Navy College Program

Updated: July 11, 2021
In this Article

    You don’t have to put off getting your college degree while pursuing a career in the Navy. In fact, you can turn your on-the-job training and experience into college credit—even if you are deployed on a ship or sub!

    The U.S. Navy is committed to providing all sailors with the same higher education opportunities as other branches of the armed forces. We have put together all the information you need to get started on (or complete) your college degree program. Read on to find out all of the benefits of the Navy College Program.

    What Is The Navy College Program?

    The Navy College Program (NCP) lets you receive academic credit for military training and the work you perform while you’re on active duty. This includes distance learning classes and coursework completed while you’re deployed, including on ships and submarines. The program is available to both enlisted sailors and officers, but the NCP is mainly geared toward enlisted members who don’t have a college degree. The NCP is just one part of the Navy’s Voluntary Education (VOLED) programs that ensures that Sailors like you have the same educational opportunities that you would in civilian life. The goal of VOLED is to provide you online access and support to your pursuit of voluntary education—anywhere, anytime.

    The Navy College Program (NCP) website gives you access to specific educational information tailored to your individual needs, from getting started on your degree path to applying for tuition assistance. You’ll never need to worry about finding time to go to the education center ever again. The Virtual Education Center (VEC) offers enhanced customer service technology that delivers live chat with the submit a call-back request, or you can search the new Knowledge Base, all from your phone, tablet, or PC.

    How Do I Get Started On My College Degree Path?

    The first step in participating in the Navy College Program is to explore and apply for programs using the Navy’s Voluntary Education (VOLED) 5-Step Process. Each step focuses on a specific phase of the overall process. You’ll be walked through the steps needed to pick an education path, degree plan, and school. You will also learn about the NCP counseling process, funding, pre-college testing, and college entrance exams. These resources will help you start your educational journey and work toward your personal and professional goals. After exploring all of the steps involved, you may start at the step you feel best works for you—you don’t have to start at Step 1.

    The Voluntary Education (VOLED) 5-Step Process

    Step 1: Explore Education and Career Paths

    Before you do anything else, you should identify your career goals. Some careers need you to get a specific degree, while others can be achieved through an apprenticeship or by getting a license or certification. Under this step, the VOLED website will walk you through the following decision paths:

    Step 2: Research, Select a School, and Develop a Plan

    This step will let you search for schools that meet your needs, walk you through the admissions process, and help you complete your official degree plan. This section will help you:

    • Research Schools – Here are some great resources to help you find the right school for you:
    • Apply for Admission and Take Required College Entrance Examinations – Every school has its own application process, so check their website for application requirements and deadlines. You may have to take the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) or American College Testing (ACT) to attend.
    • Request Your Official Joint Services Transcript – You’ll have to request official transcripts from any prior college education and your military training/education. The Joint Services Transcript (JST) is the document your school needs to grant you credit for your military education and training.
    • Request Your Official Degree Plan – You can usually get your official degree plan through your student account.
    • Submit Your Degree Plan to the NCVEC/Navy College Office – Once you receive your degree plan, upload the plan into MyNavy Education and then contact theNCVEC/OCONUS NCO to review and approve your degree plan. After that is done, you’ll have access to the TA/NCPACE application and be able to request tuition assistance funding.

    Step 3: Receive Counseling from Navy College Education Counselor

    After you have your degree plan approved, it’s time to talk to an education counselor. This section will prepare you to meet with your counselor through the VEC or an overseas Navy College Office. This section will help you:

    • Prepare for your Counseling Session with a Navy College Education Counselor – Before you schedule your counseling session, make sure you complete the TA/NCPACE Policy and Procedures Training and the Navy Virtual Training 101 training at MyNavy Education.
    • Connect with a Navy College Education Counselor at the NCVEC or OCONUS Navy College Office – Before you take any classes, you must receive counseling from a trained education counselor. The counselor will discuss your career goals and review your submitted education/degree plan. Use the Contact & Feedback link to schedule your session.

    Step 4: Secure Tuition Assistance and Other Funding

    Now that you are ready to start taking classes, you’ll need to get funding. The Navy has two primary funding sources for voluntary education classes: Tuition Assistance (TA) and Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE). This section will walk you through all of your funding options to make sure that you can pay for the courses you take. This section will help you:

    • Explore Funding Options – Your primary funding options are: Tuition Assistance / NCPACE, Top-Up Program / Post 9/11 GI Bill, and Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA, Scholarships & Student Loans)
    • Apply for and Secure TA/NCPACE Funds – You’ll want to submit and get approval for your TA/NCPACE Application at least 30 days in advance through MyNavy Education.
    • Use TA/NCPACE Funding to Enroll in Classes – Once your authorization voucher is generated, make sure to download and forward it to your school for payment. You can then enroll in your classes.
    • Plan for Expenses Like Books and Fees – Remember that TA doesn’t pay for books and school fees (including flight training). A student loan should be your last resort. Research scholarships and grants that you don’t have to pay back by exploring the PELL Grant and FAFSA options.
    • Explore Alternate Navy Education Funding Programs – The Navy offers several education programs for both enlisted Sailors and officers.

    Step 5: Execute Your Plan

    Now that you have your degree plan and funding for your courses, it’s time to start taking classes. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your dream of getting a college degree.

    • Things to Remember When Taking Courses – If your degree program changes, make sure you upload your new degree plan on MyNavy Education.
    • When Your Degree is Complete – After you receive your degree, make sure that your degree credentials are posted to your Joint Services Transcript (JST).
    • If You Experience Any Difficulties – Contact your OCONUS NCO or the NCVEC as soon as possible


    The Navy is committed to meeting all of your higher education needs, and the Navy College Program will help you achieve your personal and career goals. If you have any questions on any of the Navy’s VOLED programs, you can speak to a Navy College Counselor or find an OCONUS Navy College Office.

    About The Author

    Jim spent 22 years on active duty, climbing the ranks from Airman Basic to a decorated Air Force Major. Stationed all over the world, he held many high-level posts, including Chief of Foreign Military Sales at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Jim earned his Ph.D. through the Montgomery Era GI Bill and spent 13 years teaching African Studies in Pennsylvania. Jim is also an award-winning travel writer.

    Written by Team