The following is a guest post by The Happier Husband. During his 22 year military career he has earned 3 degrees and numerous certifications most of them for free thanks to the educational benefits provided to him by the military.
The steady pay and medical coverage are clearly the biggest immediate benefits one gets when they sign up to put themselves in harms way as a service member, but I believe the biggest long term benefit and the most under-utlilized is the educational package offered to our active duty folks. Let me write that in another way – If you or your spouse is active duty and you aren’t using your educational benefits, you’re losing out on several thousand dollars a year worth of long term benefits.
The military does a great job of training its members to do the job they’ve been hired to do. This training sometimes is transferable to civilian employment, sometimes not. An accredited degree will always be an asset and will never leave your resume. U.S. service members have signed on to leave home with no notice, possibly go in to the most dangerous places in the world, and perhaps not be able to tell anybody the details when they get back. Take advantage of the benefits you’ve been offered. The military will get what they need out of you so get what you can while you can.
Enough of the soapbox – What are the details?
The first and most obvious benefit is Tuition Assistance (TA). Depending on your branch of service, you can get $3,500-$4,500 of college classes 100% covered. This is huge. If you are willing to get a regionally accredited degree from an online or local school you can tack on big numbers on your salary once you get out or apply your degree to your military career in terms of faster enlisted advancement or a commission/promotion. The degree is a prerequisite for most commissioning programs and, although it doesn’t guarantee advancement/promotion, it make you more competitive with your peers for the next rank up.
This is a huge deal. I consistently talk to my sailors about using these benefits and the great majority of them are not in programs. There are very few acceptable excuses for not starting. Life will always give you roadblocks. Your job is to make your way over or around them so you can make a better future for you and your family. Have your military transcripts evaluated and you may find that you’re closer to a degree than you imagined. Find a school (again, regionally accredited) that will take your military credits and give you a head start on your degree completion. With so many colleges and universities offering online classes there is no excuse for not pursuing some sort of degree.
If traditional college isn’t your cup of tea, consider using TA for a certificate program. TA can be used to obtain computer certifications, a real estate license, or other non traditional course as long as they are approved and accredited.
Over a 20 year military career not using your Tuition Assistance benefits could cost you 90,000 dollars in educational benefits! What are you waiting for?
Tomorrow, or sooner, contact your base education office and get started on something that can change your life. Get your bachelor’s and then start your masters degree – for free!
Coming up next: How I earned 27 undergraduate credits free in one day and how you can too.
This post is part of the series, Making it in the Military, dedicated to helping service members and their families make the most out of their time in the service. You can find the rest of the articles here.