Editor’s note: The following article was contributed by Marine Corps Community Services. The content may be edited for clarity, style and length. Find more at http://www.usmc-mccs.org/.

Are you thinking of getting a college degree? With your military training and experience, you may already be partway there.

Military training, in addition to voluntary education programs, can help you more quickly complete undergraduate and graduate degrees, online or in-person.

A great place to start is the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges group, also called SOC. SOC can walk you through using credits from training and professional military education.

Military experience alone could be worth up to 20 college credits!

Most colleges grant 4 semester hours in physical fitness for recruit training. In addition, colleges usually give credit for other service schools attended, as long as those courses are longer than two weeks and are not of a classified nature. Some distance learning courses also are worth college credits. Credit may also be awarded for military occupational specialty, or MOS, training.

Together, those could account for half the credits required for an associate degree.

Still have more questions? Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

What do I need in addition to my military credits for an associate degree in general studies?

Most colleges require 60 to 65 credit hours for an associate degree and 120 to 130 credit hours for a bachelor’s degree. In most cases, the following college credit hours must be added to the average service member's military experience to complete an associate degree in general studies (numbers will vary by degree program):

  • 8 semester hours in natural science
  • 6 semester hours in English
  • 6 semester hours in social science
  • 6 semester hours in humanities
  • 3 semester hours in mathematics

Note that you may be able to test out of having to take some of these classes as well, through CLEP/DANTES (College-Level Examination Program/Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support) exams.

Where can I find out how many credits I’ve earned through training and education?

All training and education is documented on the Joint Services Transcript (JST), which is available online. That document explains how many and what kind of credit hours have been earned. Service members can obtain a copy of their JST by visiting the JST website at https://jst.doded.mil/smart/signIn.do. Common Access cards (CAC) are needed to log in.

Where can I find education help at my installation?

Installation education centers play an important role in helping service members earn degrees. The center’s education services officers help identify the available degree programs that best fit an individual’s background, interests and goals. They also assist with preparing applications for tuition assistance, scheduling and preparing for CLEP/DANTES exams and setting up professional certification testing. The installation education centers invite colleges and universities to teach evening and weekend classes on bases as well,

What is the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges Degree Network System (SOC DNS)?

SOC DNS includes more than 100 regionally accredited colleges and universities, offering associate and bachelor’s degrees. These programs are available through distance learning or near base education centers worldwide. Credits for many courses taken at DNS institutions are guaranteed to be accepted by other DNS institutions, making it easier for service members to complete degrees no matter where they move during their military careers.

Here’s how it works: Service members select a “home college” to grant their degree. Through a student agreement, the home college will accept up to 75 percent of the hours required for the degree as transfer credits. For example, a school with a 60-credit-hour associate degree would allow a transfer of 45 credit hours in prior college work, military experience and CLEP/DANTES. The remaining 15 credit hours would need to be completed with the home college.

The program is extremely flexible because it allows service members to continue their educations through changes in duty stations, deployments and transitions to the civilian sector.

Completing your education through your service is very much possible. For more assistance, contact your installation education center or SOC.

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