtaining, a bachelor’s degree
In addition, each branch has its own set of specific requirements:
Army specific requirements
The Army specifically states that you must be active duty status and maintain full-time student status for the entire length of the program.
Navy specific requirements
The Navy requires that all participants in the HPSP program be under the age of 42 at the time of entry into active duty. You will need to account for not only medical school, but also residency, when calculating if you are of qualifying age.
Air Force specific requirements
As far as the Air Force is concerned, HPSP applicants have to have a 3.2 undergraduate GPA in order to qualify. Additionally, they must have an MCAT score of 500, with a score of at least 124 in each of the test’s subsections.
For those who are applying for a three or four year scholarship, a 3.6 (or higher) undergraduate CPA and a 505 MCAT score (including a score of 124 in each subsection) is enough to automatically qualify you.
According to the Army, HPSPs can fund those pursuing the following careers:
- Medical (including osteopathic medicine)
- Counseling and Clinical Psychology
If you are unsure of whether or not your degree program qualifies, it’s best to speak with a recruiter from the branch that you plan to enlist in.
HPSPs offer a wealth of financial benefits to those who qualify. Participants in the program can expect the military to pay for:
- The full cost of tuition each year that you’re enrolled in a qualifying program
- Books, medical equipment, and supplies that are required to complete your degree
- Monthly expenses in the form of a $2,000+ stipend (meant to cover meals and housing)
- Active Duty pay and benefits for the 45 days per year that you are required to complete
- A signing bonus of $20,000 which can sometimes vary depending on the needs of your enlisted branch
What isn’t covered by HPSPs?
Although HPSPs are generous, they will not cover expenses that your school does not require. Usually, this means that the military will pay for all of the equipment that you need to complete your studies, but won’t cover the cost of non-required school sponsored activities or trips.
In return for their funding, the military requires HPSP participants to complete 45 days of active duty training each year they’re on scholarship. During this time, you will be paid Active Duty pay for your service in accordance with your rank.
After finishing school and completing your residency, you will be required to fulfill your Active Duty Obligation (ADO). Your ADO will be equivalent to at least one year for every year that you are on scholarship. That said, each branch has it’s own minimum ADO requirements:
- Army - 2 years
- Navy - 3 years
- Air Force - 3 years
It is easy to get excited about the financial benefits of a HPSP scholarship, but accepting one carries a lot of weight. Whether or not it is right for you depends on what you are looking to get out of it.
Here are a few things that you should consider:
HPSPs are not a “free ride”
HPSP scholarships might sound like a “free ride” through medical school, but the truth is that they just change the cost. Instead of paying for your education with money, you will pay it back with military service.
If military life isn’t something that you’re interested in or you aren’t willing to risk your life for your country, you will want to pursue funding for your education elsewhere. However, if you are already looking for a way to serve your country, this program might be for you.
You will likely be able to afford your student loans
Although medical school is expensive, doctor’s salaries are high and usually offset the financial burden caused by medical student loans. In fact, a study done in 2019 by Weatherby Healthcare found that 47% of doctors paid off their medical school loans in two years or less.
With this in mind, it is important to map out what your financial future would look like with and without the HPSP loan. If you find that the cost savings come out in the wash, or aren’t enough for you to potentially put your life on the line, you may want to reconsider.
Each branch offers a different lifestyle
Each branch of the military provides a different lifestyle. For example, those who enlist in the Navy often find themselves spending quite a bit of time on boats.
Before deciding whether or not to participate in a HPSP, it is a good idea to speak with those who have gone through the program in each branch. That way, you can get first-hand accounts of what you might be in for.
If you are having trouble finding HPSP participants to speak to, consider reaching out to your local recruiter.
Micah believes financial literacy is the key to building lasting wealth, security, and the ability to make life-changing financial decisions with confidence. For his own website and others, Micah writes thoughtful personal finance content that makes a positive impact in readers' lives. You can find his past work on Micah Murray Freelance and Money Under 30.