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Education and Training Opportunities at the PHS Commissioned Corp

Are there opportunities to further my education and/or earn continuing education credits while on active duty in the Commissioned Corps?

The agencies and programs where commissioned officers are assigned support both short-term and long-term training.

Short-term training must be approved by the agency or program where the officer works (approval from the Office of Commissioned Corps Operations [OCCO] is not required) and includes:

  • Full-time training that does not exceed 30 consecutive days or a total of 90 calendar days in a fiscal year (October 1–September 30)
  • Part-time training that does not exceed 70 hours in attendance in a 30-day period or a total of 210 hours in attendance in a fiscal year

Long-term training must be approved by the agency or program and OCCO and includes:

  • All units or courses in a planned educational program leading to an academic degree, whether taken full-time, part-time, continuously, or intermittently
  • Training, including internships, residencies, or fellowships that exceeds the period that is specified as short-term training.

The principal reason for long-term training must be to benefit the U.S. Public Health Service. Intramural long-term training does not require a payback obligation; extramural long-term training requires a two-for-one payback obligation at the completion of the officer's training with the agency or program that supported the long-term training, unless that agency or program is willing to release the officer to another agency or program. All long-term training requests for the next academic year are due in the OCCO by March 31 each year. A manual circular on long-term training is sent annually to all active-duty officers. For an application and any questions about training issues, call the Licensure and Long-Term Training Project Officer at 240–453–6037 or 877–463–6327 and listen to the prompts.

All Commissioned Corps applicants being called to active duty into training, as well as officers currently on active duty, are required to be on training personnel orders prior to entering their training program, as well as transferring to another site after the completion of their training.

What other sources are available for advanced degrees?

  • HHS University
  • Advanced Clinical Education Programs Sponsored by the U.S. Public Health Service
  • USDA Grad Courses

What is officer basic course (OBC)?

Officers attending the 14-day OBC will receive an introduction to the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Emphasis is placed on the Corps as a uniformed service. This course is designed primarily to assist the transition of new officers and senior COSTEP officers to the Corps. Military bearing and courtesy, career development, promotions, leave, compensation, awards, and resource utilization are some of the many topics introduced during this course. In addition, it presents an overview of the requirements needed to deploy as a public health and medical resource to meet the response requirements of the Secretary and the Nation in congruence with the National Response Plan. Officers successfully completing this course will earn the Commissioned Corps training ribbon.

Are there student training and/or funding opportunities available? What about loan repayment programs?

The Commissioned Corps offers two excellent opportunities for students during the academic year through the Junior Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program (JRCOSTEP) and the Senior Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program (SRCOSTEP). Both programs are highly competitive and are available for commissionable professional categories. In the SRCOSTEP program, students are assisted financially during the final year of their qualifying degree program in return for an agreement to work as a commissioned officer after graduation. The student is appointed as an active-duty commissioned officer during his/her senior year and receives monthly pay and allowances as an Ensign (O-1). Additional support, in the form of tuition and fees, may be paid by the supporting agency/program. Following graduation, the student agrees to work for twice the time supported for the agency or program that provided the financial support.

Other available programs not specific to PHS Commissioned officers are offered by the Indian Health Service (IHS), the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The IHS offers a scholarship program that is available for American Indians and Alaskan Natives at various educational levels. For further information, call 301–443–6197. In addition, the IHS offers a loan repayment program (LRP) that will pay participants up to $20,000/year in exchange for signing a 2-year service contract with an eligible Indian health program. The LRP also will pay an additional 20 percent annually to the Internal Revenue Service to offset the increased tax liability incurred by the participant. Participants who wish to extend their participation in the LRP for an additional year may request an extension. For further information or to request an application, call 301–443–3396 or access their Web site at www.ihs.gov.

The NHSC also offers a scholarship program and a LRP. For further information about these programs, call the following numbers or access their Web site at http://www.bphc.hrsa.gov/nhsc.

NHSC Loan Repayment:
To obtain an application: 800–221–9393
To speak with someone: 800–435–6464 or 301–594–4400

NHSC Scholarship:
To obtain an application: 800–638–0824
To speak with someone: 800–793–1547 or 301–594–4410

Scholarship recipients and loan repayors from IHS and NHSC have the option to serve their payback as Commissioned Corps officers as long as work sites are approved.

The NIH sponsors four LRPs that pay a maximum of $35,000 a year for contracts executed on or after November 13, 1998, toward participants' outstanding eligible educational debts. In return, participants must sign a contract agreeing to conduct qualified research activities as NIH employees. Participants may apply for additional 1-year renewal contracts and continue to receive loan repayment benefits. LRP participation is contingent upon NIH employment. For further information, access the Web site at http://lrp.info.nih.gov or call 800–528–7689.

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