Military Nurse Jobs: 5 Specialties to Consider

Military nurse jobs feature many specialization options. Learn more about military nurse specialties open to new and experienced professionals.

portrait of Thomas Broderick
by Thomas Broderick

Published September 1, 2022

Reviewed by Brandy Gleason, MSN, MHA, BC-NC

Our Review Network

BestColleges is committed to delivering content that is objective and accurate. We have built a network of industry professionals across healthcare and education to review our content and ensure we are providing the best information to our readers.

With their first-hand industry experience, our reviewers provide an extra step in our editing process. These experts:

  • Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
  • Provide specific, corrective feedback.
  • Identify critical information that writers may have missed.

Our growing Review Network currently consists of professionals in fields like business, nursing, social work, and other subject-specific industries; professionals in higher education areas such as college counseling and financial aid; and anti-bias reviewers.

Reviewers typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for BestColleges as a side project. Our reviewers are members of the Red Ventures Education Freelance Review Network and are paid for their contributions.

See a full list of our Review Network contributors.

Edited by Taylor Gadsden
Share this Article
Military Nurse Jobs: 5 Specialties to Consider
Image Credit: Phynart Studio / E+ / Getty Images


The nursing field provides professionals with many career pathways, including military nurse jobs. These workers use their education and training to serve in one of the military's branches. Like civilian nurses, military nurses spend much of their day treating patients.

Military nursing can involve risks, such as working in a war zone. However, an entry-level position lets professionals explore military nurse specialties and transition to a civilian career. Students interested in this career path work with a career counselor to learn more about military nurse jobs and related positions.

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

How to Become a Military Nurse

Entering the military nursing field requires at least a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree and a state-issued license. This process involves performing clinical rotations and passing the NCLEX-RN. Some degree-seekers train for a military career while in school by joining their college's ROTC.

Nurses may pursue a civilian career before joining the military. Others develop their skills further by earning a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree. An MSN can open up new career paths in the civilian and military healthcare fields.

Aspiring military nurses explore different branches' nurse jobs. They perform online research and meet with recruiters. Recruiters educate nurses about military life and what the job requires.

U.S. Army and Navy nurses agree to at least three years of active duty. New military nurses complete an officer training class before receiving a commission. Gaining experience and providing excellent patient care leads to a promotion and raise.

5 Types of Military Nursing Specialities

Rapid Response Nurse

A soldier's injury or illness may lead to cardiac arrest. Nurses and physicians respond by managing airflow, using a defibrillator, and administering medication. Other responsibilities include applying basic life support skills.

Military nurses with these skills work calmly under pressure, an advantage in a war zone or stateside military hospital. Some nurses use their experience and training to instruct healthcare professionals in other countries.

ACLS certification trains military and civilian nurses in the latest life support best practices. Nurses may earn the certification by taking an in-person or hybrid class. Both require hands-on training and an assessment.


Critical Care Nurse

  • Average Annual Salary (as of June 2022): $75,370
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2020-2030): 9%
  • Licenses/Certifications: Active nursing license

Like their civilian counterparts, military critical care nurses provide life-saving care to wounded people. Related responsibilities include treating soldiers' dependents and providing routine care when necessary. These professionals may work as a reservist.

The U.S. Army lets entry-level nurses pursue this career track. Most civilian hospitals do not allow entry-level nurses to work in critical care units. Applicants must qualify for a security clearance and hold U.S. citizenship. These requirements apply to other military nurse jobs as well.

Former military nurses use their education and experience to work in a hospital intensive care unit (ICU). ICUs treat people in critical condition due to a severe injury or illness.


Family Nurse Practitioner

  • Median Annual Salary (as of May 2021): $120,680
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2020-2030): 52%
  • Licenses/Certifications: Active nursing license; board certification

Military family nurse practitioners treat more people than service members and their dependents. The military often assigns them to international humanitarian missions, such as those needed after a natural disaster. They use their expertise to provide patients of all ages with excellent care.

Family nurse practitioners' broad skill sets make them many patients' first points of contact in a healthcare setting. They may recommend patients to another nurse practitioner in a different specialty, such as adult-geriatric or women's healthcare.

All family nurse practitioners need a master's degree. Like other military nurses, they agree to three years of active duty.


Nurse Anesthetist

  • Median Annual Salary (as of May 2021): $195,610
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2020-2030): 13%
  • Licenses/Certifications: Active nursing license; board certification

Many routine and emergency medical procedures require anesthesia. Military nurse anesthetists' typical job duties include giving anesthesia, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and providing fluid therapy. These professionals may work on a military base or serve with a forward surgical team.

Nurse anesthetists' advanced degrees may help them earn a higher-than-average military nurse salary. The U.S. Army also offers up to a $30,000 signing bonus to these nurses as of July 2022.

Experienced U.S. Army nurse anesthetists with a master's may qualify for a fully funded doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program. This degree takes approximately three years to complete and helps graduates get a top position in the military or civilian healthcare field.


OB/GYN Nurse

OB/GYN nurses treat pregnant service members. Other typical responsibilities include helping patients select birth control, manage menopause, and resolve infections. These professionals also screen patients for cancer.

Military OB/GYN nurses do not serve on the front lines. However, some work on a U.S. military base in a foreign country. Enlistment requirements may include at least 12 months of experience as a civilian OB/GYN nurse. A certification may make these professionals more employable after discharge.

Civilian OB/GYN nurses with military experience perform many of the same roles in a hospital setting. Typical tasks include answering potential parents' questions and collaborating with other nursing professionals.

Military Nursing Salary

A government-approved pay chart determines military nurse salary. Pay grade and years of experience affect what a nurse earns. Some entry-level military nurse jobs may not pay as much as similar civilian nursing careers.

Prospective military nurses should consider the profession's financial benefits besides salary. The military's retirement plan convinces many workers to make the military a long-term career.

Editor's note: Some of the salary numbers above may be based on relatively small samples, and potential nursing salaries could vary widely depending on the employer. Reach out to a relevant professional nursing organization for more information about potential salaries in your area.

How to Find a Military Nursing Job

Finding a military nursing job involves attending in-person and virtual career fairs. Representatives from different branches answer questions about military careers, enlistment requirements, and life in the service.

Degree-seekers in a BSN program should also explore their school's career services website for more information and upcoming networking events.

Graduates can pursue or land a military nursing job by meeting their chosen branch's requirements. U.S. Navy nurses, for example, must hold a bachelor's degree from a Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education-accredited program and a license. Only nurses 41 and younger may apply, as well.

Job applicants review these and other requirements by researching official government websites. Job applicants increase their chances of success by preparing for interviews and keeping a positive mindset.

Military Nurse Professional Organizations

The Army Nurse Corps Association: Active and retired U.S. Army nurses make up the ANCA. The association dates back to 1976 and runs a scholarship program for members advancing their education.

Navy Nurse Corps Association: Founded in 1987, the NNCA supports U.S. Navy nurses' professional development and advocates for the military nursing profession. The association also preserves naval nursing history by interviewing veterans.

Society of Air Force Nurses: The SAFN features over 1,500 members and brings them together with its annual convention. The organization's regional branches let members network, as well. The SAFN website offers free resources to active-duty and retired service members.

Frequently Asked Questions About Military Nursing Jobs

What is the highest-paid military nursing speciality?

Advanced practice registered nurses serving the military earn an average annual salary of $115,530, as of July 2022, according to Indeed. This salary exceeds the median salary for registered nurses by approximately $38,000. Advanced practice registered nurses may make more, depending on their pay grade and years of military experience.

Prospective military nurses should consider how their transition to civilian life may affect salary potential. Nurse practitioners and anesthetists with a master's degree make a median salary of over $100,000 a year, as of May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These professionals may find a career with the highest pay by moving to California, New Jersey, or New York, according to the BLS.

What military nursing speciality is the most popular?

The U.S. Army's official website lets aspiring and practicing nurses explore in-demand military careers, such as practical nursing specialist, OB/GYN nurse, emergency room nurse, and preoperative nurse. These and other positions may require an advanced degree and some experience.

The military helps nurses prepare for an in-demand specialization with loan forgiveness. Other educational opportunities for naval nurses include up to $34,000 in direct aid as of July 2022.

Licensed nurses speak with a recruiter to explore popular careers. Nursing students consult their school's career services advisors for more information. Their school may also host a military representative on campus for degree-seekers wanting to enlist.

Can I become a military nurse with an online degree?

Unfortunately, completely online nursing programs leading to an initial license do not exist. A typical four-year BSN program requires on-campus coursework and clinical rotations. These in-person educational experiences help students pass the NCLEX-RN and earn a license.

People with an associate degree in nursing and a license may enroll in a fully online RN-to-BSN program. These degrees let students continue working while in school. Some universities offer an online MSN program, as well.

Although the government does not run military nurse schools, top colleges and universities feature programs for active and retired military. These programs award credit for military training. A typical BSN program takes full-time degree-seekers 3-4 years to complete.

How much money can I make as a military nurse?

Military nurse salary varies by pay grade and years of experience. Newly commissioned officers at the lowest pay grade, O-1, make $3,477 a month, as of July 2022. Military nurses should expect to earn this salary or higher, as all branches commission them as officers.

The relationship between pay grade and rank does not translate equally among U.S. service branches. U.S. Navy lieutenants fall in the same O-3 pay grade as Army, Marine, and Air Force captains.

Military nurses in good standing receive promotions regularly. Other financial benefits include free medical and dental care. Changing professions with the military does not affect salary negatively.

What is the fastest way to become a military nurse?

All military nurse jobs require a bachelor's degree. A typical bachelor's program takes four years for full-time students. Learners in an accelerated program may need just under three years to graduate.

Military nurses do not complete basic training. Instead, they enroll in a 5-10-week Basic Officer Leadership Course. Aspiring military nurses must meet their branch's physical fitness requirements, as well.

Newly licensed nurses may enlist in the military immediately or gain experience in a civilian healthcare setting. The latter may help professionals learn a nursing career's basics before adjusting to military life.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.