Career Planning

Medical Corps Career Planner at BUMED – CAPT/CAPT(sel)

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Billet Title: Career Planner, Office of the Medical Corps Chief, BUMED

Location: Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Defense Health Headquarters,
Falls Church, VA

Rank: O6/O6-select

Corps: Medical Corps

Tour Length: 36 months (beginning JAN-FEB 2020)

Mission: Mentor and guide all USN Medical corps officers providing leadership and career development support and guidance. Integral to selecting and maintaining a competent and professional Medical Corps which is valued by the organization and meets the needs of the mission and the strategic goals of readiness, health, and partnerships.

Functions: Mentors and provides leadership development opportunities for Medical Corps Officers. Serve as president of the Professional Review Board, responsible for accessions of MC Officers via FAP/TMS/DA pathways. Responsible for reviewing litigation reports quality assurance reports in determination of NPDB reporting. Plans and coordinates the annual USN MC GME/Operational Intern Road Show.  Medical Corps Chief Office liaison to all other Corps Career Planners and Leadership/Career Development Working Groups. Subject matter expert on accession issues pertinent to MC Officers. Serves as member of multiple councils and boards including Medical Education Planning Council and HPSP selection boards.  Provides regular AMDOC, ODS, and command-requested briefings relative to the Medical Corps.

Command Relations: Ability to communicate effectively to a 1 or 2 Star Admiral on a regular basis.

Experience Required: Highly recommended to have: Knowledge of Department of Defense, Navy, Navy Medical Corps policies and instructions and policies of other Federal entities as needed; Experience with recruitment, retention, promotion, and sustainment of Medical Corps Officers; Proficient networking, written and oral communication, and public speaking skills.

Other: Time available to perform clinical work at multiple MTFs in the National Capital Region.  Time available to travel for CME. TAD travel possible throughout the year for Medical Corps Chief related events.

POC: CAPT Chris Quarles (contact info is in the global) by 29 JUL 2019 with Specialty
Leader and Detailer concurrence. All candidates must be eligible for PCS orders. Preferred report date is JAN 2020.

Career Planner Position Description

NOTE: CV, BIO, and Letter of Intent needed for application.  All candidates must be eligible for PCS orders. The Book – Chapter 3 – Career Progression and Promotion Board Math

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When you start your Naval career, the future is largely a mystery. As you progress is your career, things will crystalize, you’ll become wiser, and you’ll think, “It would have been nice to know all of this in the beginning.”

I’m going to try and tell you what you should have known about career progression and promotion board math from the beginning.

Career Progression

This diagram below demonstrates the typical career progression of a Medical Corps officer who has no prior service. Assuming you are not picked early for promotion, you typically promote every six years. You will become a Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) at approximately 6 years, a Commander (CDR) at 12 years, and a Captain (CAPT) at 18 years. I had no prior service, I have never been promoted early, and this is exactly the timing I experienced in my career.


Along the left are the ranges of promotion opportunity for each rank from fiscal year 2013-2020. In each year, the promotion opportunity for LCDR has been 100%. In theory, if all the Lieutenants are suitable for promotion they can all be promoted to LCDR. When it comes to the promotion opportunities for CDR or CAPT, interpreting them is a touch more difficult because we have to talk about promotion board math.

Promotion Board Math

In Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19), people were very excited about a 90% promotion opportunity for the FY19 Staff Corps O6 promotion board. But it was easy to misinterpret this opportunity. It did not mean that 90% of CDRs were selected for CAPT.

Where Does the Promotion Opportunity Come From?

The short answer is from manpower projections. How many physicians are getting out or retiring? What is the current Medical Corps manning level for that rank? What are future needs anticipated to be? What is the size of the promotion zone? The answers to all of these questions determines the promotion opportunity and guide Navy Personnel Command (NPC) and the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) when they are making their decision.

As you can see here, the promotion opportunity varies from year-to-year:

  FY13 FY14 FY15 FY16 FY17 FY18 FY19 FY20
LCDR 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% Pending
CDR 80% 80% 70% 70% 65% 75% 85% 77%
CAPT 60% 60% 60% 50% 70% 80% 90% 81%

Historical promotion opportunities for FY13-20.

But as you can see here, the percentage who are promoted from the in zone group is substantially lower:

  FY13 FY14 FY15 FY16 FY17 FY18 FY19 FY20
LCDR 97% 89% 90% 93% 88% 85% 87% Pending
CDR 58% 66% 49% 53% 44% 40% 52% 53%
CAPT 55% 43% 47% 39% 34% 37% 41% 51%

Historical percentage of in-zone candidates selected for promotion for FY13-20.


Promotion Board Zones

There are three “zones” for promotion – below zone, in zone, and above zone. Medical Corps officers are below zone for two years, in zone for one year, and above zone until they are either selected for promotion or get out of the Navy. A few people are usually picked early or below zone, but most people will not get picked until they are in or above zone.

FY19 O6 Promotion Board Math

In FY19, there were 74 CDRs in zone for promotion. To figure out how many officers can be selected for promotion, you have to multiple the zone size by the promotion opportunity. For example, if you take the 90% promotion opportunity everyone was excited about and multiply it by the zone size of 74, you’ll see that they could have promoted 67 CDRs to CAPT during the board:

90% opportunity X 74 people in zone = 66.6 (rounded up to 67) people they can pick for O6

These 67, though, were picked from CDRs who were below zone, in zone, or above zone. Usually, there is a small number picked from below zone, and a much larger number from the in zone and above zone categories. Here were the results:

FY19 O6

 As you can see, the 90% promotion opportunity only led to a 41% selection rate for those who were in zone. The remainder came from the below and above zone CDRs.

The Bottom Line on Career Progression

The typical career progression occurs with a promotion every six years, as detailed in the diagram below. The promotion opportunities listed, though, result in a much lower chance of getting picked when you are in zone because the selections come from those below, in, and above zone.


Updated Medical Corps Career Progression Slide

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Here is the updated BUMED Medical Corps Career Progression slide, which nicely summarizes the typical career path as well as spells out the educational opportunities you should try to obtain:

Medical Corps Career Progression

Summary of Specialty Leader Business Meeting

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Here is a brief summary of last week’s Specialty Leader Business Meeting that is always held in conjunction with the Graduate Medical Education Selection Board:

  • Current interim Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) need to formally apply to the next screening board in summer 2017. I would STRONGLY encourage other people to apply as well because it is a screened/appointed leadership position that allows you to remain clinically active and that I also think will lead to promotion to O6 if done successfully.
  • Announcements for nominative positions often come out with very little time until the nominations are due.  They all require your CV, BIO, Letter of Intent (LOI), Officer Summary Record (OSR), and Performance Summary Record (PSR).  It is best if you have these ready to go due to the often short timeline.  I will tell you that I update my CV and military biography monthly and have multiple LOI templates at the ready at all times, so I practice what I preach.  Your OSR/PSR can downloaded from BUPERS On-Line anytime, so that requires no prep (assuming BOL is working).
  • Current overall Medical Corps manning is 103.4%.  This is of no real use to you but is simply an interesting fact/statistic.  It does, perhaps, limit our promotion opportunity a lit bit, but…
  • The Medical Corps promotion opportunities for FY18 are expected to be higher than they have been in recent years.  You never know the actual percentage until the board has concluded, but this is certainly good news.
  • As of now, there is no change in the conference approval process.  Sorry.
  • The Career Intermission Program (CIP) has been extended until 2019.  This program allows you to take up to 3 years off from the Navy to do something else, hit the pause button on progression toward promotion, and then return afterward.  You have a 2:1 additional commitment for any time off.  In other words, if you take 2 years off you’ll owe 4 years when you return.  Some people have tried to use the CIP to do fellowships on their own, but that is not the intent of the program and requests for CIP to do a fellowship will be closely scrutinized by BUMED before approval.  Info on the program can be found here or you can contact your Detailer.
  • There is no special pays update.  They are still awaiting the NAVADMIN.  The latest can always be found here:

Updated Career Intermission Program NAVADMIN

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Here are a PDF and link to the updated NAVADMIN that governs the Career Intermission Program (CIP):



The CIP allows you to take 1-3 years off from your Naval career, maintain a small basic pay and TRICARE benefits, and then return.  If you are interested, you can also check out OPNAV 1330.2B – Navy Career Intermission Program Guidelines.