Medical Officer's Guide to the Navy


If you are just entering the fleet out of residency or are still a Lieutenant, you have a promotion board in your near future.  Typically, you will be a Lieutenant for 5 years.  During that 5th year, you will be up for promotion.  All promotions above the rank of Lieutenant go to a promotion board.


It is up to the individual to ensure all necessary documents are present, correct, and up to date for members of the board to review.  The necessary documents are: 1) all Fitness reports (without lapses in dates), 2)  up to date officer data card, and 3) a letter to the board if desired.  You can find more information at Naval Personnel Command (look at the right hand side of the page).  As of 10/1/2007, photographs are once again  required to be part of your promotion board package. 


Your department head and detailer can also provide support ensuring all required documents are present for the board.  Additionally, you can check on the BUPERS website what documents are present.  It is of utmost importance that you account for all of your time in navy.  Trying to track down old ones from other commands can be quite cumbersome.   It is for this reason that it is a good idea to keep copies of all your fitness reports.  The dates your fitness reports cover must not contain any lapses. 


If you desire written copies of the records BUPERS has for you, request a CD-ROM (used to be microfiche).  You can order your CD-ROM from Bupers Online (BOL).Both the Bupers Online (BOL) and the Navy Personnel Command (NPC) websites contain similar information.  After logging into BOL, you will have access to your personal records (fitreps, awards, etc...).  The NPC website will provid you with administrative and logistical information regarding promotion boards, the detailing process, etc.


After learning about the promotion board, it is imperative to view the information BUPERS has in your personal record.  This information is what the board will review when deciding on YOUR promotion.  You will want to review your FITREPs (make sure all days you have been on active duty are accounted for), Officer Data Card (ODC), Officer Summary Record (OSR), and Performance Summary Record (PSR). After reviewing your files online, submit all necessary changes.  It will take several weeks for your submissions to be updated in your personnel file.  Then, order your CD-ROM from Bupers Online (BOL).  Your CD-ROM contains the information that is viewed during the promotion board meeting.


Determining Promotion Board Eligibility:


How do you know if you are eligible for the board?  Each fall an administrative message is sent fleet wide listing the names and lineal numbers of the senior and junior persons in-zone of every corps within the navy.  A third name of the junior person (again with lineal number) below-zone is also listed.


You can determine your “zone” status by finding your lineal number ( ) then referring to the admin message.


Specialty Boards


Board certification is very important, especially just after finishing residency.  The American Board of Surgeons generally requires you pass the certifying exam within 5 years of finishing residency.  However that policy can be different for those active duty (American Board of Surgery).  Your ship will help coordinate getting you to the boards and will obtain a TAD surgeon to take your place if you are to be at sea during that period. 


The Navy Medicine Manpower Personnel Training and Education Command (NMPT&E) will provide exam and associated travel fee funding.  A copy of the letter used in 2004 with appropriate references is included in Addendum- Letters.  This letter needs your current command’s endorsement, then should be forwarded to:

Medical Corps Board / CME Funding Coordinator 
Comm: 301-295-0649 DSN: 295-0649
Fax: 301-295-1783 DSN: 295-1783


Most commands allow one CME function per fiscal year to providers.  It is possible to combine a review course with the exam.  NAVMED MPT&E pays for travel and exam fees, current command pays for review course.   For more information go to NAVMED MPT&E CME FAQ.  One last note, should you not pass the exam, you may be on your own when you re-take the exam (for expenses).

Licensing Requirements

In order to practice medicine in the navy, you must have a valid state license.  It does not matter where the license is from, just that a state licensing board has found you to be safe to practice medicine.  However, should you desire to moonlight, you must have a license from that locality.  You also must first request command approval to moonlight (it must not conflict with your primary duties).

CME RequirementsFor most of you, continuing medical education has not been an issue.  You have been in residency.  However, now that you are out of residency (or internship), your state will require a certain number of continuing medical education credits over a certain period of time.There are two types of credit given- category I and II. 

For the most part, category I credits are awarded for attending lectures, conferences, etc.  Category II are usually awarded for self-study projects.  Some states want you to prove your CME by submitting formal logs.Check with the state licensing board where you have your license for more information on their requirements.  

Since CME is required to maintain licensure (and licensure is required by the navy), you may be able to obtain either command or navy funding.  Check with your command's education and training officer or NAVMED MPT&E for more informaiton.

n.b.  Additional note, you will not be eligible for certain medical special pays (ASP, MSP, ISP, BCP) should you not have a valid state license.


During your time onboard your ship, you will have plenty of time for non-medical pursuits.  One of the best ways to learn more about the fleet and its missions is to pursue surface warfare qualifications.

After reporting aboard, seek out the senior SWMDO.  They will provide you with the personal qualification standard (PQS).  It contains a listing of “required” knowledge items that is necessary to master in order to qualify for wearing the warfare pin. 

It should take about 6-9 months to gather all required signatures.  It is much easier when at sea as you have a captive audience.

Most medical officers reporting aboard will have the opportunity to take the courses entitled Surface Warfare Medical Department Indoctrination Course and Navy Damage Control and Fire Fighting .  Surgeon typically does not have the time to take these courses; however, they are required as part of the PQS for the SWMDO pin. 

If earning this pin is important to you, make sure you contact your SMO prior to arrival to set up these courses.  You only have one year on the ship.  That year goes by quickly!