How to Become a Military Nurse:
The Definitive Guide

Have you always wanted to be a part of the United States military, but were torn because you also want to work in the medical field?

What if we told you, you could do both?

Military Nurses are powerful men and women who help soldiers both at home in the US and across the sea in foreign countries.

Becoming a Military Nurse is a long road, but those who are determined can make a great addition to this career.

What is a Military Nurse?

A Military Nurse is a Registered Nurse who works in the United States or in foreign countries to provide medical care for soldiers in military bases, military hospitals, and clinics.

As a Military Nurse, you can expect the same duties as a Registered Nurse, with the added stress of working in war zones.

This means that if you are interested in becoming a Military Nurse, you must be strong and capable of navigating scary situations.

Military Nurses have access to great job opportunities and career benefits.


Some Military Nurses specialize in areas like psychiatry, pediatrics, or even trauma, but whatever the specialty, most Military Nurses can expect to do these tasks throughout the day:

  • Treat military wounds
  • Treat military families
  • Set up triage in warzones
  • Provide vaccinations for children in other countries
  • Provide emergency care for victims of natural disasters
  • Prescribe medication
  • Apply anesthesia
  • Assist in relief efforts


Having a career as a Military Nurse can be quite lucrative, as the national average salary is around $77,000 a year.

A Military Nurse that is just starting out in the field will likely make less money, at around $52,000 a year.

Salary also depends on what type of facility you work in, and which area of the country your work is located.

Military Nurses with several credentials, many years of experience, and specializations can expect to make over $100,000 a year in this career.

Military Nurses who work in California can make over $120,000 a year, while Military Nurses working in Illinois make around $73,000 a year.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $77,460


Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$94,820
New Hampshire$73,880
New Jersey$84,280
New Mexico$73,300
New York$87,840
North Carolina$66,440
North Dakota$66,290
Rhode Island$82,310
South Carolina$64,840
South Dakota$59,540
West Virginia$63,220
Puerto Rico$35,040
Virgin Islands$68,500

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $113,240.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $113,240
Hawaii - $104,060
District of Columbia - $94,820
Massachusetts - $93,160
Oregon - $92,960
* Employment conditions in your area may vary. * Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.

How to Become a Military Nurse

Step 1Earn a Nursing Degree

The first step for anyone interested in working as a Nurse is to earn a Bachelor’s degree in nursing or graduate from a nursing program.

Most Bachelor’s degrees can take about four years to finish, which also includes an internship, clinical, and other hands-on experience for new nurses.

There are some courses that must be taken in order to fulfill the requirements for this degree.

The typical courses in a nursing degree program include:

  • Microbiology
  • Nursing Ethics
  • Statistics
  • Physiology
  • Chemistry
  • Nursing Practices
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Anatomy

It is likely that you will also need to take classes like English, math, and other sciences in order to graduate.

Because Military Nursing is a commissioned officer job, you cannot earn an Associate degree for this career.

Step 2Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam

Once you graduate from an accredited nursing program with a Bachelor’s degree, you must enroll in the NCLEX-RN exam in order to become a Registered Nurse.

No matter where you gain your education or where you work, in the United States, all nurses must be registered and licensed.

The exam is competency-based, which means the more you know, the fewer questions you will need to answer.

The smallest amount of questions to answer on this exam is 75, and the largest is 200.

This is a pass or fail the exam, which means you won’t get a letter grade.

After six weeks, you will receive confirmation if you have passed the exam or not.

If you fail, you can retake it a couple of times a year.

There are testing places all over the country and even online, so ask your local nursing program for more information.

Step 3Gain Experience

After you become a Registered Nurse, it’s now your chance to gain some experience in the field.

There are many places to work as a nurse:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Doctor’s offices
  • Schools
  • Colleges

Gaining experience is key for this career, you want to know what you are doing before you enlist in the military.

Having about two years of experience is the average for nurses who are interested in becoming military officers.

It’s also possible to join the military as a new graduate nurse, but this is harder and can be a lot more stressful.

Step 4Enlist in the Military

After you have obtained the nursing experience that you need, you can think about enlisting in the military.

The first thing to do is talk to a recruiter, these are the people who help you get all of the paperwork and information that you need in order to enlist.

Once you decide on a branch of the military that you’d like to serve, you must make sure you meet all of the minimum requirements.

After you have met all of the requirements, you will start working on an application packet.

Your recruiter will help you make sure everything is correct, which will take about a year to complete.

Once your application is finished, it will go to a commissioning board, they will accept you or deny you into the military.

If you are accepted, you will be sent to a military base and start boot camp.
Boot camp can last anywhere from 5-10 weeks and will test your mental and physical capacity as well as introduce you to military life.

After you complete the military training, you will be considered a Military Nurse.


In order to become a Military Nurse, you must first have a Bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Typically, a Bachelor’s degree from a university will take around four years to finish.

This is because you must have all of your prerequisites done so that you can learn all of the information that you need in order to succeed in the career you choose.

Some of the courses that you will take in a standard nursing program include:

  • Nursing Assessment
  • Nutrition and Diet
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Math of Medicine
  • Life Span
  • Microbiology
  • Chemistry
  • Mental Health
  • Reproductive Health
  • Nursing Care
  • Leadership and Management

These classes will teach you the information that is most important to becoming a nurse.

However, it is likely that you will take elective classes like English, math, earth science, and psychology to fulfill all credits.

While earning a degree, most aspiring nurses will either work an internship with a hospital or doctor’s office or shadow a nurse to see how the daily life of a nurse works.

Also, while in school it is required that you do clinical.

These are hands-on experience exercises that will give you the ability to test your knowledge with real people.

Once your degree is hanging on the wall and you have completed the NCLEX-RN exam, you can start to gain some experience as a Registered Nurse.

Some of the places that a nurse can find employment with a Bachelors degree in nursing:

  • Support service facilities
  • Home healthcare agencies
  • Hospitals
  • Doctor’s offices
  • Urgent care centers
  • Government agencies

Having a Bachelor’s degree and at least two years of experience as a Registered Nurse is necessary before enlisting in the military.

Contact a recruiter for the branch of the military that you wish to enlist, and they will help you with an interview to set up your application.

Once you have all the prerequisites done to enlist in a military branch, the boot camp will be the next step.

Military boot camp can take anywhere from 5-10 weeks and will teach you how to be the best Military Nurse you can be.

Video About The Career

Certification and Licensing

In order to work as a nurse in the United States, it’s necessary to pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

The NCLEX-RN exam, or the National Counsel Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, provides an answer on whether or not it is safe for you to practice as a nurse in the United States.

This exam tests competency in the area of nursing and is based on how much the test taker knows.

This means that the more questions that are correctly answered, the fewer questions that you will have to answer.

This test can take around six hours to finish and can be done online or in-person at participating facilities.

Before you decide to take the exam, make sure you know if a local college or hospital is providing the exam to students.

Most of the questions on the exam are multiple-choice, and the areas of interest include:

  • Safe and Effective Care
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance
  • Psychosocial Integrity
  • Physiological Integrity

There is an enrollment fee for this exam, which is around $200.

The exam has a pass-or-fail format, which means you won’t know how many questions you got right.

After 45 days, if you fail the exam, it’s possible to take it again.

However, if you pass, you are now a Registered Nurse in the United States and can begin working.

After gaining experience as a Registered Nurse, it’s possible to earn other certifications.

These certifications can help you when you join the military, or just as a Registered Nurse in general.

A certification in a specialization means that you are competent and knowledgeable in that area.

Some of the certifications that can be helpful for a Military Nurse are:

  • Certified Nurse Anesthetist
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Nurse Midwife

Gaining certification can help with promotions and raises, especially in the military.

Most certifications last from 3-5 years and must be renewed by proof of further education or taking an exam.

Certification Example:

nursing ba example

Average Training Program Duration: 4+ Years

There are many types of programs for people who are interested in becoming Military Nurses.

The only difference is that some of the programs last about 6 weeks, while others can last for 6 months.

Each training program you attend will tell you how long it takes the earn the certification.

Also, most boot camps last anywhere from 6-10 weeks, which is about as long as a typical certification program.

Online certification programs are often quicker than ones that meet in person, but both will do the trick.

Popular Degree Programs

Job Outlook

Military Nurses should have no problem finding employment, as the career, along with all Registered Nurse careers, is expected to grow around 12 percent over the next decade.

This is due to several reasons, the baby boomer population is growing older.

This means they are retiring from the workforce, as well as becoming ill and needing medical care.

There are also more facilities like hospitals and doctor’s offices that are expanding the medical field, even in the military.

With both of these things happening at the same time, it is likely that Military Nurses will be a necessity for a long time.

* The numbers below represent the job outlook forecast by the BLS for all registered nurses and are not specific to military nurses only.

Employment Growth Projection: 12%


That's a higher than average projected growth of 371,500 jobs.

Should You Become a Military Nurse?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: High

Having a career as a Military Nurse is one of the most satisfying nursing careers, according to Military Nurses.

They have to be more vigilant than a typical Registered Nurse, which can cause more stress, however, this is outweighed by the ability to help others and make other people happy and healthy.

Military Nurses often dedicate their lives to helping not only soldiers but also civilians both in the United States and across the world, which makes Military Nurses feel altruistic.

Average Salary

Average Salary: High

On average, a Military Nurse can make around $77,000 a year in the United States.

Nurses that have experience and have accumulated credentials may make a bit more, at around $100,000 or above.

This isn’t the case for Military Nurses who are just beginning their career, however, as they can expect a salary of around $52,000 to start.

In some well-populated areas, a Military Nurse can expect to make much more money, especially if that area is a high socio-economic area.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

There will likely be a need for Registered Nurses of all kinds for the foreseeable future.

Military Nurses should also not have a problem finding employment for the next decade.

This career, along with all Registered Nurse careers, will rise around 12 percent over the next ten years.

This is much higher than many other careers in the medical field.

One of the reasons for the rise in this career is that the baby boomer population is starting to retire from the workforce, and they are also in need of more medical care.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 4+ Years

In order to work as any type of Registered Nurse, it’s important to earn an education.

For Military Nurses, it’s a little different, because not only do they have to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in nursing, but they also must join the military.

Most Bachelor’s degrees take around four years to finish, and then most Registered Nurses continue on to gain employment in a hospital or doctor’s office.

This is when a Military Nurse would join the branch they want a career in and then to attend a 5-10 week basic training.

It can take around four years to earn a degree, but basic training can take another few months.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

A Military Nurse must be emotionally and physically strong, which will help in daily life at home and in warzones.

There are some other personal skills that any kind of nurse, but especially a Military Nurse, must have to succeed in this career:

  • Basic nursing skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Physical stamina
  • Knowledge of the military
  • Empathy for others
  • Positive attitude
  • Ability to adapt to ever-changing situations
  • Ability to communicate quickly and effectively
  • Detail-oriented
  • Organization skills
  • Listening skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Ability to work alone or with a team

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the average salary for a Military Nurse?

Most Military Nurses in the United States make around $75,000 a year.

Military Nursing is considered a specialized profession, which means you will likely make more money in this career.

Many Military Nurses who have worked in the field for years or who have specializations as a nurse will make over $100,000 a year in some areas.

Those who are just beginning their career can expect to make around $52,000 to begin.

Q. How long does it take to become a Military Nurse?

Most nursing programs take around four years to finish and will provide a Bachelor’s degree.

In order to work as a Military Nurse, you need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree due to the seriousness of the career.

Not only will you need to study for four years, but you will also have to apply to the military, which can take around a year to complete.

After that, you will have a boot camp.

This takes anywhere from 6-10 weeks to finish.

This means it can take about 6 1/2 years to become a Military Nurse.

Q. What does a Military Nurse do?

A Military Nurse does many of the same duties as a Registered Nurse, however they work in war zones, or work with military personnel and their families.

Military Nurses can work in the United States, or they can work overseas, it depends on where they get located.

Some of the things that you can find a Military Nurse doing include:

  • Giving IVs and vaccinations
  • Providing medical care to wounds
  • Examining patients
  • Assisting in medical surgeries

These activities can be done on American citizens and even people from other countries.

Q. What is the demand for Military Nurses?

Nursing, in general, is going to have a huge boost over the next decade.

Military Nursing will be necessary for the foreseeable future since we will always need our armed forces and medical staff.

With a projected growth at around 12 percent, this career will have more opportunities than many other careers in the medical field.

This can be due to the older population retiring, as well as the older population, getting sick and needing medical care.

Q. How much does it cost to become a Military Nurse?

The cost to become a Military Nurse can depend on where you go to school.

Most Bachelor’s degrees in the United States cost anywhere from $15,000 to $35,000.

However, if you enlist in the military, oftentimes they will pay for all of your education.

This means that it can cost absolutely nothing to work as a Military Nurse.

The average range for a Military Nurse education is from $0-$35,000.

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