Did you know that you may be able to earn college credit for your military training and experiences? Both active-duty members of the military and veterans can use their time in the military to earn college credits that can be applied to a degree.
Successfully transferring your military experience to college credit comes with a host of benefits and can make completing a bachelor’s degree a more attainable goal than you might have thought possible.
If you’re wondering how to translate your military experience to college credit, read on to find out.
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Benefits of Earning College Credits for Military Training
If you’ve considered earning your bachelor’s degree and are currently on active duty or have served in the military, earning transfer credits for your service can make that goal more easily attainable. Some of the most notable benefits of earning transfer credits for your training and experience include:
- Time savings—Getting a head start will allow you to complete your degree in less time.
- Increased flexibility—Applying transfer credits to required courses affords you extra time to take classes that interest you and align with your career goals.
- Cost savings—Transfer credits will allow you to take fewer courses, resulting in cost savings for tuition, fees, and supplies.
Plus, it just makes sense. You’ve already put in the work—you should be rewarded for it.
How to Transfer Military Training to College Credits
The exact process of earning credit for your military training ultimately depends on the policies of the university you wish to attend. While most colleges and universities accept at least some military experience, there is no requirement or guarantee that a college or university must accept the credits.
Generally, however, the process follows these four steps.
1. Research colleges and universities to attend.
Every college is free to set its own policies regarding the acceptance of credit for military experience. For that reason, active-duty servicemembers and veterans who want to get the most value from their experience must do their due diligence when researching schools.
Start by reviewing the university’s military website and speaking with an admissions counselor to understand:
- The maximum number of transfer credits that the university may accept
- The academic programs and majors that best align with your military experience
You should also reflect on what it would be like to attend the university as a veteran. Consider the following:
- What kind of support does the school offer to veterans?
- Do they employ admissions counselors and academic advisors specifically trained to manage veterans’ affairs?
- Does the school have a Student Veterans Organization? If so, is it active?
- What kinds of financial aid does the college offer veterans and active-duty members of the military, whether in the form of Yellow Ribbon Program participation or scholarships?
Thinking About Earning Your Bachelor’s Degree?
Learn more about Northeastern’s military-friendly bachelor’s degree completion programs.
2. Obtain copies of your military transcript(s).
In order for a college or university to determine how your military experience translates into credit toward a particular degree, admissions officers need to understand how you spent your time in the military. Your military transcripts are designed to provide that necessary insight.
A military transcript is a document that includes information about your military experience. It will typically include:
- Military occupations including title, job descriptions, skill levels, and credit recommendations
- Military course completions including all courses that have been evaluated by the American Council on Education (ACE), with full description and credit recommendations
- College-level test scores including final scores and dates taken for College Level Examination Program (CLEP), DSSTs, and NCPACE
- Other educational experiences including classes and/or occupations that have not been evaluated for college credit by ACE, but which a university may still consider
Military transcripts can be official or unofficial. Official transcripts must be requested and sent directly to a university to make a final decision about an applicant. An unofficial transcript may be requested for your personal review and use, and can sometimes inform preliminary transfer credit decisions.
It is likely in your best interest to request an unofficial transcript before applying to any university. This way, you will have a clearer sense of the information that it contains. Look for any discrepancies and errors and, if any exist, work to correct them.
If you are (or were) a member of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, or Coast Guard, you can request your military transcript from the Joint Service Transcript (JST). Members of the Air Force can request their transcripts from the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF).
3. Submit an application to each college or university that you are considering.
Once you have evaluated colleges and universities, reviewed your military transcript, and chosen which school(s) you want to apply to, you will need to submit your applications. These should include your official military transcript, as well as any other documentation required by the university.
4. Obtain a degree audit/credit mapping from the university.
As a part of the application process, a member of the university’s admissions team will review your military transcript to determine:
- If and how your military experience maps to courses offered by the university
- Which, if any, of those courses apply to the degree program you are applying to
- The remaining number of credits and the specific courses which would be required for you to finish your degree
It is important to note that, while your military experience might translate into credits, they may not all apply to your chosen field of study. Just because you are eligible to receive 60 credits, for example, does not mean that you will automatically reduce your curriculum’s required credit load by 60 credits.
Read More: What Makes a College “Military-Friendly?”
Tips to Help You Get the Most out of Your Military Transfer Credit
While it’s difficult to predict the exact number of credits a university will accept as transfer credit—or which educational requirements your military experience will help you to fulfill—there are steps that you can take to get as much value out of the process as possible.
1. Pick a degree that is closely aligned with your Military Occupation Code (MOC).
Choosing a college major can be a stressful endeavor, requiring you to consider your personal interests and passions, career goals, and salary requirements. For active-duty military and veterans, your declared major is important for another reason: It may influence how many credits can be used toward your degree.
While there are no guarantees, selecting a degree or major that is closely aligned with your military occupation code (MOC) may help you maximize the number of credits that you receive for your military training and experience.
2. Consider all of your options.
“Different schools will interpret your military experience in different ways,” says Casey Heaslet, a military admissions officer at Northeastern University. “It’s important that your college search includes multiple colleges so that you can find the one that will offer you the best value.”
Of course, it is important to consider more than just the number of credits they will award you for military service. Financial aid, veterans’ affairs, student organizations, job placement rates after graduation, and other factors should also be examined.
3. Advocate for yourself.
When you receive a credit transfer award from a university, you may be disappointed to find you didn’t receive as many credits as you initially anticipated. Or, you may be surprised that you will still need to take a course you believe should be covered by your military experience.
“Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself,” Heaslet says. “Just because a university gives you a transfer credit award that says one thing does not mean that it is set in stone. While there are no guarantees, successful appeals can and do happen.”
If you believe that you should be eligible for additional credits, or that certain requirements should be waived due to your military experience, alert your academic advisor and prepare to make your case to the program head and potentially the dean.
Put Your Training and Experience to Work
Earning a college degree is a more attainable goal than you might think. In addition to the education benefits that help veterans pay for college, taking advantage of your military training and experience can give you a head start on your education while lessening your financial and time commitments.
Enrolling in a military-friendly program is the first step toward making a smooth transition from a military to a civilian career. Northeastern University is committed to helping veterans on this journey.
Northeastern’s bachelor’s degree completion programs allow servicemembers to put their prior military training to work so that they can complete their degrees, build impressive resumés, and kickstart their careers.