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Voluntary Education

Service member holding books, with the American flag in the background


The Department of Defense (DoD) off-duty Voluntary Education Program offers assistance to service members in planning and paying for their education expenses, providing one of the largest continuing education programs in the world.  Service members and their adult family members receive guidance and assistance from counselors at installation education centers regarding program availability and eligibility requirements.

Key Points

  • Academic Skills Programs offer service members opportunities to update or enhance basic academic competencies in areas such as English, reading, writing, speaking, and mathematics.
  • High School Diploma Program provides full reimbursement for the cost of studies and testing associated with achieving a high school diploma or a high school equivalency credential.
  • Examinations Program allows service members to earn certificates, licenses, college credits, high school diplomas, and satisfy entrance and employment requirements with successful completion of tests.
  • Military Evaluations Program provides service members academic credit for Service school courses, military training, and most enlisted occupations that are transferable to many colleges and universities.
  • Independent Study and External Degree Programs allow for academic advancement through flexible scheduling or nontraditional approaches to study such as distance learning.
  • Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) is a consortium of colleges and universities for the education needs of the mobile military. SOC has designated individual degree networks: SOCAD (Army), SOCNAV (Navy), SOCMAR (Marine Corps), SOCCOAST (Coast Guard), and SOCGUARD (National Guard).
  • Postsecondary Degree Programs enable service members to earn college credit towards an Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, or Doctoral degree.
  • Military Tuition Assistance (TA) Program is standardized across the Services and authorizes service members to receive up to $4,500 of TA per fiscal year for voluntary off-duty college courses and degree programs. TA is not a loan that needs to be repaid, but rather a benefit earned for serving in the military.
  • Transcript Services track and document a service member's military coursework and training and can be sent to accredited universities and colleges to obtain college credit for military experiences.
  • Loan Repayment Programs provide qualified students with help managing college debts by paying a portion of the unpaid college loan balance after each year of active duty service. 
  • Programs for Afloat College Education (PACE) offers Sailors and Marines at sea the opportunity to continue their college studies.  PACE is free and uses civilian instructors aboard the ship to teach courses.


Eligibility requirements vary depending on the program. 


There are approximately 245 education centers worldwide to include Contingency areas (i.e., Afghanistan).


Department of Defense Policy
Department of Defense Legislation
Department of Defense Service Regulations and Orders
Support Services 
Additional Resources


Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) Are you looking to continue your education after your PCS move? Examinations are often the first step toward advancing your education. You may need to take academic exams before entering the next phase of your education, or, if you are already knowledgeable in a subject area, you may be able to take an exam for college credit.




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