By Buddy Blouin
The Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP) is a great option for those looking to pursue a medical career and serve their country. HPSP Air Force is one example, as each branch offers its own program, including Army HPSP opportunities, and the Navy’s program. Besides receiving your medical education without the stress of as much or any burdensome student debt, the HPSP is a great way to advance your military career and pick up invaluable skills.

What Is HPSP?

HPSP helps aspiring medical professionals through scholarships for students honing their skills through the practice of medicine. You can receive benefits that help you with monthly living expenses through its stipend. The cost of education continues to rise and when it comes to medical school, these expenses can feel insurmountable. Even higher-paying job opportunities can still not be enough to overcome the debt required by medical professionals in some cases. Thankfully, the HPSP is a great way to forgo some of these expenses and continue your medical pursuits. Learn more about the program’s requirements, how it affects retirement, taxes, and more below.

HPSP Scholarship Requirements

Getting involved with an HPSP medical school can be a great way to jumpstart your medical career while also giving back to your country. However, the program has specific guidelines that applicants must adhere to. Individuals seeking medical careers are encouraged to review the HPSP requirements:
  • Physically, you’ll need to be healthy enough for military service, no matter which age you are. This means taking a physical at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) near you. If you are a Uniformed Services University of the Health Services (USU) applicant, physicals are taken by the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board.
  • You’ll need to pass a background check showing you have the security clearance as well as the morals to fulfill your role.
  • Applicants must be at least 18 years old, 17 with parental consent, or granted a waiver to enter military service. However, there are upper age limits for serving in this capacity as well:
    • For Army, the age limit is 42 years old.
    • Navy requirements also top out at 42 years old.
    • Air Force has a max-age of 48. The Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard age limits, however, are 47.
    • Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) has an age limit of 36. HPSP Navy guidelines state that you can’t be older than 42 years old when entering Active Duty.
There are waivers and different exceptions that may exist, but you’ll need to apply for such and speak with your branch about HPSP military exemptions and exceptions. Additionally, you’ll need to be an American citizen. Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) Cadets must be approved for an educational delay before applying to HPSP. HPSP applicants should have a 3.2 GPA and a minimum MCAT score of 500. USU applicants need a 3.0 GPA and an MCAT score of at least 496. A GPA of 3.6 and an MCAT score between 506 and 509 are competitive. Waivers for MCAT scores below 496 are possible on a case-by-case basis. Prior military service, work experience, volunteer service, research experience, and leadership potential are also considered. Furthermore, you’ll need to have received your baccalaureate degree from an accredited academic institution in the United States, Puerto Rico, or Canada by June 1 of the year you’re looking to attend your program in accordance with relevant coursework such as biochemistry, chemistry with lab, biology with lab, etc. Foreign medical school graduates must also meet several requirements, including passing the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination in the Medical Sciences or possessing certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. You’ll also need to obtain certification from the American Board of Medical Specialties, complete an internship in the United States, Canada, or Puerto Rico, hold an unrestricted license to practice in the United States and its territories and be currently engaged in clinical practice. Furthermore, you’re going to have to complete a minimum of one year of graduate medical education and possess a valid state license issued by a state, territory, or commonwealth of the United States or D.C. Board certification or eligibility is also recommended, and while exceptions may be available, they are case-by-case.

Is HPSP Worth It?

Whether or not the HPSP program is worth it or not is up to you. However, by looking at a few factors, you can compare the VA HPSP scholarship, and what you wish to get out of your medical career, and make an informed choice. The value of the HPSP can be greatly seen in the ability of the program to cover the cost of medical school tuition and provides a living allowance in exchange for your service commitment as a military physician. This is why it’s important it is an attractive option for physicians who are looking to also serve in the military. The experience you’ll gain goes far beyond the medical field and can help you within the military healthcare system and in your civilian career. Military physicians also have access to unique training and experiences that are not always available to their civilian counterparts. But, if military service or fulfilling the obligation does not appeal to you, HPSP may not be the best choice. The VA HPSP is a wise investment of your time and energy, but it can be a misstep if a life of serving your country isn’t the right path for you. Be sure to carefully evaluate your commitment to service before making a decision.

How Many HPSP Scholarships Are Awarded?

According to the VA MISSION Act of 2018, at least HPSP scholarships are provided yearly to qualifying applicants. This went into effect on April 6, 2020, and remains the standard for HPSP as of this writing.

Does HPSP Count Towards Retirement?

It depends on how you serve whether or not HPSP counts towards your retirement. If you are receiving a Reserve retirement, your HPSP time may be counted towards the required 20 years if you participate in a Reserve after Active Duty. It’s credited back for a one-for-one selected Reserve/HPSP year basis. But if you are serving on Active Duty, things are not the same. Your HPSP time doesn’t count, even if it was during Active Duty or not, towards an Active Duty 20-year retirement. This is key to remember before entering the program as an Active Duty member of the military.

Is HPSP Stipend Taxable?

Yes, your HPSP stipends are taxable. All stipends, grants, bonuses, and pay while on Active Duty are taxable by both state and federal withholding. To better understand how the HPSP and your taxes are affected, speak with a licensed CPA to learn more.

Am I Active Duty if I’m in HPSP?

If you are a part of the Health Professional Scholarship Program, you can be put on Active Duty. However, it’s worth noting that those participating in the HPSP scholarship aren’t deployed until after the completion of their medical training. Nevertheless, should service become necessary due to a change in world events, it’s not unreasonable to expect to be called overseas.

How to Apply for HPSP

By reaching out to the respective branch you’re looking to join and talking to someone in their medical division, you can connect with the right personnel and paperwork to apply to the HPSP. Although the HPSP acceptance rate is debatable, the high standards of entry help maintain the high standards sought by our country’s military.




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