Earning a degree today can be costly and time intensive. This is especially true for veterans, many of whom had to forego higher education to spend years serving our country abroad.
Sometimes attending a brick-and-mortar university may not be a practical option for veterans. Many service members may find themselves with little time to commit to a full-time college education following discharge. Fortunately, online colleges are excellent options for veterans who wish to earn or complete their degree without having to sacrifice their obligations at home.
PART I: What Online Schools Can Offer Soldiers
Easing back into civilian life after spending a great deal of time in the military can be a challenge. Veterans who haven’t earned a college degree are years behind their civilian counterparts in terms of education. Moreover, it is no secret that attending traditional universities can require a huge commitment of time and resources, even with benefits such as the G.I. Bill.
Online schools offer veterans several key benefits that most traditional university programs cannot. Because online courses can be taken anywhere with a computer and an internet connection, veterans are not tied to a specific location. Also, most online courses can be taken at the student's own pace, which allows veterans to focus on other obligations while having the opportunity to complete their degree part-time.
Online schools also give veterans the opportunity to explore subjects and career pathways that interest them most. In fact, there are several online courses provided by distinguished universities, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which offers massively open online courses (MOOCs) veterans can try out and learn from before committing to a degree program. In addition, more and more, traditional universities are allowing students to apply online course credits to the completion of their own degree programs.
Accredited colleges and their affiliated organizations are also striving to improve educational access for veterans. DANTES, or Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, currently works with the U.S. Department of Defense to offer men and women in the armed forces access to counsellors, distance learning opportunities and other resources to keep their education on track.
Another great educational resource for veterans is the SOC Consortium. This website provides a listing of over 1600 colleges and universities with established programs and policies designed to benefit veterans and active service members. Some benefits offered by members of the consortium include reasonable credit transfer options, reduced academic residency requirements and college credit for military training and experience.
PART II: Make the Most of Your Educational Benefits
Some of the best benefits a veteran can use toward higher education are administered through the G.I. Bill and Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. The G.I. Bill (also known as the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944) was originally passed by congress to provide benefits for World War II veterans. Since then, the bill has provided countless members of the armed forces with access to quality education, unemployment compensation and the funds to help pay for living expenses or the purchase of a new home.
The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill (also known as the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008) differs somewhat from the original G.I. Bill, in that it offers more robust educational benefits for servicemembers who began their military service after September 11th, 2001.
The Yellow Ribbon Program, which is a part of the new G.I. Bill, funds up to 100 percent of a four-year undergraduate education at a public university for veterans who have served at least three years in the military. After committing to ten years of military service, veterans can even transfer these benefits to their spouse or their children.
Veterans should keep in mind that the training and knowledge they picked up during their years of service are highly valued by many employers. Not only does this experience instill discipline and motivation to "get the job done,” but it also proves veterans the know how to handle themselves when the going gets tough.
Management is a great career path for veterans who already come with a great deal of experience managing subordinates and working as a team. As a result, earning an undergraduate or graduate degree in business administration can be both a fitting and lucrative path for veterans.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Management Analysts earn a median salary of $78,160 per year with a projected job growth of 22 percent over this decade. Earning a Master's of Business Administration (MBA) is probably the best choice for veterans looking to pursue a career in business management. Like many degrees these days, an MBA can also be earned online.
Joining civilian protection services can also be a great career choice for veterans. In 2010, Police, Firefighters and Dispatchers earned a base median salary of $35,370, with job growth expected at 12 percent. FBI agents and other experienced officers of the law, such as detectives, earned a median salary of $55,010 in 2010, but are expected to experience only seven percent job growth through 2020.
For veterans who have an interest in tech, careers in information technology (IT) are proving to be quite popular for returning servicemembers. Careers in this broad field include systems and network engineering, IT consulting and network administration. According to the BLS, Network and Computer Systems Administrators earn a median salary of $69,160 and benefit from a generous job growth rate of 22 percent over this decade.
PART III: Find Your Best-Fit School
Today, there are many resources to help veterans find the best online school for their needs. Several of these resources help veterans identify special services and benefits tailored to their situation. Doing a little homework today on the types of online programs and schools out there ensures veterans can receive the quality education they deserve.
One of the most comprehensive resources today for finding online schools and degree programs is the Online Education Database (OEDb). This tool allows students to search for online schools and degrees based on a number of factors. These include the type of program, location of the school, subject area and even the minimum GPA required by schools.
The database also includes an informative profile for each school which provides valuable information about the benefits and programs they offer. Examples include information on accreditation, admissions policies, financial aid and whether or not credits can be transferred. These profiles are for informational use only, but links to request more information from the schools are provided.
Two great features of the OEDb are its rankings of online colleges and universities throughout the country, as well as its section on career options. These are valuable resources for veterans who may not be able to commit the same amount of time to researching schools as civilian students. Overall, the OEDb is an excellent resource for veterans to not only save time, but to also effectively find the right online school for their needs.
Earning a degree these days is invaluable for career success, and with excellent military benefits, paying for college as a veteran is easier than ever. And there’s more good news for veterans: online schools continue to gain traction as reasonable alternatives to traditional colleges and universities. As a result, veterans now have the option to earn their degree without having to spend more time away from their home and loved ones. By taking advantage of useful tools like the OEDb, finding the best online college has never been simpler.