Getting An Education While In The Military

The military offers an outstanding opportunity to get your education. Most servicemen think they need to wait until they get discharged to take advantage of the benefits the military offers them. When I was serving from 1988 to 1992 in the Marine Corps, our GI Bill was only about $11,500. These days it’s not uncommon to get the military to pay $30,000 for your education. As you know, $11,500 doesn’t quite pay for all your education. But there’s something I did that was very smart that allowed me to get very close to finishing my bachelors degree, which I will share with you now.

While I was serving at Camp Pendleton, I took a trip up to the Base Education Office. I found out that they have a program called Tuition Assistance which pays 75% of the fees for your classes and gives you up to about $4,000 per year, at least that’s how much of it they paid while I was in. Since they cover 75% of the bill you should be able to cover the other 25% with your base pay. This will allow you to take classes while you are in the Military. On Camp Pendleton for example, at least when I was there, they had Park College and Central Texas College. I also took classes at National University.

In fact, I’m pursuing a degree in psychology right now at National University and only have 5 classes left. While I was in the service, I started there back in 1989 and talked to a great academic advisor who scheduled me for all my classes down there. With Tuition Assistance I was able to take 5 classes per year, and didn’t even miss the money I spent to take the classes. Plus it was a great experience going to school after my daily duties. Obviously you can only do this while in Garrison and not on deployment, but most schools that have lots of military personnel will fully refund your tuition fees for that month if you get deployed, so it doesn’t hurt to schedule and try to make a class that month.

If you are serving 4 years and only take 5 classes each month, you’ll have 20 classes completed when you get out in 4 years. And if you make a career out of the service that’s even better. Once you get your 2 year degree you have a chance of becoming a Warrant Officer. And once you complete your 4 year degree you could get a full commission. Most of the on base colleges have classes that only run 1-2 months because they know military personnel often get deployed. For instance the classes at National University run just one month per class.

Whether you plan on doing 4 years or 20 years in the service, eventually you are going to get out and probably want a career outside of the military. Because of this college is something I definitely wouldn’t gaff off like so many people do. You’re already forced to practice discipline just by being in the military. Why not take it to the next level and improve your life by taking some classes after work each day. If your job keeps you on base all the time then you have a really big advantage here by doing this.

The first thing you want to do is pick the college you want to get your degree in, preferably one of the colleges on base. Then speak with a student advisor and get your classes scheduled out. You should start taking the basic classes first, like English, Humanities, Social Sciences etc.. If you get your 2 year associates degree to start in General Education you can’t go wrong, since you’ll then have all your basic requirements out of the way and will be ready to start your core courses, or the courses pertaining to what you want to major in.

When I joined the military some 23 years ago they didn’t have 1/2 the opportunities that they have now. I’m sure Base Education has even more opportunities and Academic Advisors may even be able to get you additional scholarships and grants that will make attending school even easier on your pocketbook. Sure the cost of an education is expensive but it’s a lot cheaper than going through life without one. So many doors open once you get that Sheepskin in your hand, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll never be completely broke. So check out Base Education and see what they have to offer and get started. And if you haven’t joined the Military yet and are planning on joining, make sure you take advantage of the GI bill.

They only took $100 out of my paycheck each month for a year for that program, and multiplied it by 10 I think. But it funded my last 2 years of school. While I was serving I had all my classes for my associates degree finished but 5 and completed those quickly after I got discharged. The GI Bill is funding all my core courses. But keep in mind that you only have 10 years to use your GI Bill, but who would want to wait that long to finish college anyway? Think of each course as a small step up the ladder to long-term success. Take each course in stride and have fun in class. If you are smart you will get your degree in a skill that’s in high demand in the civilian world and make the military work for you in a big way.

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