How Can You Get a Degree While Enlisted on Active Duty in the Military?

While the economic recovery of our nation remains questionable, it can be said without much debate that employer-backed education programs are a rare occurrence. Veterans often find the pursuit of higher education a difficult, if not impossible, goal. As active duty members, our military lead busy schedules and often separate, leaving educational benefits behind.

The Department of Defense (DoD), however, is a staunch advocate for equipping soldiers with well-rounded educations. From mobile testing, online courses, and underway classrooms, the military go above and beyond when it comes to educating their soldiers. Those that do take advantage of the opportunity have gone on to earn an associate’s, a bachelor’s, and even Master’s degrees. While earning a degree is no easy feat, there are several tips available to assist newcomers along on their educational journey.

The first step toward any goal is simply to begin. Visiting an office for education services is a great place to start. From there, education counselors can assist interested parties with degree plan development, enrollment, and a host of other administrative tasks. Class selection may also be accomplished from an education office and much like the military, there is also strength in numbers where school is concerned. Signing up for course with a spouse or a friend has been found to sustain motivation and focus.

While a traditional classroom setting may be the desire of some, it may be an ill fit for busy service men and women. Fortunately, college credit can be earned in a variety of ways. Online distance learning courses as well as College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests are available. The CLEP, along with the DANTES Subject Standardized Test, provide wonderful opportunities. These exams let those who pass earn credits without ever stepping into a classroom. Both tests are free for military and study guides are normally available for check-out from any education center or installation library. As an alternative for opt-out testing, military members may also use duty experience as degree credit. There are strict guidelines for this option, however, which can be found at the American Council on Education.

It goes without saying that life in the military can become hectic. Focus is a constant struggle, especially on activities outside of duty and family. Prioritization is key. Minimizing distractions and steady reminders regarding educational goals will make a world of difference. It is important to remember, however, that earning a degree is not a race. Establishing a steady pace which works in conjunction with military and personal life will help sustain students through until completion. Taking on too much, too quickly is one of the leading causes of burnout among active duty military. With smart planning and CLEP utilization, students can take one or two courses and finish the curriculum with minimal hassle.

The military understands the value of education. Skills in leadership, combined with a college degree places soldiers into a field of marketability with unlimited potential. Not only will a degree help with active duty careers, but should a civilian position prove desirable upon retirement, an advanced education will play a major role in eligibility. In the end, strategic educational planning and due diligence makes higher level education more than worth the sacrifice