If you do HPSP, the military gets to decide what you have to specialize in – I hear this misconception all the time. It’s frustrating because recruiters typically aren’t familiar with the medical school process so they are unable to answer questions regarding the residency match, so much of the information regarding residency is really difficult to come by. As an HPSP student, you are required to apply for both the military and civilian match. The military match takes place several months before the civilian match, so if you obtain a spot in the military match you withdraw from the civilian match. With that being said, when you apply for the military match, you list your top 6 residency options and they select from that list. Much like the civilian match, selection is based on how competitive you are. It is possible that a student may list 6 residency options that they are not competitive for and in that case they may be required to take a transitional year internship and reapply the following year.
If you do HPSP, your chance of obtaining a residency is lower – This is not true, in fact you have even more opportunities to match as you can apply to both civilian and military match.
You will earn less money as a military doctor – Yes and no. It is true that the salary of a military doctor will be less than a civilian doctor in in the same specialty. With that being said, if you take into account all the additional bonuses, the salaries between the two groups are comparable. The biggest thing to consider is the potential to be debt free. For me this is not the case as I paid for my own undergraduate degree, but still it is a huge relief to know I am not accruing more debt while I’m in medical school.
You won’t deploy as a military doctor – When I first began to research HPSP, I had asked a recruiter if military doctors deployed. He told me the military wouldn’t spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on education and training only to send me to a dangerous area. In my mind that was enough to convince me that deployments weren’t in my future. Surprisingly, this was a common misconception shared by many of my fellow HPSP classmates. In reality, what my recruiter should have said that as a military doctor you will deploy, but you will most likely be working on a base which is much safer than being on patrol outside of the confines of a base. Speaking to one of the drill sergeants at officer training, he put it simply: the main goal of everyone in the military is to prepare for war, deployment is the main goal of all your training. If you are not comfortable with deploying then you may wish to reconsider applying for HPSP.