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How to Become a Military Nurse


While nurses have been caring for wounded and sick American soldiers since the country’s inception in 1776, they were not officially members of the United States military until the Army Nurse Corps was created on February 2, 1901. Today, military nurses are registered nurses who treat soldiers and their families all over the world, on military bases and in hospitals and clinics as well as in the field. They may even sometimes treat civilians, especially during humanitarian crises.


Military nurses work in all branches of the armed forces, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard, and attain an officer rank in the Nurse Corps once they have completed a training course for officers. Anybody wondering how to become a military nurse should be aware that earning a RN to BSN online degree is an essential step in the process.

What Do Military Nurses Do?

Most of the time, the work of military nurses mirrors that of their civilian counterparts. They provide general healthcare in the form of assessments, testing, preventative care (such as administering vaccines), treatment plans, and emergency care while supporting military physicians, surgeons, and specialists. Military nurses may also specialize in different areas, such as mental health, anesthesia, pediatrics, or critical care.


A key difference between military nurses and civilians, however, is they must be trained and able to do their jobs in dangerous situations seldom experienced by other nurses. This could include treating traumatic injuries during conflicts, natural disasters, or humanitarian crises or understanding how to work in hazardous conditions.

Steps for How to Become a Military Nurse

Multiple steps are involved in becoming a military nurse, starting with obtaining a BSN. A bachelor’s degree is required to become an officer in the military. From there, aspiring military nurses need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and earn state licensing credentials to become registered nurses (RN).


Next, candidates should gain experience as an RN in a civilian medical facility or apply with a recruiter directly to begin military training, which may involve completing the Army’s Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC), the Navy’s Officer Development School (ODS), or the Officer Training School (OTS) for the Air Force.


Prospective military nurses also have the option to first enlist in a military academy and then complete their BSN training using veteran education programs to pay for nursing school. Some roles at the licensed vocational nurse (LVN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN) level, such as the Army’s practical nursing specialist role, may require a shorter period of training. Advanced practice military nurses need an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).

How Long Does It Take to Become a Military Nurse?

How long it takes to become a military nurse can depend on the path an individual takes into the field. Since aspiring military nurses need to earn a BSN, it usually takes at least four years to become a military nurse at the RN level. Existing RNs with an associate degree have the opportunity to complete a BSN — such as Maryville University’s RN to BSN  — in as little as one year, though it takes about two more years to earn the MSN necessary to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).

Military Nurse Salary

Most military nurses make between $58,000 and $100,000 per year, according to MyBaseGuide, with an average annual pay of $70,000 per year. Military nurse salaries vary significantly depending on experience, rank, and specialty; while respective ranks have different names depending on the service branch, the pay grades are the same. O(Officer)-1 Second Lieutenants or O-1 Ensigns were at the bottom of the scale in 2022, with a starting monthly salary of $3,477 and a maximum salary of $4,376 per month (with more than three years of experience), while O-10 General or O-10 Admiral positions started at $16,975 per month in 2022.


There are also opportunities for incentive special pay, continuing education, and bonuses of $20,000 to $30,000. In addition, military nurses receive excellent health insurance and generous retirement options as well as sign-on bonuses and allowances for food or housing.

Start Your Military Nursing Career with an RN to BSN Program

Becoming a military nurse requires considerable focus and dedication, but it’s an exciting, rewarding career for those who want to help people, serve their country, and see the world. It’s also a career that offers an exceptional amount of job security and satisfaction.


Maryville University’s RN to BSN online program offers flexibility for working RNs who wish to become military nurses by completing a military nursing program. This program is 100% online, meaning it can be completed from anywhere and on your schedule, and easy credit transfers make it possible to graduate in as few as three semesters.


Discover more about this degree program and how it can prepare you for a career in military nursing.


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