Earning an undergraduate or graduate degree may be the next logical step for service members who leave the military. A bachelor’s or master’s degree can have positive effects on a veteran’s career opportunities. And with the flexibility inherent in online degree programs, there are several higher education options for veterans, many of whom may already lead busy lives as spouses and parents.
High unemployment rates among veterans have been a headline-generating issue for years. Although recent reports claim that this is changing, earning an online degree can ensure that veterans have greater opportunities post-service. The best online colleges for military veterans will fulfill many, if not all, of the criteria below. Here are some things to look for as you begin narrowing your list of perspective schools:
A degree is a step toward employment, but if that degree comes from an unaccredited institution, it could be completely pointless. Make sure you consider schools that are accredited by legitimate accreditation agencies, which are regional or national educational associations that assess the quality of education that schools provide. In some cases, courses must be accredited by the recognized accrediting bodies for veterans to use the education benefits provided by the military. More importantly, degrees from unaccredited institutions will not be recognized by employers. The U.S. Department of Education does not accredit educational institutions or programs, but it does maintain a list of accrediting agencies and accredited institutions. Consult this list to make sure that the schools you are considering are deemed legitimate by these agencies.
Some schools may allow you to transfer credits earned from previous course work or military training. If you would like to transfer previous credits you may have earned, verify that your prospective school(s) will accept these credits. By the same token, it’s important to ensure that credits from your prospective schools are also transferrable to other institutions. While you may have no intention to transfer at the beginning of your undergraduate or graduate schooling, there is always the chance that your circumstances will change. Note that credits from unaccredited schools generally are not transferrable — making this another reason to check the accreditation status of the schools you might enroll in.
A number of schools pledge to be “military friendly” or “veteran friendly,” but prospective students should make sure that these schools are worthy of the title. G.I. Jobs publishes a list of Military Friendly Schools, which can serve as a helpful guide to service members and veterans. Individuals can let this list and others like it guide their search, but they should also do their homework to make sure that these schools are actually the right fit for them.
Joining the ranks of students and learners can provide great opportunities. However, many of the veterans who enroll in degree programs are returning to the classroom — virtual or otherwise — after years, even decades. During their time in the military, they have perfected skills such as rigor, focus, drive, and determination. Now, they must apply the skills they have cultivated during their time in the service to school. Since many veterans have spent a significant amount of time away from academia, they may want to ensure that their prospective schools provide comprehensive learning support services, such as tutoring, peer advising, and writing assistance. Students should be able to communicate virtually with advisors and counselors, and schools may even provide recorded tutorials and live workshop events that will develop your learning and study skills. Research the availability of these services at the schools you are considering.
Online programs add convenience and flexibility, but this does not mean that they are lenient. Most brick-and-mortar institutions hold their online students to the same standards as their on-campus students, so veterans who enroll in online classes must take their course work seriously. Veterans who take online classes often do so because they are working and raising families, meaning that they are already juggling their duties. However, veterans can ensure that they are up to the task of obtaining a degree online through careful planning. Build a strong support network and make sure that you can set aside time to devote to your course work.
The military provides education benefits to service members and veterans through programs such as the G.I. Bill, which provides financial support for undergraduate and graduate education, vocational training, flight training, online courses, and more. However, the benefits available to veterans do not stop here, and a number of scholarships for veterans are also available. For instance, the Tillman Military Scholars Program covers not only tuition, but other expenses such as housing and child care as well. The Department of Education maintains a database that allows users to input search terms, such as “veteran,” to find scholarships that are right for them.