Did you know that you may be able to earn college credit for your military training and experiences?
It’s true: 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 can save you time and money—eliminating redundant classwork and potentially freeing up your schedule to take courses that align more closely with your interests and career goals.
If you’re wondering how to translate your military experience to college credit, read on to find out.
How to Transfer Military Training to College Credit
The precise process of earning credit for your military training ultimately depends on the policies set in place at the university that 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.
That being said, the process frequently follows the steps below.
1. Research colleges and universities to attend.
Every college is free to set its own policies regarding the acceptance of credit for military experience; therefore, active-duty servicemembers and veterans who want to get the most value from their experience must do their due diligence when researching schools.
Review the university’s website and speak with an admissions counselor in order 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
In addition to understanding the university’s policies regarding transfer credits, you should 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, and 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 a window into your time in the military. Your military transcripts are designed to act as that window.
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: Final scores and dates taken for College Level Examination Program (CLEP), DSSTs, and NCPACE
- Other Educational Experiences: Including courses and occupations that you may have held which 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 so that 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) to which you would like to apply, you will need to submit an application. This 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 in order 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. Below are three tips that can help.
1. Try to pick a degree that is closely aligned with your Military Occupation Code (MOC).
Choosing a college major or field of study can be a stressful endeavor, requiring you to consider multiple factors, including your personal interests and passions, career goals, and salary requirements. For active-duty members of the military and veterans, your declared major is important for another reason: It may influence how many credits you receive that can be used towards 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 from 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.”
As mentioned above, though, it is important to consider more than just the number of credits that they will award you for military service. Financial aid, veterans’ affairs, student organizations, job placement rates after graduation, and other factors should also be considered.
3. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.
When you receive a credit transfer award from a university, you may be disappointed to find that you did not receive as many credits as you initially thought you’d be entitled to receive. Or, you may be surprised that you will still need to take a course that 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, raise the point with your academic advisor. Just be prepared to make your case to the program head and potentially the dean.