The Importance of College for Service Members

female service member on laptop sitting on park bench

As a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, do you really need a college degree? That depends. For many enlisted service members, the armed forces offered a viable option that they chose to pursue after high school instead of going to college or entering the civilian workforce. It’s not uncommon for service members to enjoy long, rewarding careers in the military without ever earning a college degree.

Nevertheless, service members will often choose to add a degree to their military training and years of service. The military tends to encourage enlistees to continue their education, offering programs such as the GI Bill and tuition assistance to help veterans and active duty personnel pay for college. For service members with educational ambitions, these government programs represent an attractive opportunity that is simply too good to pass up.

The Benefits of a Degree

There can be many upsides to earning a degree. Most obviously, you’ll gain new knowledge and broaden your horizons. Who knows, you may even find a new interest or passion. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has consistently reported that Americans with a bachelor’s degree earn significantly more, on average, and experience far lower rates of unemployment than peers with only a high school diploma. The average wages for workers with a master’s degree jump even higher.

Similarly, college degrees could help with career advancement. Phrases like “bachelor’s degree required” are showing up in more job descriptions these days. Many higher level positions, from director level on up, may even prefer candidates with a master’s degree. As such, college degrees can open up job opportunities. Keep this point in mind if you’re thinking about following a career path in the civilian workforce after the military. Even if you’re planning on remaining in the military, a degree could help you advance in your military career. By making the choice to pursue a degree, you’re demonstrating to your superiors that you take initiative and that you value personal development.

Degree Options for Service Members

If you’re a service member who’s thinking about college but you’re not sure what to study, consider a degree in military studies. Ashford University offers both an Associate of Arts in Military Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in Military Studies. Both programs are offered online in asynchronous formats to fit into the unpredictable schedules of active duty service members.

These degree programs are popular with service members because they complement a career in the military. For example, the Bachelor of Arts in Military Studies gives students a strong foundational knowledge of the historical and political context for the role of the military in American society. Students will learn about the military’s responsibilities as both a fighting unit and a peacekeeping force. The curriculum also explores topics like military history, military ethics, leadership, grand strategy, war theory, and humanitarian efforts.

A Degree Is Closer Than You Think

You should be aware that as a service member, you may be able to complete a degree in less time than you think. Ashford allows some students to transfer in credits from past college classes, and also may offer credits for non-traditional education such as military training, professional experience, and national testing programs. In other words -- you may have already earned credits toward your degree without even knowing it.

Let’s go back to the question that started this article: do service members need a college degree? As you can see, the answer to that question depends on a service member’s long-term goals. There are numerous reasons for a member of the armed forces to pursue a degree, but they all seem to revolve around similar goals of increased opportunities, increased rewards, and increased knowledge. If any of those goals align with your personal ambition, then a college degree could be your path forward.



Written by Erik Siwak, Communications Manager for Bridgepoint Education

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Are you currently a licensed RN?

This program requires you to be a current licensed registered nurse. Please check out other programs to reach your education goals such as the BA in Health and Wellness.