As a military spouse, furthering your education can benefit your family in many ways. Financially, it can certainly boost your earning power and help widen your career opportunities. On a personal level, acquiring a higher education can translate to a feeling of accomplishment that allows you to feel confident about investing in yourself, your career, and your future. The following tips provide a great starting point for military spouses who wish to go back to college.
1. Think about your overall career and personal goals
Choose to focus on something that interests you both personally and professionally. Aim for a career that puts you at a desirable pay level, offers a decent work-life balance, and gives you overall satisfaction in your endeavors.
2. Research the job market in your chosen field
Are there readily available opportunities in this particular field? Furthermore, are there specific areas of the country where this profession is not as lucrative? If there are limited job opportunities, it might not be worth the time and money to obtain a degree or certification if there is the possibility that it will not result in a successful career. If this is the case, you may want to consider opportunities in related fields and use your original goal to navigate a new, more promising career path.
3. Consider hidden costs
In addition to tuition costs, going back to school necessitates transportation, book, and childcare expenses. If you currently have a job, you will also need to factor in the lost income when you make your decision to go back to school. Basically, you need to make sure that going back to school is financially feasible.
4. Utilize resources for financial assistance
There are a variety of programs that can help to offset the cost of going back to school for military spouses. Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) is a program for military spouses that can cover up to $4000 worth of costs for military spouses seeking an associate degree, license, or credential. Many state colleges and universities offer non-resident active-duty service members and their families in-state tuition rates regardless of the duration of residence. There are also many scholarship programs that provide various methods of financial aid, as well as low-interest federal loans. Each branch of the military also offers financial assistance to spouses who reside in the United States while their service members are stationed overseas.
5. Contemplate different courses of study
Depending on your chosen field, you need to explore the various means for acquiring the necessary skills to enter into your desired profession. You may need professional license, certification, associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree. These vary greatly in both time and cost, so it’s necessary to weigh these considerations with what is recommended to acquire the best jobs in your field.
6. Look into distance learning programs
Military families face frequent re-locations, often making it difficult to complete local education programs. Distance learning programs provide flexibility that can be hugely beneficial to the unpredictable nature of being a military spouse.
7. Be flexible
You may need to adjust your career goals based on cost, job availability, deployment or relocation of your spouse, and an overall ability of your family to function if you choose to pursue any form of college. Make sure that you are realistic with your goals and adapt them to ensure the health and stability of your finances and your family.
8. Appeal Transfer Credits
If you have college credits from a previous school and get denied credit at your current school, be sure to challenge. Most schools have a process for a challenge and your advisor or counselor should be able to assist. Typically, more information is requested such as a course description or syllabus. Challenges are often successful upon offering additional information for those hard-earned grades you earned in previous classes. If most of your credits are not accepted another option is to look at other schools that are more closely aligned in curriculum or accreditation and possibly have transfer agreements in place e.g., junior colleges with local universities.
9. Make sure the timing is right
Juggling a family and work while taking on the additional responsibility of going back to school can be overwhelming. Consider how much bandwidth you have to attend class and study.
10. Choose the right College for You
There are variety of factors to consider based on individual circumstances and career goals. Research and speak to at least a few colleges in order to compare. By speaking to several colleges, they will often times present valuable points you might not have already considered. Create a pros and cons list of each and then decide.
For more information, see our Military Friendly Colleges Guide.