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Overview on the Public Health System - Commissioned Corps

Who joins the Corps?

The Commissioned Corps is an elite team of more than 6,000 well-trained, highly qualified public health professionals dedicated to delivering the Nation's public health promotion and disease prevention programs and advancing public health science. Driven by a passion for public service, these men and women serve on the frontlines in the Nation's fight against disease and poor health conditions.

Who is the leader of the Commissioned Corps?

The Surgeon General is the leader of the Commissioned Corps. The Surgeon General reports to the Assistant Secretary for Health and in turn the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Who is the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services?

Please visit the Secretary's page at

Do I meet the entry criteria for joining the Commissioned Corps?

To be accepted as an applicant for the Commissioned Corps, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be less than 44 years of age
  • Be medically qualified
  • Have a current, unrestricted professional license (if applicable)
  • Have a qualifying degree or a higher degree from an accredited institution (varies depending on occupation)

What does "medically qualified" mean?

All applicants to the Commissioned Corps must undergo a physical examination and be found medically qualified prior to an appointment. It is not sufficient that the officer be "qualified" for a particular assignment at a particular geographical location. The commissioned officer is expected to be physically qualified to perform the duties of his/her rank and category in various climates and work assignments without endangering his/her health or the health of others. For career service, the officer must be physically capable of assuming any assignment in his/her professional category whether such an assignment is likely to occur in the foreseeable future.

Health conditions that place an individual at an increased risk use sick leave and medical services excessively, and/or at increased for early death or disability may be cause for either rejection or limitation of tour of duty. The following is disqualifying for an unrestrictive active duty service:

  • Conditions that prevent the performance of full duties at the time of call to duty.
  • Health conditions and/or problems requiring continuing diagnostic evaluation, frequent follow up, medical care, treatment, or therapy, or that may limit geographic area of assignment and/or may interfere with performance of duties.
  • Health conditions and/or problems that place an individual at unacceptable risk for use of sick leave; or medical, dental, psychiatric, psychological, or surgical services; or early death or disability.
  • In addition, each applicant must meet the height and weight standards as established by United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps regulations (see height/weight tables).

The following will be considered for a restricted (limited) tour of duty:

  • Any health conditions that may be disqualifying for an unrestricted tour of duty but current findings are equivocal.
  • Health conditions that may limit use of an officer, limit geographical area of assignment, or result in increased risk for use of sick leave, medical or surgical services, early death, or disability.

Prior to the end of the limited tour period, officers wishing to remain on active duty will be reevaluated to determine their eligibility for an unlimited tour of duty.

If medical information is incomplete or omitted, the applicant will be notified and the necessary additional information will be requested. Failure to submit requested information will result in termination of processing the application. Additionally, if there is any change in the applicant's health status (i.e., medical or psychiatric) after the entrance history and physical examination, but before call to active duty, the applicant must notify the Office of Commissioned Corps Operations (OCCO) immediately. The change in the applicant's health status may be grounds for delay in call to active duty, for medical limited tour restriction, or even for medical disqualification. Failure to report significant change in health status may result in separation from service without benefits after reporting to duty.

The falsification or other nondisclosure of material information on the part of the applicant may result in the immediate closeout of the application or separation of the officer from active duty without benefits. The determination of material nondisclosure is made by the director of OCCO, and this decision is final.

In which professional fields do Corps officers serve?

As one of America's seven uniformed services, Commissioned Corps officers fill essential public health leadership and service roles within the Nation's Federal Government agencies and programs. The Corps has officers in the following professions:

  • Physician
  • Nurse
  • Pharmacist
  • Dentist
  • Dietitian
  • Engineer
  • Environmental Health officer
  • Health Services officer (covers many disciplines, including the biological, physical, environmental, and social sciences; optometry; social work; podiatry; medical technology; dental hygiene; medical records administration; physician assistants; computer science; health education; health care administration; and other public health specialties)
  • Scientist (includes researcher)
  • Therapist (includes occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech-language pathology, and audiology)
  • Veterinarian

To learn where commissioned officers in your discipline/category work, click the hyperlink to your profession.

In which Federal agencies and programs do Commissioned Corps officers serve?

Officers in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps work in a variety of settings. They work in various positions throughout of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and certain non-HHS Federal agencies/programs that offer exciting professional opportunities in the areas of disease control and prevention; biomedical research; regulation of food, drugs, and medical devices; mental health and drug abuse; health care delivery; and international health.

HHS Offices and Agencies in Which Commissioned Corps Officers Serve

  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Food and Drug Administration
  • Health Resources and Services Administration
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • Indian Health Service
  • National Institutes of Health
  • Office of Public Health and Science
  • Office of the Secretary
  • Program Support Center
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Non-HHS Agencies/Programs in Which Commissioned Corps Officers Serve

  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Federal Bureau of Prisons
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • National Park Service
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • U.S. Department of Defense
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • U.S. Marshals Service

For further information on where commissioned officers work and the liaisons for each agency/program, go to Agencies and Programs.

In what locations could I serve as a Commissioned Corps officer?

A U.S. map will be available online soon that will allow applicants/officers to learn the various locations of each agency and program throughout the country. The Commissioned Corps also offers many opportunities for its officers to serve in international locations as part of its mission to promote global public health.

Would I have to change locations as a Commissioned Corps?

There are no specific requirements about the frequency of moves that an officer must make during his/her career. Mobility is important for promotion but it is not required on a specific schedule.

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