Earning a College Degree

Charting Your Academic Pathway

This section focuses on providing information that is needed by a student just beginning to explore schools, degree options, and how the SOC Degree Network System (DNS) can help.  If you are a student already pursuing a degree who needs additional assistance, especially regarding taking courses at a school other than your home college, please consult Chapter 5 of the SOC DNS Handbook.

How to Get Started

The completion of a college degree can be challenging but it is also a great accomplishment. A college education serves many purposes, including personal enrichment, qualification and training for a particular career, or promotion opportunities in your current career.

Selecting a College

You should first choose a school and a degree program that best suits your interests and future plans. For example, you may want to choose a degree that is similar to your MOS or rating, or, you may wish to enroll in a program that will provide you with a new skill or provide career opportunities after separating from the military. Many students begin with an associate (two-year) degree program. This degree normally consists of 60 credits. It is often a good initial goal to pursue, or it may provide you with the job qualifications for the career or promotion you seek. A bachelor’s degree is a four-year program, usually consisting of 120 credits.

Tools to Help You Select a College

If you wish to choose a degree that will help you enter a career field with a bright employment outlook, the U. S. Department of Labor provides useful information on job growth forecasts, salaries, and educational requirements on its website at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/home.htm

A video that may be useful when choosing a college can be found here:

Other tools that you may use when selecting a college and a degree program are:

Be sure to consult with your Education Services Officer prior to selecting a degree program to discuss your service’s Tuition Assistance funding policies and procedures.

Applying for College

Each school has its own application and admissions procedures, generally the application process includes:

  • An online application that can be found on the school’s website
  • An application fee; the amount will vary from school to school
  • Sending your high school transcripts and transcripts of any previous college level course work
  • Submitting any Advanced Placement (AP) scores
  • Sending your Joint Services Transcript (JST), which will list any testing scores (e.g. CLEP, DSST)  and all of the credit recommendations from your MOS/Rating/Military Training and Experience
  • Note that not all credit recommendations from your JST may apply to the particular degree that you choose. More information about your JST can be found at Joint Services Transcript (JST)

Once admitted, your school will complete a degree plan for you that will list all of the courses required for that program and any transfer credits that apply to the degree. 

When you receive your degree plan, you will be able to identify which courses you still need to take for your program. You should consult with an academic advisor at your home college in order to select your first few courses. Many courses must be taken in a particular sequence; always check to be sure that any courses you register for are appropriate for your degree plan.

Paying for School

Most military students are eligible for either Tuition Assistance (TA) or some type of GI Bill education benefit. Check your service’s TA policies and application procedures. If using a component of the GI Bill, information is available regarding eligibility, funding policies and application procedures at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/

Other sources of educational funding include federal student aid (loans, grants, or combination of both), assistance from the state in which you reside, or other scholarship sources may also be available to you. Completion of an annual Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required to receive this funding.  

More information provided by the U. S. Department of Education may be found at https://fafsa.ed.gov/. You should also visit your military education center or your college’s financial aid office for additional assistance.

Get Credit for Military Training

SOC DNS member schools have agreed to accept college credit recommendations earned through MOS/Rating and service-school training and experiences. These credit recommendations can be found on your Joint Services Transcript. The number of credits and the placement of those credits in an individual’s degree program depend on a number of factors including, but not limited to:

  • Pay Grade
  • Amount and type of formal military training
  • Timeframe in which the training or experience was completed
  • The major chosen by the student

The American Council on Education (ACE) has a Military Guide that provides information on college credit recommendations by MOS, Rating, Branch of Service, and pay grade. This guide is easy to use and is available on the ACE website.

Please note these are recommendations, the amount of credit granted will vary by school, degree program, your MOS/rating, pay grade, and the timeframe in which you completed training.