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Doctors who join the U.S. Air Force become military officers, and are paid according to the military pay scale. However, since medicine can be one of the most lucrative professions, the Air Force offers incentives in the form of special pay and other benefits that compensate these health care professionals for their skills. So, an Air Force doctor's salary depends on a number of factors.
To become an Air Force doctor, a physician must go through Commissioned Officer Training. This five-week program teaches civilians about the Air Force and what it takes to be a leader of a military medical team. Participants go through both classroom study and physical training, and receive their commission upon successful completion. To be eligible for the program, a doctor must be between the ages of 18 and 48 years old and a U.S. citizen. He must be also be a graduate of an accredited medical or osteopathic school; have either completed an internship and residency, or be a resident in an acceptable program; and be board certified as a doctor or eligible for board certification.
Basic Military Pay
As a commissioned officer in the Air Force, a doctor receives base pay according to the yearly National Defense Authorization Act. Officers are paid based on two factors: their rank and the time they have spent in the military. For instance, a major with six years of service time would be paid $69,300 a year, while a new second lieutenant would earn $34,524 annually. Usually, officers would receive a raise with every promotion, or every two years of service time.
Medical Officer Pay
The Air Force offers several types of special pay for medical officers that can supplement their base pay. The largest such supplement is Medical Officer Incentive Special Pay, which can reach $75,000 a year as an annual bonus if the doctor agrees to remain on active duty for at least one year. The exact amount depends upon the doctor's specialty and the Air Force's need for those types of physicians. Experienced doctors who agree to re-enlist for a new four-year term of service can also receive a Multi-Year Retention Bonus of up to $75,000. All doctors on active duty are also eligible for $1,200 to $12,000 a year in Variable Special Pay, as well as $15,000 a year in Additional Special Pay, if they have completed their internship and residency and agree to another year of active duty. Finally, board-certified doctors can receive another $2,500 to $6,000 a year as a reward.
Other Pay and Benefits
Like other officers, doctors are eligible for such military pay as the Basic Allowance for Housing and the Basic Allowance for Subsistence if they live off base, and even such special pay as hostile fire pay if they are serving in a combat zone. One lucrative benefit is financial assistance that supplements a doctor's pay during residency or even pays for medical school through a scholarship.
- U.S. Air Force: Healthcare Professionals
- U.S. Air Force: Air Force Physicians
- U.S. Air Force: Commissioned Officer Overview
- U.S. Air Force: Commissioned Officer Training
- Military.com: 2013 Military Pay Charts -- 1.7% Raise
- Military.com: 2013 Military Pay Overview
- U.S. Department of Defense: Special and Incentive Pay Index
Eric Strauss spent 12 years as a newspaper copy editor, eventually serving as a deputy business editor at "The Star-Ledger" in New Jersey before transitioning into academic communications. His byline has appeared in several newspapers and websites. Strauss holds a B.A. in creative writing/professional writing and recently earned an M.A. in English literature.