Every year thousands of service members continue their education on their own time. The military supports these efforts with off-duty education programs to help active duty and reserve component service members earn certificates, high school diplomas or college degrees and acquire basic educational skills. Service members and, in many cases, their adult family members, can access a wide range of education benefits and services. Where available, you can visit your installation education center to learn about your education benefits. Depending on your service branch, you can also access your branch's online education portal or phone their education call center. The following is a summary of the benefits you may receive.
Counseling and academic advising
Education centers are staffed by professionals who will assist you in assessing your educational interests and developing a plan of action to achieve your goals. These counselors will review your experience and previous education, evaluate your learning capabilities, and help you select the right program for you. Your education center professionals will help you take advantage of all your educational benefits including financial aid, identify the necessary examinations to get a certification or high school diploma, and evaluate your military training and experience that may qualify for college credit. Most installation education centers also offer counseling and academic advising to spouses when space is available.
College-degree and certificate programs
Through off-duty education programs, service members can work with accredited colleges and universities to earn an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree or a vocational or technical certificate. These institutions offer classroom instruction on installations worldwide and on ships and submarines. Through online courses, degree programs and other nontraditional methods designed to meet the needs of military students, service members can continue their studies uninterrupted by deployments, temporary duty and military moves. Spouses and Department of Defense civilians may also enroll in classes offered on an installation if space is available.
Each service has programs to prepare service members and their spouses for lifelong learning, including high school completion programs. Installation education centers and learning centers also provide free academic skills programs designed to help you improve your basic knowledge and skills in areas like math, reading, writing and English as a second language. These programs are frequently available to military spouses, too.
Tuition assistance is a financial aid benefit for service members pursuing off-duty education, from high school completion through graduate study. You may receive up to 100 percent of the cost of studies and testing for high school completion. There is a limit (per semester hour and per year) on the aid you can receive for college tuition and fees. Only service members are eligible to receive tuition assistance, but there are other financial aid and scholarship programs specifically for military spouses. Visit your education center or the official education website for your service (see links below for Service-specific information).
Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges
Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges is a consortium of more than 1,900 colleges and universities that make educational opportunities more convenient for service members and their spouses. Member schools help to ease educational challenges for the military by having minimum residency requirements and accepting credits transferred from other member institutions. Military personnel also receive credit for military training and experience, as well as learning demonstrated through nationally recognized testing programs.
Credit for military training
It's possible to receive college-level credit for your military training. The American Council on Education evaluates service-school courses, military training and enlisted occupations, and recommends the type and amount of credit that may be awarded. Their assessment lets colleges and universities recognize and give credit for learning acquired in the military. Although the council evaluates many military courses for credit, the educational institutions have the final say on credit approval.
Education centers offer examinations to service members and, depending on the location, to military spouses and dependent children. These include tests for high school equivalency, college and graduate school admissions exams, credit-by-examination programs, and certification examinations.
Each Service offers its members a number of ways to continue their education and earn a variety of academic degrees and certifications.