How Do I Become a Flight Surgeon?

In the civilian world, flight surgeons are known as aviation medical examiners and are employed three of the five U.S. military branches — the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Many other countries employ these health professionals to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of pilots. A medical degree, a reasonable level of physical fitness, and an officer’s commission are all required to become a flight surgeon.

To work as a flight surgeon, you must first complete a rigorous training program and earn a medical doctorate (MD) or a doctorate of osteopathic medicine (DO). It usually takes six to eight years of college coursework and hospital residency to complete this. If you want to be a flight surgeon, you must obtain U.S. citizenship graduation if you haven’t already done so.

If they have not already done so, candidates can focus their efforts on a specific branch of service once they have graduated. Some people who want to be flight surgeons enroll in a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program while they are still studying to be doctors. As a result, they will be prepared to enlist and receive special flight surgeon training as soon as they graduate and obtain their medical license. Others opt to join a specific branch of the military after graduation. Before they can begin flight surgeon training, these candidates must first attend that branch’s officer training school.

Because each branch of the military employs flight surgeons in slightly different ways, their training varies. The flight surgeons of the United States Army are focused on the helicopter pilots, as well as their crews and families. The majority of the work done US Navy flight surgeons is with carrier-based plane pilots and crew. Entry-level flight surgeons in the Air Force may work with base flight crews before progressing to a higher level of service, such as aerospace medicine with NASA. The training provided each branch ranges from two-month introductory courses to three-year programs in advanced care procedures.

The term “flight surgeon” would only be used in times of war or in the aftermath of accidents, when he or she would be called upon to treat and even operate on sick and injured people while being transported air. Even though most of their time is spent in a clinic on base, each branch of service requires its flight surgeons to fly once in a while. A security clearance and the ability to pass a military fitness test are also common requirements for becoming a flight surgeon.

Since the dawn of military aviation in the early twentieth century, these aviation medicine specialists have been used to assess and protect the health of pilots and flight crews. This type of physician’s primary responsibility is to perform routine flight physicals. In the civilian realm, aviation medical examiners are licensed the Federal Aviation Administration to perform this function.