Whether full-time or reserves, the military also offers tuition assistance and supplemental monthly income (called the GI Bill or the Post-9/11 GI Bill) when going to school. The Armed Forces Tuition Assistance (TA) Program is a benefit that pays up to 100% of tuition expenses for semester hours costing $250 or less. The school must be accredited and the person’s branch of service pays the school directly. In most branches, this can equal up to $4,500 a year towards one’s education. That does not even count the GI Bill.
The Post 9/11 GI Bill is available to military service members who served at least 90 days of active duty since September 11, 2001. The amount an individual qualifies for varies, so it is important to ask a recruiter how this works. Those who are joining the reserves (or National Guard Reserve) who may not be activated for 90 days, can qualify to receive a supplemental monthly income through the Montgomery GI Bill. This does not pay as much as the Post 9/11 GI Bill. There are multiple educational opportunities provided to active and veteran United States Armed Forces members through military tuition assistance. These benefits can also extend to a service member’s extended family and dependents.
ROTC Scholarships for College
Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) Scholarships can pay for your college! Each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces offers unique scholarship opportunities to students who attend eligible schools. Scholarship awards are not based on financial need, but eligibility and requirements can vary. Students should call or visit their ROTC advisors in their area to learn more information.
Learn more directly from each branch of service you’re interested in:
Military Tuition Assistance: VA Educational Benefits
There are educational benefits available to service members and veterans, even to spouses and family members, for those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. From military tuition assistance, on-the-job apprenticeships, and even non-degree programs, there are multiple ways you can receive aid if eligible.
- Limited Interest Rates for Service Members: If a member of the U.S. Armed Services took out student loans prior to entering the military or is called to active duty, the interest on the loans will be set at a certain percentage while on active duty.
- No Accrual of Interest: In the case of Direct Loans, the U.S. federal government will charge no interest for up to 60 months for active duty members during a state of war, national emergency, or military operation if stationed in a hostile environment.
- Deferment of Student Loans: During a state of war, national emergency, or military operation, the U.S federal government will defer the payment of federal student loans while the service member is on active duty.
Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant
If a student’s parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and died due to services rendered in Iraq or Afghanistan (after 9/11), grant money could be available if these following conditions are met:
- The student was under the age of 24 and enrolled part or full-time in college when their parent/guardian passed away
- The student is not eligible for a Federal Pell Grant because of EFC
Joining the Military
The military may be an appealing option. There are multiple branches to choose from including the Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, Army, and Air Force. These branches also have part-time reserve components where you work your civilian job, yet go to drill a weekend a month and two full weeks a year. You must meet an age requirement, which varies by branch and pass a health screening and vocational aptitude (ASVAB) test. The health screening prevents many recruits from enlisting; no-goes include diabetes, asthma, and even color-blindness.
Prepare for the ASVAB Test
Be prepared to study for the ASVAB test. Studying for the ASVAB is crucial to qualify for more military branch options and careers. Don’t stress out too much though, if you take the test and wished you had scored higher, you are able to take the test again. Also, if you have a college degree, you may be able to enlist at a higher rank.
If you have children, you will need a guardian who is willing to provide care while you are away. You will attend basic training and your schooling, on a full-time basis, away from your family. Even if joining the reserves, you have to complete basic training and your tech school. Each military branch’s basic training length varies and tech school length depends on your career choice. Some schools are as quick as eight weeks, while others are one year long.
Research Military Careers
There are numerous careers in the armed forces and some transfer to civilian employment better than others once you leave the service. Of course, life is about happiness so choose a position you would love to do while you serve. If that military career does not align perfectly with a civilian occupation, you can always take college classes while serving. Many universities cater to military personnel.
If you are interested in choosing a career that will directly help you land a job upon separating, researching military careers that require a civilian certification is a great start. Air traffic controllers, truck drivers, crane operators, and mechanics all gain certifications, and there are many more. Union jobs such as electricians are great too. If you are looking at a career in the armed forces that aligns with a civilian career, you can visit online job boards and research what experience employers are looking for and see if the military training you will see aligns with the civilian career. Many companies prefer hiring veterans and government agencies may give veteran preference when seeking out candidates.