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Do Navy Nurses Get Paid Less Than Civilian Nurses?

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Nurses in the Navy, as in all branches of the Armed Forces, are paid according to rank and length of service. A nurse is a commissioned officer whose salary schedule is equivalent to civilian pay grades O-1 (ensign in the Navy) through O-8 (rear admiral). The Navy nurse salary range $3,101.70 to $14,990 per month, which translates to a yearly range of 37,220.40 to $179,880.

Job Description

Just as in the civilian world, the nurse's role is to treat patients and promote their well-being. Nurses work with physicians, nurses and other health care providers as part of a team. Nurses in the military may encounter situations not found in civilian nursing, such as administering vaccinations to infants in developing countries. Military nurses may also provide emergency care to victims of natural disasters, anywhere in the world. The job description of a Navy nurse is essentially the same as that of an Army or Air Force nurse.

Education Requirements

Because military nurses are officers, they must earn a minimum of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BNS). An associate's degree is not acceptable. After earning the BSN or an advanced degree, you must earn your certification as a Registered Nurse by passing the National Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Some nurses choose to gain civilian experience before starting their military careers, but it is not a requirement. You can receive a commission from the Navy as a new nurse directly out of school.

Upon commissioning, nurses attend a 5-week Officer Development School (ODS) in Newport, R.I. They learn about the Navy and its history, leadership and military etiquette and tradition.

If you're still in high school and want to be part of the Navy Nurse Corps, consider applying for a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) Nurse Option scholarship. The Navy will pay the full cost of your education, up to $180,000, with no military or training obligation until graduation.

If you're already enrolled in a nursing program, you can get up to $34,000 towards the completion of your degree through the Nurse Candidate Program (NCP). You'll get an initial $10,000 grant, and $1,000 a month for up to 24 months.

Offers from the U.S. Navy have a number of variables, so it's best to discuss your options with your local recruiter before making any decisions.

Work Environment

Navy nurses work in hospitals and clinics on military bases in the U.S. and in foreign countries. There are more than 250 naval medical facilities around the world. Some nurses work aboard ship. The Navy has two dedicated hospital ships, the USNS Comfort and the USNS Mercy.

Salary and Job Outlook

Base pay for a Navy nurse starts at $37,220.40 per year for an ensign (O-1) with less than two years of experience. Pay increases with rank and length of service. Promotions in rank are competitive and based on performance. The highest rank a nurse can attain is O-8 (rear admiral). With 38 years of service, that an annual salary of $179,880. In addition to base salary, nurses may earn hazardous duty pay if stationed in a war zone. Navy nurse benefits include a housing allowance that is based on cost of living in the geographic area of their duty station. Like all military personnel, Navy nurses receive full medical, dental and vision benefits. They have a pension plan and can collect it upon retirement from active duty, with a minimum of 20 years of service. Nurses may be eligible for signing and retention bonuses, and they can take advantage of the G.I. Bill if they want to further their education.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics only tracks job numbers for civilian occupations. The needs of the military dictate how many nurses are commissioned. The world political situation and the U.S. defense budget are two major factors that determine the number of personnel in the Armed Forces.


Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.

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