Reader Questions: So you want a civilian deferral – Army version

Hey Indy,

Do you know how the civilian deferral process works for the Army match?  I’ve heard rumors that you can’t actually rank civilian deferral on your rank list.  Instead, civilian deferrals are given out based on the Army’s need.  Is there any truth to this?

I really appreciate your help.

You may have already read the original So you want a civilian deferral, which talked about considerations in requesting civilian deferral for residency training in the military match, as well as the Air Force process for requesting to enter civilian residency training. If you haven’t read it already, I would strongly encourage you to look it over. You can find it here.

Now, assuming that you have already read that post, let’s get down to business. As you said, the Army’s process for requesting civilian training is very different from the Air Force process described in my last post on the subject. Let’s talk about the differences.

Note: My information on the topic of civilian deferrals in the Army is from the December 2012 military match. If you have more up-to-date information, please share!

You can’t rank “civilian” on your Army rank list.

That’s right. The Army won’t let you rank civilian on your rank list, period. However, they still say that you have to have an alternative training option in case the Army decides at the last minute that they need someone to train civilian, so they still require you to apply to the NRMP in your specialty of choice, and to withdraw your application if you match in the military match. 

So how do you tell the board that you want to train civilian?

In order to request consideration for civilian deferral, you send a letter to the Army GME office. This letter should tell the GME office why you want to train civilian. The advice in the first post still applies here; be specific, be reasonable, and consider your audience. Remember that this letter is going to the office that oversees all Army residency programs, so it’s probably a bad idea to say that you think you will get better training in a civilian program, for example. Focus on things like family considerations.

All Army civilian deferrals are for the minimum program length to become board certified in your assigned specialty.

This is essentially the same as the Air Force. In other words, if you are granted a civilian deferral in pediatrics, you can only enter a 3-year peds residency. You can’t do a med/peds program, a combined peds residency/peds EM fellowship program, or a 4-year peds program with a research year (if such a thing exists). If you are granted a deferral in general surgery you can only enter a 5-year program, NOT a 6-year program. Be careful, because there are a lot of 6-year programs out there, including some military programs!

The Army has prerequisites to request civilian training.

Like the Air Force, the Army does not allow USU students to request civilian residency training. Unlike the Air Force, however, the Army also has prerequisites for HPSP students who want to apply for civilian training. Those who want to apply for civilian training must

  • have attended BOLC
  • have passed Step I and Step II on the first attempt
  • be in good academic standing at their school

So, what’s the bottom line?

The bottom line is that it is much harder to get a civilian deferral in the Army than it is in the Air Force. If you want to try for a civilian deferral in the Army, you need to make sure you go to BOLC before the beginning of your 4th year and make sure you pass step 1 and step 2 on the first attempt.


Do you have more up-to-date information on the Army match? What has changed? What questions do you still have? Leave a comment and let’s talk about it!

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