The Military Member and Advanced Education
by Lt. Col. Capicik
Everyone has heard stories that say “maybe I can get by without an advanced degree.” But the overwhelming odds are that none of those stories will apply to you.
As a service member, there is increasing evidence that advanced education will help you:
- Earn lower-level military promotions (and is a requirement to get upper-level promotions).
- Land a job and keep it in the civilian environment when you transition, because employers know that degrees:
- Provide foundational knowledge in a chosen field
- Provide a general background for working with people
- Provide the ability to understand and analyze situations, find needed information, and collaborate with fellow workers in a team environment.
- Enhance your standard of living both in and out of the military.
- Likely make you a better citizen in serving your community and the nation.
There are ample statistics that show the main reason most people join the military is to take advantage of the training that will prepare you for a life-long career. Equally important is the access to significant monetary benefits available to help pay for advanced education.
Advanced degrees set you apart from the rest
If you haven’t started or completed a degree program yet – start NOW! And once you have started, keep plugging away until you have ideally finished a Master’s degree, if possible.
Yes, I know that Bill Gates quit college to start Microsoft® and is now one of the richest people in the world. But again, statistics overwhelmingly support completion of an advanced degree. The economy, a tight job market, and global competition are just a few reasons why a college degree is required where once a high school diploma was enough; and a Master’s degree is required where a Bachelor’s degree was enough.
The average military person will take five to ten years to complete an advanced degree. Deterrents include low motivation when your friends aren’t hitting the books; high ops tempo in your military life, including relocations, readiness training, and deployments; and family needs, especially when children come along. So the sooner you start the more flexibility you have to manage deterrents and still reach your goal in a reasonable period of time.
Three types of advanced degrees
The most common advanced degrees for a military person to pursue include an Associate, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.
- Associate degree. With little or no college credit, starting with an Associate degree can propel you to a degree plateau with 60 semester hours and show your supervisors that you are a motivated individual who is serious about your career. This generally let you advance into a Bachelor’s program with no loss of time or semester hours.
- Bachelor’s degree. A Bachelor’s degree should be your minimum goal and generally requires 60 additional hours beyond an Associate degree. If you have completed several college courses, advanced military training, or maybe completed some CLEP courses, you can usually launch into the 120-semester-hour Bachelor’s degree program. These degrees prepare you for entry- and mid-level careers in most companies.
- Master’s degree. A Master’s degree will generally require approximately 36 additional semester hours of course work. It provides you the intensive, extra education that prepares you for the higher-level positions in a particular career field, or as a manager over a broader range of workers in a department or section. A Master’s is generally required for top management level positions.
What degree program should I take?
Thinking about your mid- and long-term goals should influence what degree program you pursue. While there is often the temptation to take the path that will get you a degree the fastest, it is not always the best choice. Consider:
- Where you are in your career, especially as it relates to the date of your transition to the civilian world. Your current experience will be a big factor in your decision.
- At the top of your list should be your personal interests. This single factor will greatly affect your motivation in degree completion and eventual career satisfaction.
- Review articles and associations online to determine the career potential of your area of study.
Ideas to get you going
- Did you know that the average active-duty member uses only $1,600 of the $4,500 annual tuition assistance (TA) money available to them? And you can’t recover the unused amount. So if you haven’t started your education, do so now and continue for the foreseeable future. Take advantage of this incredible benefit.
- Find a friend to take as many of the courses you are taking as possible – you will be amazed how that will help your motivation and how much you can help each other in understanding the course material.
- Consider American Sentinel University. We offer accredited, online degree programs with the flexibility you need in the military environment. And we have three tiers of support (faculty, student academic advisors, and a military advisor) to help you succeed in your educational journey.
Follow-on articles will include the Military Member and Certifications, and also How to Choose the Right School. Any comments or questions? Please contact me directly via email at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-470-3743.
The Military Member & Advanced Education Webinar hosted by Lt. Col. Capicik.
The presentation will cover a broad range of topics important to Servicemembers at every point in the process of pursuing an advanced education, including:
–Do I Need an Advanced Degree?
–When Should I Start?
–What Degree Should I Pursue?
The webinar will take place on Tuesday, March 30th from 1pm-2pm CDT.