5 Keys to Learning while Serving
No matter which branch of military you’re in, it’s possible to earn a degree while serving. In fact, there could be serious financial and career benefits for doing so. With careful planning and diligence, advancing your education could go hand in hand with protecting our nation. To help you understand the higher education options for military personnel, we’ve broken it down to five key takeaways.
1. At $0, the Price Is Right
You read that correctly. For most active-duty members of the military, 100% of your education’s cost can be covered by Tuition Assistance. And TA is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other financial programs and scholarships that remove or relieve the financial burden typically associated with higher ed. If you are serving or have served our nation, taking advantage of these opportunities could put you on a solid career path with little or no student debt. Plus, every year more and more reputable colleges and universities add their names to the long list of institutions offering distance and online learning options.
2. Flexibility Is Key
Although there’s a big financial advantage to taking classes while on active duty, it’s no easy task. You’ll need to utilize online curriculums and on-site education centers, all while planning around the demanding nature of your military duties. Additionally, it’s best to be open to multiple majors and schools in case your first choice doesn’t work out. Depending on your rank, deployment schedule, and supervisor, some classes or programs simply won’t be on the table. But that’s okay. The more flexible you are, the more likely you’ll be able to utilize any financial assistance that’s available.
3. Tests Are Your Friend
Before you enroll in any classes, be sure to look into testing out of any subject matter you’ve already mastered on your own time. Programs like DSST allow you to earn college credit simply by passing a test. But perhaps even more valuable than the cost savings, DSST tests can save you an enormous amount of time, letting you quickly advance to the material you don’t know.
One thing to keep mind is that most schools require you to take a minimum number of classes with them in order to receive a degree. So, if you are testing out of classes or transferring credits from another institution, be sure to inquire about degree requirements.
4. Planning and Prioritizing Are Vital
It goes without saying that in order to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree as an active member of the military, you need to plan ahead and know where your priorities are. Do your research on different universities, and choose one that supports your goals. Many institutions now specifically cater to members of the military and understand the demands and schedules of military life. Choosing one of these schools will reduce a lot of legwork and confusion, as they will be familiar with your situation from the start. You’ll also need to reset your expectations for work/life balance. It’s important to chat with your loved ones and remind them that you need their support, as you will be utilizing a lot of your free time for coursework. When deployed, prepare to use your days off for hitting the books, even when your peers might be hitting the town.
5. Your Supervisor Can Help
No matter what your rank, your supervisor can be an unexpected source of support for your education goals. Once they understand that you want to work toward a degree while serving, they can help you get shifts and schedules that accommodate your coursework needs.
From communications to criminal justice to nursing, there are lots of low- or no-cost degrees available to qualified service members and veterans. And when these degrees appear alongside military experience on a resume, it’s a combination that employers have a hard time resisting.
To all those serving in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, thank you for your dedication.