What does all the training, work, and coursework you did in military mean in the civilian world? As it turns out, it means a lot.
As you enter the civilian world, you may find that getting or updating your education is the next logical step. It’s a pretty big step, sure, but consider that the value of your military service manifests itself in a real, tangible way in the form of college transfer credits and great financial benefits.
- The Post-9/11 GI Bill can cover college costs for you, your dependents, or your spouse
- Your military coursework or training may count as satisfactory completion of specific courses or their prerequisites
- Extensive military work experience may count for multiple courses, even beyond your job role (12 years as an electronics technician? You may receive credit recommendations for tech courses but also for Leadership or Management).
And you may be eligible for additional financial benefits, such as:
- Tuition discounts
- In-state tuition to out-of-state schools
- Scholarships for military students and veterans
- Military scholarships and tuition discounts for dependents
- Other benefits through the Yellow Ribbon or MyCAA programs
- Waiver of penalties when returning after being called to active service
- Additional tuition supplements through your state’s VA office
Choosing a School
There’s no getting around the amount of research you’ll need to do to find a good school that aligns with your goals and interests. Fortunately, there are all sorts of tools available to help you find your academic home.
- Check out a list of military-friendly schools (2014) that offer resources and support to help you succeed. Resources may include things like on-site childcare, school counselors versed in GI Bill procedures, or advisors who liaise with VET REPS to assist with career placement.
- Try narrowing your search to find military friendly engineering programs. Our preliminary search (Bachelor’s, online and campus, nationwide) found 365 matches.
- Use the resources at the VA. We love the new GI Bill comparison tool that helps you see the dollar value of your active duty service at specific schools.
- Apply for veteran’s benefits.
- To apply for additional federal aid, fill out the FAFSA.
- Visit your state VA office site for additional funding. You may qualify fort Veterans Tuition Awards (VTA), Tuition Assistance Programs (TAP) or other state-specific aid.
Chances are, you can get all or almost all of your college tuition paid for. You may also qualify for textbooks and living stipends.
Your Military Service in Transfer Credits
Properly transferring your credits will keep you from wasting time and money taking classes that are duplications of previous training or coursework. It’s also a head start toward a faster graduation.
Ultimately, it will be up to the school to decide how to count credit recommendations toward the degree or certificate offered.
Science and tech credits—Many schools will not award credit for science or technology courses taken more than seven years ago. If it has been too many years, your previous coursework may be counted as an open elective or not counted at all.
MOS and training courses—Some schools will not count military occupational specialties (MOS). Some only accept lower- or higher-division course credits. Others may only be looking at your electives.
Schools are clear about their policies regarding military transfer credits, so do your research before you enroll.
Did you do engineering work in the military?
If you’ve done true engineering work involving actual calculations and design, it’s possible you have necessary credits or otherwise qualify to take the PE exam to become a professionally licensed engineer.
On the other hand, if your title was something like “combat engineer” or technician, it was likely not true engineering work and you’ll still have to take the academic path toward an engineering degree.
Start with this Q and A to see how you qualify.
Your Military Service in Transcripts
Once you’ve decided which schools you’ll apply to, you’ll need transcripts from the military and any colleges you’ve attended in the past.
The Joint Services Transcript
The Joint Services Transcript (JST) is an official military transcript that consolidates your military training and educational background into one document (even if you served in more than one branch).
Information includes college credit recommendations as developed by the American Council on Education (ACE) for past work:
- Personal service member data
- Military course completions
- Military occupations
- College-level test scores — CLEP, DSSTs, NCPACE, ACT/PEP, Excelsior Test
- Other Learning Experiences — additional completed courses, occupations, and activities
Your Separation Documents
Some schools may require that you furnish separation documents to verify military service. The DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty form is generally free to vets. This form will serve as an official transcript from your last “school”(i.e., the military).
Information in your separation documents that schools will be interested in include:
- Military job specialty
- Military education
- Decorations, medals, badges, citations and campaign awards received
- Total creditable service
- Foreign service credited
- Separation information (date and type of separation, character of service, authority and reason for separation, etc.)
You can request DD Form 214 online from the National Archives, or by clicking here.
You Are More Than Your Transcript
School admissions are interested in your character and abilities as well as past education. Give due care to submissions deadlines, entrance essays, and forms. Enlist help when necessary.
Admissions can glean some information on your character and commitment from military transcripts, but it takes military advocates to help college registrars and admissions panels understand the true value of what you learned in the military.
This is why vet and military-friendly schools can be an advantage for you.
Find yourself a personal advocate at the school, whether it’s the admissions counselor, academic advisor, or veterans liaison.
You’ve already taken great strides in your education through your service in the military. Make sure you get the most out of it in civilian life.