Military Pay

Military pay is somewhat complex, especially for medical professionals. We will start by listing the categories of pay that are applicable to military physicians as well as explain briefly what they are. We will also list at what point military doctors are eligible for what types of pay. Links to the official pays table will also be included.

Types of pay applicable to military physicians

  • Basic Pay- taxable income based on rank and time in service. Download the 2008 Pay Table below or go to a current one at the DFAS link below. Determine your monthly basic pay by finding you rank and years of service in the grid.
  • BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing)- non-taxable income that increases with rank and varies by location. Visit the BAH link below, type in you rank and zip code, and it will tell you how much you will earn for BAH. Those who live on base do not earn BAH.
  • BAS (Basic Allowance for Sustenance)- non-taxable income that does not increase with rank or time in service. BAS rates can be found on the second page of the the 2008 Pay Table below.
  • Variable Special Pay (pay for being a doctor)- VSP rates can be found on the last page of the 2008 Pay Table below under Special Pays for Health Professional Officers. VSP rates change with time in service. More detail of what rate you are entitled to can be found in the DoD Financial Regulation document below.
  • Medical Additional Special Pay (additional pay for being a doctor)- MASP is a lump sum of about $15,000 paid yearly. It given to all physicains who are not currently completing an initial residency.  
  • Incentive Special Pay (After you graduate residency, you are a specialist and can earn incentive pay)- ISP rates differ depending on specialty choice. Rates can be found on the last page of the 2008 Pay table found below. ISP can also be increased depending on how may years you promise to the military. This is called Multiyear Special Pay (MSP)and it is added to the ISP. MSP rates vary, but have been known to reach up to an extra $60,000 each year on top of ISP which could be up to $36,000 per year.
  • Board Certified Pay (If you pass a board exam after residency)- BCP rates like the VSP rates change with time in service. Rates can be found on the last page of the 2008 Pay Table below.
  • Other Bonuses- More pay is sometimes offered to military physicians. Some of the other bonuses include: proficiency in a foreign language, fight pay, dive pay, sea pay, or deployment pay. Besides those just mentioned, there are yet more bonuses out there. They are sometimes unpredictable and sporadic in nature. They could reflect the need for retention or other factors that pertain to physicians. For example the military may authorize a Medical Officer Retention Bonus (MORB) for a set period of time. In the past a MORB has reached up to and extra $100,000 each year.
More specific information can be found in various locations. A 2008 Pay Table is available for download below. It contains the current amounts for Basic Pay, BAS, VSP, ISP, and BCP. BAH rates can be obtained form the BAH link below. Information about other bonuses and military pays as well as an updated pay table can be found at the DFAS website below. Specific information about medical special pays can be found in the DoD Financial Regulation document available for download below.
*the DoD Financial Regulation document is difficult to navigate and somewhat dated. It is, however, the most recent document I could find that spells out things like MASP, MSP and MORB.

HPSP Students

Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) students do not earn regular military pay while in medical school or active duty benefits. They receive tuition benefits as well as a stipend. They enter active duty as an O3 upon entering and internship

USUHS Students

Students of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) receive active duty benefits and the rank of O1 while in medical school. They earn Basic Pay, BAH, and BAS. Foreign language pay could also apply. Although they do not accumulate time in service toward retirement while at USUHS, time spent at USUHS will count toward retirement pay. They earn the rank of O3 upon graduation and entering internship. Visit the link above for more information.


Those beginning internship will become an active duty officer at the rank of O3. They begin to accumulate time in service and earn Basic Pay, BAH, BAS, and VSP. Foreign language pay could apply.


Military GME residents will earn Basic Pay based upon rank and time in service. They also earn BAH, BAS, and VSP. Flight pay, dive pay, and foreign language pay could also apply. MASP is not earned during initial residency training.

Attending Physicians

For military medical officers, promotions come every 5 to 6 years after O3. Most attending physicians are given O4 shortly after residency. Many physicians will make O6 if they stay in the military. Attending physicians earn Basic Pay, BAH, BAS, VSP, ISP, MASP and BCP if they are board certified. MSP, MORB, flight pay, dive pay, sea pay, or deployment pay could also apply.

Military Benefits

The benefits of being in the military can be found at various websites. Many agree that the benefits are the best part of being in the military. Here we mention a few of the benefits specific for military medical officers. They include:

  • No malpractice insurance
  • Paid trips to professional conferences
  • Opportunities for advanced training without taking a pay cut
  • Humanitarian missions
  • Not paying for board exams
  • Not worrying about whether or not your patient can pay for a procedure that they need
  • The best patient population in the world

For more general military benefits please visit the Defense Link website or click List.