The US Navy consists entirely of volunteers, and the service provides significant benefits as an incentive to join – and to remain in uniform. While multiple categories exist, some of the most significant benefits involve education. As such, we’ll use this article to cover the major Navy education benefits.
Specifically, we’ll discuss the following:
- An Overview of Navy Education Benefits
- VA Education Programs Open to the Navy
- Navy Voluntary Education Programs
- Bachelor’s Degree Commissioning Programs
- Naval Postgraduate School
- Final Thoughts
An Overview of Navy Education Benefits
While the Navy offers a wide variety of education benefits, not every program will be relevant to every sailor. For example, some students may want to enlist in the Navy directly out of high school. These individuals will most likely be concerned with opportunities to earn their bachelor’s degrees or learn a trade. On the other hand, some college students may want to pursue careers as Navy officers, meaning they may want to complete commissioning programs and master’s degrees once in the service.
As a result of this variety, we have divided the following article into a few different sections. First, we’ll outline education benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs available to all sailors. Next, we’ll discuss the voluntary education programs sailors can pursue in their free time. We’ll wrap up with a discussion of education opportunities available to Navy officers.
VA Education Programs Open to the Navy
As mentioned above, eligible sailors can receive education benefits through the VA. While these are not Navy education benefits, per se, the fact that sailors can – and do – use them means they’re worth explaining here.
This VA education benefit constitutes the gold standard of post-service education benefits. While sailors can use their GI Bill benefits during service, most use them following separation from the military.
While full eligibility percentages typically require three years of active duty service, you may be eligible for a reduced benefit percentage if you’ve served on active duty for at least 90 days after Sept. 10th, 2001.
Assuming 100% eligibility, sailors can receive 36 months of the following benefits through the Post-9/11 GI Bill:
- Tuition and fees (paid up to the in-state, public school maximum)
- Monthly housing allowance
- Book stipend up to $1,000 per year
This program serves as a bridge financing mechanism for sailors using their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to attend a more expensive, private university. For these schools, the standard GI Bill payments do not cover the full tuition. To fix this gap, the VA created the Yellow Ribbon program.
Schools with tuitions greater than the GI Bill maximum can enroll as Yellow Ribbon participants. Navy veterans with 100% GI Bill eligibility can apply for a Yellow Ribbon slot at these schools. And, as Yellow Ribbon participants, the schools offer to pay a set amount, above and beyond the GI Bill contribution, and the VA matches this contribution, meaning sailors need to pay less – or nothing – out of pocket to attend these schools.
Navy Voluntary Education Programs
Next, the Navy offers voluntary education programs. These benefits include the options available to sailors to pursue education in their free time. In other words, the benefits in this category must be completed concurrent with primary military assignments.
Prior to using most of these programs, sailors should meet with a Navy College Education Counselor. These counselors will help develop a concrete academic plan, helping to ensure that all college credits earned via these programs work towards a degree.
This military standardized template assesses your prior military education and training, and it outlines how that experience can translate into college credits. For sailors beginning their degree paths, reviewing your JST allows you to – potentially – identify classes for which you can receive credits without actually completing.
These two types of tests, which the Navy will pay for, allow sailors to take an exam in lieu of a college course. In other words, if you know or are willing to study for a particular subject (e.g. college algebra, statistics, world history, etc.), you can take these exams. If you pass, you can then apply the passing grade as a credit towards your degree. This has the benefits of A) speeding up your degree journey, and B) letting your other education benefits go even further.
Each branch of service offers its own version of TA, and the Navy’s allows eligible sailors to use the program to pursue college degrees in their free time. Specifically, after completing the requisite administrative requirements for the program, the Navy will pay a certain amount of tuition every year.
Navy College Program (NCP)
This program allows sailors to receive academic credits for training completed while on active duty. Designed primarily for deployed sailors, NCP includes coursework completed remotely while underway – either on ships or submarines.
For motivated sailors, combining JST credits, CLEP and DANTES testing, and college classes via TA and NCP can absolutely result in a college degree over the course of an enlistment. While this can be challenging in certain fields and with multiple deployments, it’s not uncommon for a sailor to enlist with no college experience, use these benefits, and complete his or her service with a bachelor’s degree.
Bachelor’s Degree Commissioning Programs
The education benefits in this section pertain to two categories of people: 1) civilians seeking to commission as Navy officers, and 2) enlisted sailors seeking a college degree and commission to become an officer.
Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC)
Qualified high school students apply for a scholarship and, if accepted, spend four years at university training in its NROTC program. From an education perspective, this scholarship means that NROTC students attend university for free. However, by accepting this benefit, these students commit to a minimum of four years of service following graduation. Upon successful completion of their bachelor’s degrees, students commission as Navy officers.
Seaman to Admiral – 21 (STA-21)
The Navy used to have multiple programs for enlisted sailors to commission as officers. For administrative simplicity, the service combined these programs into a single one – STA-21. This is a full-time undergraduate program open to all enlisted sailors. If accepted into the program, sailors attend school full-time and, upon receiving their bachelor’s degrees, are commissioned as Navy officers.
United States Naval Academy (USNA)
U.S. Naval Academy serves as the official service academy for commissioning Navy officers. Similar to NROTC, students who are accepted and receive an appointment to USNA spend four years at the institution, completing both military training and their bachelor’s degrees. Upon graduation, they commission into the Navy. However, USNA mandates five – not four – years of mandatory service following graduation in return for this education.
Additionally, the Navy reserves a certain number of slots available to prior-enlisted sailors for every USNA class. This provides another education and commissioning route to enlisted sailors.
Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program (NUPOC)
This scholarship program offers both tuition and a monthly stipend to college students who would like to commission as officers in the Nuclear Navy. Students accepted into the program have no military service requirements until after graduation. At that point in time, they begin the process of commissioning as a Navy Nuclear Officer.
Nurse Candidate Program (NCP)
This program offers nursing school students an initial grant and monthly cash stipend for up to 24 months of school. Once you graduate nursing school, you’ll begin the process of commissioning into the Navy Nurse Corps.
Civil Engineer Collegiate Program (CECP)
Similar to NUPOC, this program offers college students studying civil engineering a scholarship and monthly stipend while finishing their degrees. No service requirements exist during school, and students begin their path to commissioning as Navy Civil Engineer Corps Officers upon graduation.
Naval Postgraduate School (NPS)
This program pertains specifically to active duty Navy officers. For eligible officers, NPS provides an opportunity to pursue master’s degrees or doctorates at its Monterey, California campus. Students can focus on a wide variety of subjects, and NPS administers its graduate coursework through four primary schools:
- Graduate School of Business and Public Policy
- Graduate School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
- Graduate School of Operational and Information Sciences
- School of International Graduate Studies
Depending on your unique situation and goals, the Navy likely has an education benefit program for you. However, as with everything in the Navy, you will not be given anything. All of these benefits still require a tremendous amount of work to succeed. But, if you possess this drive to further your education, the Navy has plenty of options to help you on your journey.
Maurice “Chipp” Naylon spent nine years as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps. He is currently a licensed CPA specializing in real estate development and accounting.
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