How a College Degree Can Be a Game-Changer for Military Personnel

Male military personnel shaking hands with an employer during an interview.

There are many reasons why a college degree is important for military personnel. This includes the ability to promote while continuing to serve, as well as opening windows of opportunity for yourself when you join the civilian workforce.

Many military personnel avoid seeking a college degree because of changing posts or frequent deployments. Sometimes, they simply don’t feel like they have time. However, present technology provides more educational opportunities that military personnel can use to obtain a college degree regardless of their location and on their own schedule.

The GI Bill and Its Impact

According to Army Times, the GI Bill of 1944 helps qualifying active-duty personnel or veterans obtain money to pay for some or all of the costs of a college education. The bill was revamped after 9/11 to provide further assistance with educational training. It includes payment of tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance, as well as a stipend for books and supplies for up to 36 months. 

To qualify for its benefits, an individual must have served on active duty for at least 90 days since September 10, 2001. The individual must either still be serving or have obtained an honorable discharge. The time the person spends on active duty determines the total amount of benefits they’re eligible to receive. Children or spouses of service members who died while on active duty also have the eligibility to seek educational benefits through the GI bill.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) cites a number of success stories pertaining to the GI Bill. This includes the story of Dariell Cooper. Cooper separated from the Air Force in 2014 and was paired with a representative who specializes in helping veterans to use their GI Bill benefits. He developed an education plan that included receiving a bachelor’s degree in political science, with a minor in public administration, as well as a master’s degree in management and leadership. The benefits he received helped him to become a first-generation college graduate and to develop a career in which he develops digital content to inform veterans of their educational benefits.

Benefits of Higher Education for Military

There are many benefits of higher education for military personnel, including:

  • Augmenting the skills acquired in the military with a college degree. This makes them more employable when they enter the civilian workforce.
  • Career advancement both in and outside the military. The military gives promotion points for each college credit you earn. Military personnel aspiring to become officers will generally need to have a college degree.
  • The opportunity to make more money. According to, those with a bachelor’s degree earn around $26,000 more per year. This is compared to those who only have a high school diploma.
  • Greater opportunities for personal growth and development. A college degree brings increased confidence and a greater sense of independence and self-control. It can also create a greater sense of awareness and involvement for military personnel.

These benefits help military personnel to meet their career goals and prepare for a future outside of the Armed Forces. Most enlisted personnel and officers retire from the military between the ages of 40-45, leaving them with decades in which they will likely participate in the civilian workforce.

Exploring College Opportunities for Active-Duty Military and Veterans

The opportunities to obtain a college education even while on active duty are more significant now than ever before. Many colleges offer night courses as well as online courses in which an individual can take classes outside of the traditional daytime, in-person setting. This provides educational continuity regardless of where a person is stationed and what their working hours are.

Some resources that military personnel can turn to in order to learn more about college degree opportunities include:

Many colleges have their own programs to assist military members. Make sure to contact your desired college to learn more about the options they have available.

Success Stories

According to Military Supportive Colleges, the first person to take advantage of the GI Bill was Don Balfour. Balfour was already enrolled at George Washington University when he was discharged from the military for poor eyesight in 1944. However, he was struggling to afford his foreign commerce program.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the GI Bill of Rights into law 24 hours before Balfour obtained his discharge papers. Having obtained brand new GI Bill benefits, he went on to obtain a degree, worked as a federal government employee, and later became an insurance agent and start his own company.

According to the US Department of Defense, within its first seven years of use, about 8 million veterans took advantage of the benefits offered by the GI Bill. Within 50 years, the GI Bill helped to increase the number of Americans with college degrees by 20 percent. Since 2009, when the GI Bill was modified to include military personnel serving in a post-9/11 world, educational benefits have been provided to around 800,000 veterans and their families, with more than $12 billion in assistance being given.

For More Information About College Degree Opportunities for Military Personnel

College is a path for many military members to achieve success while serving and when they enter the civilian workforce. For more information check out our Military supportive colleges to consider for college degree opportunities and our military personnel career guides.