January 11, 2016, by David McCauley – The active duty military lifestyle is undoubtedly busy. More than once I heard from service members that they felt that they didn’t have enough time to pursue a degree. Some days you will have little to no time for yourself because you are busy with inspections, drills, and standing watch. Sometimes the opposite is true, and duty days can be filled with utter boredom. These quiet moments are a golden opportunity if you are committed toward advancing your education.
This is where long distance learning and online learning come into play, and today I will focus on the latter. The first and most obvious advantage of getting your degree online is that it is convenient. Ten years ago, learning at any kind of a distance was difficult. There were few programs available from an even smaller pool of universities. Today over 600 accredited colleges and universities offer at least some online courses. Online education is at an all-time high with nearly 34% of higher education students taking at least one online course. This shouldn’t be surprising, especially when you consider that many of them accept military transcripts for credit transfers.
A 2013 Learning House survey found that respondents chose these as the best advantages of online education:
32% – The ability to study when and where I want.
17% – Flexibility to study around work obligations.
13% – The ability to study at my own pace.
The negative stigma surrounding online education is slowly disappearing, and this is in part because of how many universities are embracing online learning. Antiquated views include the beliefs that online education is somehow easier than traditional schooling, or that online degrees are less valid, or that it somehow shows a lack of commitment to attend one.
Education is adapting to online learning and so are student service members. The reason why is simple: we are finally understanding that online education is another resource of the modern student. Where you learned should never overpower the quality of what you learned. Some of the most dedicated students I have ever met are military men and women like yourselves. Their responsibilities fill much of their time, and pursuing a degree on top of that requires an extra measure of commitment.
Don’t forget that there are other ways to shorten the time it takes to get your degree. Credit-by-exams are available in variety of subjects, and many universities will accept a limited number of these are part of your graduation requirements. Your local education services office will likely have more information. When in doubt, check the admissions and graduation requirements of the university you will be attending to find the limitations. The best part is that Tuition Assistance still applies as long as the university is eligible. Arizona State University is a great example of a military friendly school that accepts Military Funding Tuition Assistance. The rules vary depending on your branch of service and component.
Companies are seeking candidates with higher levels of education, and a degree in a relevant field is a great way to advance your career inside or outside of the military. My father initially enlisted in the Army, later finished his degree, and then became a commissioned officer. Higher education opens you to more possibilities, and gives you the opportunity to demonstrate the broad skills you have acquired while serving.
About the Author: D.M. McCauley is a former U.S. Navy sailor who worked in Intel. After the service he has dedicated his time to writing and traveling with his significant other.