How To Become A Military Nurse And What To Expect

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Those who are interested in becoming a military nurse have good cause to be excited about the prospects of serving. With more than 3.5 million total military personnel in the United States, according to the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense’s “2014 Demographics: Profile Of The Military Community,” the need for quality nurses is clearly evident.

Military nurse standing in front of an American Flag background

How Do I Become a Military Nurse?

First and foremost, aspirants must have a bachelor’s of science in nursing degree. RNs with associate’s degrees do not qualify for direct commission as an officer. BSNs can choose from several different paths when pursuing a commission into their chosen branch’s Nurse Corps.

Aspiring military nurses can follow one of three paths to a commission: enlisted nursing commissioning programs, reserve officers’ training corps (ROTC), and the direct commission process.

The enlisted nursing commissioning program provides an avenue for medics and RNs currently serving in the enlisted ranks to attend nursing school and receive their commission.

Once accepted, enlisted members must attend a four-year program with an ROTC detachment, full-time, until they receive their BSN and commission, according to Air Force Public Affairs officer Kat Bailey in “Enlisted Nursing Commissioning Programs Accepting Applications.” Competition is extremely steep, and some personnel are simply unable to apply because of deployments or incompatible time schedules, but the plus side is that the military pays for everything.

ROTC training is taken alongside regular college nursing studies and requires students to take military and leadership elective classes in addition to normal coursework. Students also attend military training in the summer (on the military’s dime), which typically consists of clinical hours on military bases. After graduation, the nurses become commissioned officers in their chosen service’s nurse corps.

Perhaps the most popular pathway to a military nursing career is the direct commission process, which is open only to certain fields (nurse corps, legal, chaplain services, dentistry, and some intelligence fields).

Because the military has such a dire need for qualified nurses at all times, nurses with a BSN degree and licensure from the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) can simply attend an abbreviated officer basic training and receive their commission immediately, according to’s “Military Nurse Requirements.”

Each military branch offers programs that can help alleviate the burden of student debt in exchange for years served as an officer. Students should speak to a military healthcare recruiter to discuss program details and options more thoroughly.

Commissioned Nurses

Officers in the U.S. military are paid much better than enlisted personnel. A newly commissioned military nurse will earn a base rate pay of about $37,000 per year. In addition, housing and sustenance (food) is either provided or extra housing and sustenance allowances are included in a nurse’s paycheck., in “How To Become A Military Nurse,” also highlights sign-on bonuses of up to $30,000, as well as annual bonuses, hazard pay, health coverage, 401K retirement plans, and thirty days of vacation per year.

Nurses in the military can be assigned to a number of different duty stations depending on their field and the needs of their military branch. Military nurses are needed overseas treating wounded servicemen and women, working in military clinics and hospitals, setting up triage sites for disaster relief and war zones, on Navy ships, and even treating the family members of service members in the States.

Military nurses, and former military nurses, could also find themselves working with veterans, many of whom have chronic conditions or permanent injuries as a result of their service.

“Over 48,000 servicemen and women have been physically injured in the recent military conflicts,” reports the Wounded Warrior Project on its website’s “Who We Serve” section. “In addition to the physical wounds, it is estimated as many as 400,000 service members live with the invisible wounds of war, including combat-related stress, major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Another 320,000 are believed to have experienced a traumatic brain injury while on deployment.”

The members of the Army, Navy, and Air Force Nurse Corps treat the wounded while they are still on active duty, transitioning into a civilian life, and later, living as disabled veterans in the civilian world. Taking the wounded veterans into account underlines the need for military nurses in today’s world.

About Duquesne’s RN to BSN Program

Duquesne University offers one of the top-ranked online BSN programs in the nation and enables a registered nurse with an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma in nursing to earn a BSN degree. Classes start in fall, spring, and summer and the program can be completed on a full- or part-time basis. Topics include information technology, pathophysiology, genetics, and nursing ethics.

For more information, visit the Duquesne University online BSN webpage.