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Getting an Online Degree While in the Military

By Celeste Stewart

With long stretches of time away from family and friends, many service members wonder about the perks of an online education. After all, there is plenty of quiet time, and for some, it offers a healthy distraction.

Thanks to dramatic improvements in distance learning technology, preparing for a civilian career continues to get more convenient. With portable college coursework and full or partial GI Bill benefits, getting an online degree while in the military is starting to become the norm.

Online classes are designed with flexibility in mind. They offer the ability to participate in class virtually-the best advantage by far. In addition, getting an online degree while in the military has another benefit: It’s possible to translate real-world experience into college credits by “testing out.”

Military Support for Education

Active duty students have access to help along the way. The military supports the educational pursuits of its service members through financial assistance and a variety of outreach programs. On the financial side, active duty service members have options to fund an online degree program with full or partial GI Bill benefits as well as Armed Forces Tuition Assistance and student loan repayment programs.

While this makes getting an online degree while in the military more affordable, each branch of the military offers support beyond financial aid. For example, the Army National Guard’s Education Support Center helps service members identify educational goals, assess military experience, and evaluate existing credits. The U.S. Marine Corps offers an online “College 101” course (and numerous offline resources) to help Marines prepare for their higher education endeavors. Each branch of the Armed Forces has similar educational support services.

In addition, the military offers free military transcripts that detail the following:

  • Current or highest rank achieved
  • Military status
  • Skill qualification identifiers (SQI)
  • Additional skill identifiers (ASI)
  • Formal military courses completed and evaluated by ACE
  • Military occupational specialties (MOSs) held and evaluated by ACE
  • Standardized test scores
  • Descriptions and credit recommendations developed by ACE

Obtaining a military transcript helps ensure that college credit is awarded for learning experiences gained while serving in the military. These credits have the potential to save significant amounts of tuition and classroom time. According to a survey by the American Council on Education, the average number of academic credits issued from a 1998 Army/American Council on Education Registry Transcript System (AARTS) transcript was 14 semester hours.

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