Advancing in today’s armed forces requires continuous development of your skills and knowledge. More enlisted personnel are choosing to continue their education while deployed in order to take advantage of opportunities during their military service, as well as to prepare for the eventual transition to civilian life.
Technology has made it increasingly possible – and convenient – to earn a degree online from the college of your choice, even during deployment. In fact, as long as you have Internet access, you can attend classes, and interact with professors and students from anywhere on the globe.
Successfully completing a degree online requires planning and organization, so keep these tips front and center:
1. Gather Your Resources
Pursuing an online degree program requires some basic equipment:
• Computer: You’ll need one with a current operating system, and word processing, spreadsheet and other software according to your program needs. A laptop will be most convenient.
• Internet access: Most military installations have Internet access, but what about when you’re in the field? A wireless Internet device, or card, enables you to send and receive data no matter where you are provided you are conscious of OPSEC and PERSEC protocols. You’ll be ready to communicate with professors and submit assignments via email, download lectures and attend video-based classes.
• Textbooks and e-books: Ask your instructors whether digital texts and materials are available; that will save space and weight when packing for deployment. Some texts might be offered as downloadable e-books, CDs or DVDs.
• Flash or thumb drive: A USB drive is excellent for storing your work and transporting files between computers. Keep your work saved to your drive and you’ll always be ready to send to your instructors via email.
2. Find a College That Fits Your Needs:
Finding the right program starts with thinking about your career aspirations. Maybe you’re interested in continuing on the path you’ve started in the service. Or, perhaps you’re ready for something completely different. It’s important to conduct some research. For example, GoArmyEd.com provides information about colleges that meet Army standards. You’ll also find resources to help you map out your career goals. Once you narrow down which military undergraduate programs you are interested in pursuing, talk with military representatives at each school that offers the program and learn everything you can about enrolling in online courses.
3. Arrange for Funding:
Servicemembers have numerous options for securing financial assistance for college, including loans, scholarships and tuition assistance. The Post-9/11 GI Bill and other programs provide financial support for military personnel to complete undergraduate and graduate programs, technical and vocational training, and other forms of postsecondary education. Help with funding is as close as your school’s financial aid office or campus military advisor.
4. Make a Plan and Get Organized:
Earning a degree while deployed requires a major commitment, but good planning and organization will go a long way to getting you through. It helps to choose a college that is experienced with military students, since instructors and staff will understand the demands on your time and offer you greater flexibility.
Try to find time to study every day; even an hour or two can really pay off. Keep your study materials close by so you can take advantage of any downtime. Be disciplined about studying, because it’s easier to keep up than to catch up.
5. Be Flexible and Make Education a Priority:
Of course, your military duties will demand much of your time and energy. Inform your superior about your class schedule, and ask for some flexibility if possible on your duty schedule. Assess and prioritize your responsibilities, such as work, school and family. Keep education near the top. Remember, it’s the key to meeting your career goals.
6. Get Support or Find a Study Buddy:
The support of friends and family is crucial to your success as a student. Share your goals and inform your support network of the importance of your education.
A study buddy can be a big help, too. Find out who else in your unit is pursuing a degree or establish a connection with another student through message boards or email. It’s great to have someone to talk to, share experiences, read your papers and study with – and it can make a real difference.
It’s easier than ever to continue your education while deployed – and nothing is more important to your career than advancing your training and qualifications. In a competitive military or civilian environment, the right skills and knowledge can help you land promotions and meet your personal and professional goals.
About the Author: Tyana Daley writes for University Alliance, a division of Bisk Education. She works with the online programs from various colleges. She covers a variety of topics around criminal justice and law enforcement. She is currently a junior at the University of South Florida studying Technical Communications and New Media. She has a passion for learning, technology and internet trends.