As a veteran or service member with a college degree, you are a compelling hire for a variety of employers. Your impressive experience and work ethic allow you to accomplish great things in the civilian workforce. However, if you're ready to take the next step in your career, it may be time to return to school for a graduate degree. You may be wondering; will the military pay for grad school?
The answer is yes, but with some caveats: You will need to confirm your eligibility and navigate a complex process to ensure that you receive the education benefits you deserve. This effort can be more than worthwhile, as it will enable you to enter a graduate program of your choice and enjoy all the benefits that a graduate-level education provides. In this guide, we'll show you how, highlighting the best military scholarships for graduate students and providing a definitive answer to the common question: Does the military pay for grad school?
Military Experience for College Credit
As you start developing your graduate school plans, you may be curious whether your experience in the military will help you score college credit. The answer is often yes, but this varies from one college to the next.
To determine whether you qualify, complete a request via the Joint Services Transcript website. You will receive a transcript outlining the recommendations from the American Council on Education (ACE), outlining potential credits for:
- Previously completed courses
- Prior military jobs
- Army Advanced Individual Training (AIT)
- Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) training
Veterans Affairs Benefits
Veterans Affairs benefits cover a broad range of services meant to improve veterans’ quality of life and professional outcomes. Educational benefits programs facilitated by the Department of Veterans Affairs include the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) and the Post-9/11 GI Bill. These provide up to 36 months of tuition assistance, although their structure and eligibility standards differ:
- Montgomery - Featuring active duty and selected reserve subcategories, the Montgomery GI Bill offers flat-rate benefits that change from year to year. These are sent directly to students in the form of a check but do not include book stipends or housing allowances.
- Post-9/11 - Offering tuition and housing benefits, the Post-9/11 GI Bill pays colleges directly, although this depends on the number of credits taken per term. The Post-9/11 GI Bill is mainly intended for those who served after September 11, 2001.
Physical Fitness and Training
Recruit training is rigorous, but its benefits go beyond preparation for the challenges of military life. As you prepare for grad school, you will be delighted to find that your past experiences with training could provide up to four hours of college credits.
Previous Service Schools and Universities
Academic training through the military can be downright rigorous, and this high level of education is recognized via the Joint Services Transcript. As previously mentioned, the JST will outline military course completions as evaluated by the ACE. Full descriptions of these courses are provided in civilian language, along with recommended credits. Suggested hours and levels of credits are also highlighted, including coursework at the vocational, lower, upper, and graduate levels.
Bear in mind that the JST is not always as comprehensive as you may hope, so it's also worth looking at the ACE Military Guide for additional insight into course lengths and associated competencies. An easy-to-navigate catalog tool is available, so you can individually examine the many military courses you've taken through the years and determine how these might translate to credits at civilian colleges.
Military Job Experience
A significant subset of credit recommendations from the JST involves military jobs. On-the-job training equips you with a variety of in-depth, highly valuable skills that may be relevant to your preparedness for graduate school. As with the coursework designation from the JST, ACE's occupational listings provide thorough descriptions and credit recommendations, with occupation status detailed along with pay-grade alignment for Marine Corps jobs.
Military Graduate Students
Graduate school represents a valuable educational opportunity for veterans — and one that an increasing share of this population is eager to pursue. According to the VA College Toolkit, 9 percent of veterans who use VA education benefits are enrolled at the graduate level. Graduate school provides many opportunities to expand on soft skill development while offering the chance to boost leadership and management skills or, if desired, advanced technical skills.
This is also worth considering in the context of AIF eligibility (Adjustment in Force), with AIF defined as the "process used for releasing employees assigned to positions in designated competitive areas." These relate to "force shaping or reductions resulting from lack of work," reorganization, or restructuring. There is no guarantee of placement when AIF results in an abolished position, so additional training may be recommended.
There is no ideal path to pursuing a graduate degree as a veteran, but a full-time graduate student military experience may be preferable. Attending grad school full time expedites the timeline to graduation and makes it possible to maximize benefits from the VA. As we've touched on, the rate of pursuit can play into some types of military benefits. The Post-9/11 GI Bill, for example, depends on this concept to verify eligibility for monthly housing allowances.
At Lindenwood University, full-time status for a graduate student involves six or more hours per term, while it is possible to maintain half-time status with between three and five credits per term.
Tuition Assistance and Scholarships
In addition to general VA benefits, many veterans qualify for impressive scholarships. These may be provided as part of the Yellow Ribbon Program, although individual scholarships are also worth pursuing. Scholarships for veterans are made possible by generous donations, with eligibility standards based on various factors, including educational focus, geographic background, demonstrated merit, or financial need.
Tuition assistance is sometimes offered at the state level, although there may be restrictions on which types of colleges students seeking this type of assistance can attend. Some employers are also willing to provide tuition assistance, so this is worth exploring if it will help to stretch VA benefits.
GI Bill for Graduate School
The Montgomery and Post-9/11 GI Bills are chief sources of educational assistance for veteran undergraduate and graduate students. The main distinction between using these benefits at the undergraduate and graduate levels is how full-time status is defined. Beyond this, the benefits are largely the same, with similar tuition levels, housing allowances, and book stipends provided.
With some students, complications may arise as they use up their benefits while attending at the undergraduate level. Careful planning is required, and, in some situations, it may be preferable to pursue greater coverage through out-of-pocket payments and scholarships while pursuing a bachelor's degree. This frees up a greater share of benefits to be dedicated to graduate-level studies.
Tuition and Fees
The main goal of the Post-9/11 GI Bill is to help veterans cover the cost of tuition. Allowances vary from year to year, but as of August 2023, the maximum listed by the VA (for veterans attending private schools) reached $27,120.05 per academic year. As of October 2023, Montgomery tuition coverage for full-time enrollment reached $2,358 per month for veterans who served three continuous years on active duty, with significant reductions for those who served less time.
Housing and Books
Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, monthly housing allowances (MHAs) can be determined based on the rates established for the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). A variety of factors play into MHAs, including the ZIP code of the college, the number of days in class, and the number of credits taken. This should not be confused with the BAHs, for, while the latter's rates are used to help determine MHAs, the BAH is provided by the Department of Defense, and the MHA is offered through Veterans Affairs. BAH is meant to offset the cost of housing when government-provided accommodations are unavailable.
Book stipends are also available through the Post-9/11 GI Bill and can cover up to $1,000 per year in books and other college supplies. However, the exact amount depends on the number of courses enrolled in and the extent of eligibility.
Resources for Military Graduate Students
consider the actual college experience, along with resources available to enhance studies and extracurricular pursuits. Military graduate students enjoy access to a wealth of resources, including a variety of on-campus services, plus programs designed to expand financial support.
Job and Career Resources
Employment resources help veterans find jobs within the civilian workforce. The O*NET Interest Profiler provides a solid start, enabling veterans to explore and learn more about exciting career opportunities. From there, the Veteran and Military Transition Center can be helpful when seeking employment and training. Don't forget to check out college-based career services that may clue you in on regional job opportunities while providing a definite boost as you expand your networking strategy.
Office of Military Affairs
Resources such as the Office of Military Affairs or the Veterans Affairs Center provide valuable support as you embark on your academic journey. This is a great resource for getting insight into everything from VA benefits to admissions requirements, course scheduling, and even library services. When you need a friendly face or a little advice, you can count on the Veterans Affairs Center to deliver. At a minimum, this is a wonderful place to find people who care.
Yellow Ribbon Program
The Yellow Ribbon Program provides opportunities for veterans to attend a wider range of colleges and universities. With these benefits, it is possible to get assistance paying tuition and fees at private universities or public schools attended as nonresident students.
Eligible students should qualify at the 100 percent benefit level for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. To provide access to these benefits, colleges and universities must also satisfy a variety of stringent requirements. Once these hurdles have been cleared, the setup is simple: The college contributes a certain amount toward the veteran's tuition through a military scholarship or grant, which is then matched by Veterans Affairs. Different amounts can be offered to different students, such as those studying at the undergraduate or graduate level.
Achieve Your Professional and Civilian Goals With Lindenwood University Online
feel a lot easier to navigate when you are part of a supportive community, enjoying access to targeted, veteran-oriented services. Lindenwood University Online provides a variety of educational opportunities that benefit military members and veteran students. We are proud to be designated as a Military Friendly School and to provide opportunities that honor those who have sacrificed the most on behalf of our great nation. Reach out today to learn more.