Does the GI Bill Cover Education Expenses for Trade School?

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the GI Bill specifically covers a trade school education, which is referred to as vocational and technical training programs. Below explores the details and benefits of the Post-9/11 Bill for students who want vocational training.

Vocational School Options

The Post-9/11 Bill offers much more than an academic, classroom-based education. It also provides opportunities for hands-on veterans and service members who want skill-based training. This is important because veterans and service members are allowed to attend technical schools for short-term degrees that will help them find gainful employment. For starters, the Post-9/11 Bill applies to the technology fields of network, computer and audio/visual (AV) repair. Those who are mechanically inclined may study truck driving and diesel and aviation mechanics. Construction related job programs include electrician, HVAC repair and high-pressure welder. Even gun-smithing, tool making, barber school and emergency medical technician (EMT) training are included.

Post-9/11 Bill Benefits

Vocational programs are considered non-college degree programs, but the Post-9/11 Bill still covers all in-state fees and tuition at public vocational schools and certificate programs. This equates to approximately $20,000 per year for full-time students, plus about $80 per month for books. The housing allowance is equal to a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for an E-5 with dependents, but this is based on the geographic location of the school. Bear in mind that for vocational programs that offer apprenticeship and on-the-job training (OJT), the Post-9/11 Bill will cover the full cost of housing during the initial six months of training. This housing allowance decreases every six months until it reaches 20 percent in the third and final years of training.  

Benefits Basics

The exact payment amount of Post-9/11 Bill benefits depends on the specific program and type of vocational school. In general, the monthly benefit is based on the total amount of time spent in school or training every month. The VA measures vocational schools differently than they measure regular colleges. That is, the VA bases regular college payments on the amount of credit hours per term, but vocational degree program payments are based on the actual number of hours spent in training every week. This minor difference is actually quite important because most vocational schools offer hybrid programs that require both hands-on learning and classroom training. If there is more classroom instruction, the Post-9/11 Bill classifies full-time training at 18 hours per week, but changes it to 22 hours per week if there is more hands-on learning.

Tips for Success

First, be sure to take advantage of the Post-9/11 Bill after active duty. Trying to attend college while on active duty is commendable, but a mistake. This is because most service members are stationed on bases with limited education options. It is also because that there are exclusive financial incentives for veterans. When veterans use their benefits, they are eligible for the relocation and basic housing allowances. Every military branch offers active duty members tuition assistance, so it’s best to save the Post-9/11 Bill for later. Second, be aware of certain for-profit colleges, such as private and online schools, that aggressively push for veterans to enroll because they want the profits. Third, choosing to attend an online college decreases the value of benefits because the housing allowances are reduced.

The GI Bill has excellent academic and financial benefits, the best being that veterans can attend any trade school that they want.