You've served your country and in the process, learned new skills and received valuable training. But how does that all translate into a college or university education? Can you earn college credit for military experience? The answer is yes, for those who qualify and take the right steps.
The first thing to know is that the Department of Defense (DoD) has a partnership designed to help servicemembers earn college credit for military service through the American Council on Education (ACE). ACE collaborates with the DoD to review military training and experience and recommend what college credit would apply.1
Whether you're an active-duty or veteran servicemember, to get started, the first step is to obtain something called your Joint Services Transcript (JST). The JST is an academic document that helps to validate your military occupational experience (MOS) and training and serves as a guideline to corresponding college credit. It's recognized by more than 2,300 colleges and universities as a transcript and recommends what college credit could be offered (though it doesn't guarantee that every school will do so, as transferability of credits is up to each individual receiving institution). How do you obtain your JST? Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard members can get one by visiting the JST website.
CLEP and DSST Tests
Once you have reviewed your JST, your next option for earning college credit for military experience is to explore what other subjects you might be able to demonstrate mastery of by passing a test of knowledge. The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) and DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST) are two ways of accomplishing this. Passing a CLEP exam allows eligible schools to grant you college credit in subjects like math, English, sciences and social sciences. You must receive a passing score (you can take a CLEP exam more than once if you don't pass the first time). CLEP tests are free for eligible military personnel the first time they are taken.
DSST tests cover upper and lower-level baccalaureate credit courses, and results are recognized by colleges and universities across the United States. Active duty, guard and reserve military members may take their first attempt on any DSST exam for free; the exams can be taken on-base or on-campus. More than 500 military installations provide DSST exams via the Internet as well.
Military Friendly Colleges
A good strategy for earning college credit for military experience is to choose a military friendly college or university. American InterContinental University (AIU), for example, has a process in place to determine credit that may be earned for specialized military training and occupational experience when applicable. AIU also offers a dedicated team of military admissions advisors to assist servicemembers with their specific needs and goals.
Whatever school you choose, taking time to review your military record and obtain the proper transcripts can put you on the path to earning college credit before you even take your first course, and that means you can be well on your way to reaching your goal of earning your degree.
1American Council on Education (ACE), "College Credit for Military Service," on the Internet at http://www.acenet.edu/higher-education/topics/Pages/College-Credit-for-Military-Service.aspx (visited 6/8/15)
Thinking about returning to school but don't want to start from scratch? Download AIU's Transfer Credit guide to find out how you may be able to get credit with previous college, military, or work experience.