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How to Turn Military Skills into College Credits

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By Wes O’Donnell
Veteran, U.S. Army (infantry) and U.S. Air Force (maintainer)

The path to a college degree for many military members is often unorthodox. I collected no less than 70 credits from various sources throughout my ten years in the military. During my time serving, I accumulated a multitude of community college classes from all over the country – and overseas – CLEP exam credits, and nearly a decade of accumulated active duty military skills and training.

When it was time to choose a school for my sprint to the finish line, I was on the hunt for a university that would make the transfer process easy and have a time-tested method to turn military training into college credits.

The Process

The American Council on Education (ACE) collaborates with DoD to review military training and experience and recommend appropriate college credit for members of the Armed Forces.

Many universities utilize a Prior Learning Assessment for Academic Credit (PLA) that provides veterans with an opportunity to showcase their military training in a PLA portfolio. This document is a collection of materials compiled to demonstrate previous college-level learning relevant to your academic degree plan.

The first step is often a call to the admissions department of your prospective university. Do your due diligence and make sure that the university you choose will give you maximum value for not only your transfer credits but your skills and experience as well.

Just like civilians, active-duty service members, veterans, and military spouses earn college credits from a myriad of sources. A management class earned at one college, a history class at another, and successful CLEP exams mean that some students may be starting school with dozens of credits from all over the country.

For me, I chose American Military University (AMU). AMU allows 90 academic credits toward a bachelor’s degree (up to 60 non-traditional credits). In addition, their unique degree programs are tailor-made for non-traditional students. The online learning environment appeals to many veterans as some may find it difficult to juggle on-campus learning with a full-time career post-military.

On average, most students transfer approximately 36 credits toward a degree at AMU! This results in huge savings in money and time. After all, why pay for information that you already know?

Make sure that you have all of your transcripts from previous colleges sent to your new school for evaluation.

Military Experience to College Credit

The American Council on Education provides policy guidance for the Joint Service Transcript (JST) used by the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard. The Air Force uses the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF). This is essential for earning that college degree for military members.

Quick answer: You can view your JST at the Joint Service Transcript website and Air Force personnel should contact CCAF to acquire their transcripts. With transcripts in hand, you should then contact your university regarding the building of your PLA portfolio. This process is one of your benefits and can remove years from your degree program saving you both time and money.

Most colleges give credit for military service schools attended as long as those courses are longer than two weeks and are not classified in nature.

An accredited degree in your chosen career field is one of the best things you can do for your professional life post-military. My basic training, avionics systems tech school, and CCAF credits all transferred in seamlessly.

I went on to earn an MBA with American Military University, and thanks to their transfer credit program, I still have plenty of GI Bill education resources to pursue a law degree at a local law school near my home in Michigan. Let that sink in… A bachelor’s, a master’s, and a J.D. without having spent a single penny out of pocket. That’s what makes the GI Bill one of, if not the single greatest benefit of military service.

Your GI Bill mileage may vary based on where you’re geographically located and which school you choose, but I still encourage you to reach out!

Active-duty servicemembers and veterans earned their education benefits through sacrifice: long deployments, frequent moves, missing birthdays, holidays and important milestones, and more.

There is no better way to say “thank you for your service” than to empower veterans to achieve their life goals through the GI Bill.

To find out more about AMU’s career-focused degree programs for active duty and veterans, reach out to an admissions specialist who can help you easily navigate the credit transfer process.

Stay frosty and happy learning.

Wes O’Donnell is an Army and Air Force veteran and writer covering military and tech topics. As a sought-after professional speaker, Wes has presented at U.S. Air Force Academy, Fortune 500 companies, and TEDx, covering trending topics from data visualization to leadership and veterans’ advocacy. As a filmmaker, he directed the award-winning short film, “Memorial Day.”

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