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Can Military Service Pay for a Nursing Education?

The U.S. military service branches of the Army, Navy and Air Force along with the National Guard enlist nurses for active duty and as reservists. Each offers scholarship, grant and loan reimbursement programs to assist RNs in paying for nursing school. Monthly stipends and sign-on bonuses may be available as well. The choice of a military nursing career could be a rewarding one for the nurse who is interested in unique educational and real-world experiences.

Although a military nurse who is on active duty has most likely completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, the military may still help finance advanced education and career plans. The 2010 Defense Authorization Act, Section 933, “requires the Department of Defense to establish a military school of nursing, as well as a nurse scholarship program, to assist nurse-applicants with receiving a bachelor’s degree in nursing, in exchange for joining the military as a commissioned officer nurse.”

Benefits of an ROTC Program

Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (AROTC)

Nursing students who are also AROTC Cadets can benefit from one-on-one mentoring and training, enhanced leadership abilities and highly developed critical-thinking skills to guide them on their professional journey. The AROTC program offers undergraduate nursing students two-, three- or four-year scholarships. A three- or four-year service obligation may be required following graduation.

The Nurse Summer Training Program (NSTP) may be offered to students between their junior and senior years of college. The paid, three-week program assigns Cadets to Army hospitals throughout the U.S. and Germany. The students are introduced to the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) and to the roles, duties and responsibilities of an Army Nurse Corps (ANC) officer. One-on-one clinical experience under the supervision of an experienced ANC officer can help students to develop problem-solving skills, improve clinical skills and expand professional skills while functioning as a member of the U.S. Army healthcare team.

Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC)

The NROTC offers scholarships to high school students that may cover the full cost (up to $180,000) of a nursing education at colleges and universities across the country. The Nurse Candidate Program (NCP) can pay up to $34,000 through an initial grant of $10,000, plus a monthly stipend of $1,000 for tuition. This stipend is paid for up to 24 months for eligible nursing students. These two programs have eligibility criteria and other variables that should be discussed with a Navy Recruiter prior to acceptance.

Educational Benefits

Army Nurse Corps (ANC)

The ANC recruits nurses and future nurses to serve a critical function in the Army, caring for soldiers on and off the battlefield all over the world. These RNs are officers, leaders and members of a professional healthcare team. They may qualify for the following loan repayment and bonuses:

  • Active duty nurses may qualify for nursing school loan repayment and may qualify for up to $30,000 when they sign on with the Army
  • Reserve duty nurses (including those RNs with either an Associate’s of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree or BSN degree) may sign on with $15,000 in bonuses
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) may earn a total of $45,000 in sign-on bonuses (three annual bonuses of $15,000 each)

Navy Nurse Corps

In addition to the NROTC scholarships for high school students, both nursing students and RNs are offered a range of financial aid benefits depending on their specific situation:

  • Active nursing students may qualify for the Nurse Candidate Program as previously mentioned
  • Working RNs with outstanding nursing school loans may sign on for a $20,000 bonus and up to $40,000 in student loan reimbursement. This repayment program requires a commitment of five years of service.

Air Force

Prospective Air Force nurses may qualify for a Health Professions Scholarship, a program available to students in a nursing specialty for between two and three years. Recruits to Air Force nursing have the option to advance their education with continued financial assistance, as long as they remain within established guidelines.

The goal of the U.S. military is to attract motivated, talented, committed and dedicated nurses to its healthcare teams. The financial aid programs offered by the military appeal to many RNs who need assistance to manage the cost of nursing school. Serving in the military can be a rewarding career for nurses who want to assist and support those who defend our country and their families. Having the option of financial aid assistance may make the decision to join the military easier.

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