By Kristin Byerly
Director Veterans Initiatives & Outreach, University of Maryland University College
College options while on active duty come in all shapes and sizes. It reaches far beyond the traditional concept of taking a class. Most of the services, as well as colleges, universities, and trade schools, which specialize in working with military students, are realizing just how thorough military training can be. Programs such as American Council on Education (ACE), College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) or DANTES Subject Standardized Test (DSST) testing, Military Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) and US Maps are all resources available to service members. These programs, especially when combined with classes funded by military tuition assistance, can make education affordable and may lessen the number of classes required to obtain a degree.
ACE was started in 1945 and enlists the help of specially trained collegiate faculty to review and approve military training courses, and make recommendations for the number, level and type of college credit to award for successful completion of those military training courses. DANTES administers CLEP and DSST testing as part of the Department of Defense Volunteer Education Program. These tests are free to activity military and can substitute for three-credit classes required for your degree. Military COOL programs are credentialing services that allow service members to complete certifications that may also articulate for college credit. Several IT certifications are available through these programs; however, each service has different criteria so you need to work with your education point of contact within your command to determine exactly what you can take and how it will apply. An excellent resource for the overall review of Military COOL programs is Military One Source Military One Source. United States Military Apprenticeship Program (US Maps) is an apprenticeship program utilized by the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard that allows service members to select, review and participate in specific apprenticeship programs.
Outside of these additional resources, taking college courses, while serving in the military, from a reputable school that has experience working with military students is the next step. You can work toward an Associates, Bachelors, or Master’s Degrees, or toward an academic certificate. Many of the Education Centers located at your duty station or available online maintain a list of schools where you can make the most of your military training and education. The key is finding the school that has the best path towards completion, yet also fits with your lifestyle. Online, face-to-face or hybrid (which is a mix of face-to-face and online instruction) are all available options for attending classes. The best thing a service member can do is start with their education office, and then talk with a trained advisor at the school that you feel is the best fit for you. They can give you a degree plan that shows just where you stand and how quickly you can work towards completion. Your options are endless!