Overseas Education for SpousesUpdated: March 24, 2021
Part of being a military spouse is regularly relocating to different duty stations. These assignments can take you and your family across the US and the globe. It is easy to focus all your energy on enrolling children in their new schools on base or off and supporting your spouse in their education pursuits. However, there are DoD-sponsored options for spouses as well. The following article outlines these options from certificate programs to graduate school opportunities.
When relocating abroad, most families will be there between two and four years. This is the typical assignment length for many overseas duty locations not considered to be “forward deployed” or an unaccompanied tour.
Two to four years is an ideal length of time to attend college classes, earn a degree, and advance your career. But what education opportunities are an option for military spouses living outside the Continental United States (CONUS)?
The Department of Defense issues contracts to a select number of colleges and institutions. These schools will provide on-base classes, distance learning, or a combination of the two. This allows both military members and family members to study while assigned overseas.
Overseas Spouse Education Opportunities: Certificate Programs to Graduate School
You read that correctly. Graduate-level programs are available at overseas bases. The caveat is that the number of degree programs may be limited compared to stateside universities.
For example, for those stationed at Misawa Air Base, Japan, the University of Maryland offers nine associate’s degrees, approximately 20 bachelor’s degrees, and one graduate program. This is a Master of Business Administration degree.
Many of the University of Maryland offerings are practical, career-oriented programs such as English, Homeland Security, Criminal Justice, etc. But there are also foreign language programs, cultural studies, and history classes. For spouses that are prior service, remember that you may be able to use your credentials or classes taken while you served toward college pursuits now.
The University of Maryland isn’t the only college offering classes to those assigned to bases in Japan. Troy University adds some fierce competition by offering a Doctorate program as an online-only option for those interested in higher-level college work in International Relations. The number of colleges and courses offered will depend on the military base. Online learning options can expand a student’s capabilities to learn and earn degrees while stationed outside the U.S.A.
Multiple Colleges to Choose from Depending on Location
Misawa Air Base, Japan is only one example. There are college education opportunities at many bases all over the globe. The University of Maryland has a Europe division as well as an Asia division. Troy University is found in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and elsewhere.
Those assigned to European installations such as Geilenkirchen NATO Air Base in Germany will enjoy options that include both of the previously mentioned colleges along with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the University of Phoenix, and several other institutions.
Most instillations in Europe have Adult Education Centers and can help you connect with MySECO services. Bases include: Rhine Ordnance Barracks Army Education Center, Kleber Army Education Center, Landstuhl Army Education Center, Baumholder Army Education Center, Sembach Army Education Center, NAVSTA Rhota Spain, NAS Sigonella, Italy, and NSA Naples.
The US Army is highly organized with their education centers, and you can learn more about their base-specific services on Goarmyed.com to connect directly to each instillation’s education center. Many of these bases are joint service and have resources for service members and their families.
Featured Colleges at Military Bases Overseas
- University of Maryland College Asia/Europe offers traditional and distance learning courses for certificates, associate’s, bachelor’s and masters degrees. Options depend on location, demand, and availability of online or in-residence courses at the military base.
- Central Texas College provides vocational-technical associate degrees in applied sciences, the Microsoft Certification Program and other career advancement options.
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has on-base and distance learning options (depending on demand, availability, etc.) for programs such as an Associate of Science degree in Professional Aeronautics, Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics, and a Master of Aeronautical Science. These courses may feature online components or some programs may be exclusively online with no local classroom options. For spouses of members of the Air Force, pursuing degrees in Aeronautics can greatly open job opportunities on-base and near AF bases in CONUS.
- University of Oklahoma has offered a Master of Human Relations and a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies focusing on international relations. Current or future offerings may depend on demand, funding, etc.
These colleges may depend on Department of Defense contracts to remain a service provider for the military communities at overseas bases. That said, the University of Maryland and other colleges have been associated with the military for many decades. Service members and spouses that qualify can sign up to start or continue degrees and career advancement.
A Note about The University of Phoenix
The University of Phoenix was, at one time, a common presence on military bases. But controversy surrounded the college and the University did not receive a DoD contract in 2015.
However, University of Phoenix may still have obligations to certain military students to complete degree programs. Any military member or spouse that began a degree program with this college and looks to return to school will need to discuss their needs including UOP transcripts with an academic advisor or get advice on the best way to proceed with University of Phoenix credits previously earned.
It is best to act sooner on this issue rather than later to avoid future problems with access to transcripts, recognition of applicable school credit, transferring, etc.
How to Find Colleges at an Overseas Military Base
The Education Office at your military base is the first place to start when exploring education options overseas. Some branches may label their education office the Adult Education Office or Adult Education Center. When doing a Google search for college opportunities at overseas bases, you will encounter search results for base education that is aimed at dependent children and parents. DoDEA is for dependent children and not to be confused with education programs for service members and spouses.
You can help refine your search and save time by adding “adult education” to your list of search terms and searching for phrases such as “college classes overseas military bases Germany” or other highly-targeted and location specific search tactics.
In addition to the on-base education offices, don’t forget to register with MySECO (Military Spouse Education Options) and utilize their assessment tools. The MyCAA scholarship program pays for tuition costs for US-based programs. However, if those schools offer programs at your overseas instillation, you can still use this education benefit.
Distance Learning Options outside the Military System: Pros and Cons
The nature of online education allows military members and spouses the option of simply signing up for an online degree program at the college of their choice without the limitations of on-base options.
Distance learning at overseas military bases will, when administered in the local area, feature classes that meet at “regular” times for that part of the world. There may be programs aimed at those who do shift work depending on location. In general, students will find that the locally-hosted programs that meet in person or require online attendance will meet at typical times of day. Choose your online courses based stateside making allowance for the time zone difference and be sure it aligns with your family’s schedule.
Pursuing an online degree in a different time zone is easy to accommodate for some student’s schedules, but the time delay factor is a serious one for many students. It cannot be taken lightly when choosing a program. That’s one compelling argument for looking at the local degree programs offered at the military base first.
Another issue is internet connectivity. Depending on the quality of your connection at the overseas location, you may or may not experience technical issues at times with classroom attendance that is half a world away. Know what to expect from your equipment, connections, and connection speeds before you commit to taking classes administered in real-time from a U.S. time zone.
In closing, whether stationed in CONUS or OCONUS, there are options for service members and spouses to continue your education and career advancement goals. Even if you pursue a solely online program, take the time to visit your on-base Adult Education Office and read other Military Benefits articles on degree options and DoD/VA sponsored education benefits.
Tia Christopher is a proud US Navy Veteran. Christopher’s writing has focused on military benefits and helping fellow service members transition from the military. Christopher was recognized in 2013 by the White House as a Woman Veteran Champion of Change.