soldier and helicopter

A U.S. soldier takes part in a 2008 joint medevac field training exercise with South Korean soldiers in Yangju, South Korea.

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Deciding to attend medical school is a serious decision and commitment. Not only are you hoping to help heal humanity, but you're also looking at a minimum of four years of college, four years of medical school, three years of working in a hospital -- and high tuition fees to boot.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average medical school tuition in 2010-11 was around $29,000 at a public medical school, and $47,000 at a private one. This fee doesn't include books or lab or living fees, which can add an additional $20,000 to one's annual costs.

To put it plain and simple, the cost of medical school can be daunting, despite a guaranteed starting salary of $119,000 for a general practice physician (earnings are higher for doctors with specialty degrees, such as internal medicine or neurology).

It's not surprising then, that many students seek out ways to buffer this burden. The most common options are student loans and academic scholarships. One of the most generous scholarships available is the F. Edward Hebert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP), which is the official name for an Army medical scholarship [source: U.S. Army].

On the following pages, we'll discuss the pros, the cons and the obligations of earning an Army scholarship.