Using Educational Benefits to Ease the Transition to a Civilian Career

By Julie Bowen

Why Education?graduation cap
The skills and experience you have acquired during your military career can be attractive to many employers, but depending on your career plans, you may find it necessary to return to education in order to pick up additional skills or gain the required qualifications. This might involve spending four years in college to get your degree, undergoing a period of vocational training as an entry-point to a new career, or simply taking a couple of part time classes to update your skills and ease your return to civilian life. Whatever type of program you choose, the time you spend in education can prove invaluable when you enter the civilian job market.

Education can provide a stepping-stone between the military and civilian worlds, by providing a supportive environment in which you can learn who you are as a civilian, alongside the lessons you are learning in class. Making the leap between these two worlds too quickly can be stressful. Even if you have not had to cope with the additional strain of recovery from a physical injury, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or other long-term emotional and psychological effects of time spent in active service, it can take some time to move from a military mindset back into a civilian one. Schools and vocational training programs are designed as spaces in which people can grow and develop, within a supportive community, and therefore can be the ideal place in which to undergo this transformation. The military recognizes the value, both professional and personal, of education and has made a range of educational benefits available that can help you to fund your studies.

What Educational Benefits are Available?
Educational benefits are available in a range of different forms for both active duty personnel and for those who have left the service. Depending on your background and the type of program you want to study, you may find that you are eligible for assistance from multiple sources. Additional support, such as college funds and tuition assistance, will also be available from each of the services. Information on what extra benefits may be available can be obtained from recruiters, Navy College counselors and Education Service Officers.

Benefits on Active Duty
Tuition Assistance while you are on active duty will cover up to $4500 a year in tuition fees, which will be paid directly to the school for each class you take. Almost all service members will be eligible for tuition assistance, but the eligibility criteria do vary between different branches of the services.

GI Bill Benefits
The GI Bill is the best known source of educational funding for military personnel, but it is in fact made up of a selection of different bills that ensure funding for people at different stages in their careers.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill will typically cover four academic years, or 36 months, of support for courses including college courses, apprenticeships, technical and vocational courses, and flight training. The benefits can cover tuition and other fees, a stipend for housing and living expenses, and money for books, but the amount you are eligible to receive will be based on your service history. The Post 9/11 GI Bill is restricted to those who have served a minimum of 90 days on active duty since 9/10/2001, or to the family member to whom the benefit has been transferred by someone who has met this requirement.

The Montgomery GI Bill for Active Duty and Veterans will cover a maximum of $1564 a month for up to four academic years. It requires active duty members to have served at least two years on active duty, and offers different levels of eligibility to veterans depending on the date of enlistment and length of service. The Montgomery GI Bill for Selected Reserves will provide a maximum of $356 a month over the same period. It requires a six year commitment to the reserves, which for officers will be in addition to their original commitment. The Reserve Education Assistance Program offers 40, 60 or 80 percent of the MGIB-AD benefits, depending on the length of time served, which must include at least 90 days of active service since 9/10/2001.

Additional Sources of Support

  • The Tuition Assistance Top Up Program can provide supplementary support if you are eligible for MGIB-AD and have been approved by a military department.
  • The Work-Study Program can provide a means of earning an hourly wage while studying at least at 3/4 of full time, and receiving one of the VA educational benefits.
  • The Tutorial Assistance Program can help you to find a tutor for a program that you are finding difficult, as long as you are receiving VA benefits for at least a half-time rate.
  • The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) can provide up to a year of training, with benefits equal to the MGIB-AD, for unemployed veterans between 35 and 60 years of age, who are not eligible for any of the other VA educational benefits.

Repaying Student Loans
The Loan Repayment Program offered by each branch of the military, as well as for health professional officers specifically, may be available to help repay some or all of your college loans, but eligibility can vary depending on your branch and contract terms. The National Call to Service Program can also help to repay student loans if certain service requirements are met.

Educational Benefits for Military Spouses and Dependents
The educational benefits provided by the military are not just for the use of military personnel. Benefits are also available to help finance the education of family members. The Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance Program can help to reduce the tuition fees for the spouse or child of a service member who died, is missing or who has been disabled, as a result of their service. The GI Bill can also offer educational benefits that may be transferred to a family member. Even if you decide that returning to education is not right for you, these benefits can help you to support your family in their own studies.

The author, Julie Bowen, is a freelance writer who covers a diverse array of topics, including finance, education, transportation, sustainability, and more. Thanks, Julie, for sharing your talents with the Corporate Gray Blog to inform our readers of the importance of using the educational benefits they’ve earned in the military!

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