Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP): A Complete Guide

With one of the most robust scholarships available in the field of health care, the U.S. Army can help pay for the advanced medical degree — it is the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP).

Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP)
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In this guide, we’ll take a look at what HPSP is and the eligibility requirements before highlighting how to apply for the program.

What is Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP)?

The Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) provides paid medical education to prospective military doctors (M.D. or D.O.), dentists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, optometrists, psychologists, pharmacists, and veterinarians in exchange for service as a commissioned medical department officer. There are programs available in the United States Army, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Air Force.

The HPSP was established under the 1972 Uniformed Services Health Professions Revitalization Act and is the main source of qualified healthcare personnel joining the U.S. Armed Forces.

Subject to a commission’s eligibility (such as U.S. citizenship, physical and academic credentials, etc.), “selected” scholarships recipients are qualified as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army Reserve or the U.S. Air Force Reserve or as insignia in the U.S. Navy Reserve. During their medical training the selected are then placed on inactive reserve status.

Prospective students are competing for scholarships, which cover some or all of the years of medical school. The Air Force provides scholarships of one to four years, the Army offers scholarships of one to four years and the Navy offers scholarships of three to four years.

While on scholarship, by the student’s sponsoring service pay the following expenses.

  • $2,300+ monthly stipend
  • $20,000 sign-on bonus
  • Books, equipment, other fees
  • Full tuition (up to 4 years, depending on specialty)
  • Monthly allowance for food and housing
  • Officer’s pay during school breaks

The students are expected, as inactive reserve officers, to serve 45 days of active training duty (ADT) each fiscal year. Officers enjoy the same rights, privileges, and pay while in active service, and are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, as any other active-duty officer do.

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Upon graduation, students are promoted to the rank of Army and Air Force captain, or Navy lieutenant, and medical school graduates can be put on active duty if matched for military or civilian hospital residency, while clinical psychology doctoral students have specific provisions for their one-year internship.

The United States Marine Corps does not offer HPSP opportunities, as it receives its medical services from the U.S. Navy.

How many Army HPSP scholarships are awarded?

The Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) offers two-, three- and four-year military scholarships for future and current medical school students.

How competitive is Army HPSP?

The Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) is not itself as rigorous as getting into medical school ( i.e. there are not 50x as many candidates in the HPSP class as spots are). It is competitive because it is a competitive medical school.

Generally speaking, if you’re good enough for schools with US M.D. (allopathic doctor) or D.O. (osteopathic doctor), you ‘re good enough for HPSP.

How do you qualify for HPSP?

The Military is not just looking for anyone to treat members of its service and family members. Aspiring military doctors must distinguish themselves mentally and physically, and always push for the best.

Below are some requirement aspects that one must fulfill in order to qualify for the Health Professions Scholarship Program.

Age

You need to be at least 18 years old (17 with parental consent) to join the Military. As for the upper age limit, it depends on the Service and the Program:

  • Air Force Reserve: 47
  • Air Force: 48
  • Air National Guard: 47
  • Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard: 42
  • Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP): 36 (for the Navy, you can be no older than 42 at the time you enter Active Duty, following your degree completion — unless you were granted an age waiver when you were recruited)
  • Navy and Navy Reserve: 42

There are age exemptions available but these are based on the qualifications and the needs of the military.

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Citizenship

Since all military physicians serve as commissioned officers, in order to apply, you must be a resident of the United States.

Grade-Point Average (GPA) + Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) Scores

An HPSP applicant should generally have a minimum GPA of 3.0, and a minimum MCAT score of 500. A competitive applicant should have at least 3.6 GPA, and 506 to 509 MCAT score. Factors also influencing the Military in voluntary service and leadership.

Degrees and Licensing

HPSP requires all of its applicants to have accredited bachelor’s degree in the United States, Canada or Puerto Rico.

Applicants must also be accepted or enrolled in an accredited physician of medicine (M.D.) or osteopathic medicine (D.O.) degree program in the United States or Puerto Rico in order for the HPSP application to be final.

If you’re hoping to enter the military as a full doctor, you’ll need to have a degree from an accredited US or Puerto Rico M.D. or D.O. program. Accreditation must be issued by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, or the American Osteopathic Association.

Physicians with degrees from foreign medical schools must also:

  • Be certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties
  • Be currently engaged in a clinical practice
  • Be licensed to practice in the United States and its territories
  • Complete GME1 in the United States, Canada or Puerto Rico
  • Pass either the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination in the Medical Sciences or hold an Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates certification

Lastly, physicians must have completed one year of graduate medical education, must have a valid state license issued by a United States or District of Columbia state, territory or commonwealth, and should be a board certified or eligible for board.

Physical and Moral Standards

Regardless of your age, in case you are deployed, you will have a physical to show that you are fit enough to support them.

Where you’re taking your physical depends on the program you’re entering. HPSP applicants must undergo a physical application at a local Military Entrance Processing Station.

You are also expected to pass a security examination and exhibit the high moral standards a doctor and a military officer would expect.

Prior Service and Prior Military Commitments

Those with prior service or prior military commitments can apply to be students of military medicine, residents or doctors, although some individuals may need to fill in additional applications.

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For example, cadets of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps have to be approved for an educational delay due to their existing military commitments before applying for HPSP.

Similarly, before allowing medical school admission, cadets and midshipmen in Military Academies and ROTC must be approved by their respective Department.

If you are a member of the active duty service, you must seek approval from your Personnel Command to leave your current assignment and apply for scholarship and medical school programs. In this case, any pre-existing service commitment for your military education and training will be added to the conditions relevant to your inclusion in a medical scholarship program.

How can I apply for the HPSP?

Follow the following steps to apply for Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP).

1. Contact an Army recruiter

Reach out to an Army medical or local recruiter to schedule a preliminary interview to learn about joining the Army health care team and the HPSP application process. They will also provide the application forms.

2. Organize necessary paperwork

Gather your transcripts, letters of recommendation and test scores. You’ll need these to submit with your HPSP application.

3. Complete your HPSP application

Plan to complete your HPSP application form at the same time as you apply to your desired medical schools. Include all of the medical schools you have applied to in your HPSP application.

4. Submit your HPSP application

When your application is complete, submit it, along with your letters of acceptance, through your Army recruiter. A selection board will evaluate your application packet and send you an Award Notification letter, if accepted.

5. Finalize your HPSP enrollment

Once you are accepted to an accredited Physician of Medicine or Physician of Osteopathic Medicine degree program, contact your recruiter to finalize your HPSP enrollment.

You can download the complete application guide here.

Final thoughts

If you’re willing to spend time serving in the U.S. Army, Navy or Air Force, the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) is a legit medical school scholarship to get your entire med school tuition paid for.

However, if you don’t see yourself as a good fit for the program, you may want to consider taking any of these scholarships for healthcare and medical students for you.

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