Think a four-year degree program is the only way to become qualified and competitive in the civilian workforce? Think again. Use these fast-track tips to get a jump start on post-military education without wasting time or money.
Find College Credit
Let CLEP (College-Level Examination Program) and DANTES (Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support) become your new best friends.
One example, Southern Illinois University (SIU), which offers an off-campus degree program open to veterans to complete from anywhere, is what Scott Welch, Instructional Systems Specialist at USCG Training Center, Petaluma, used to get ahead.
“In the Southern Illinois University program, I received liberal credit for work experience/occupational training, and met many core curriculum requirements (40SH) by examination credit (CLEP/DANTES). After retirement, I was able to secure employment in the field through accomplishment of professional coursework in major, my service experience, and post-service vocational qualifications,” he says.
Several universities accept considerable credit transfers, allowing students to start and finish their education faster than the typical four-year route. Cleary University, a Michigan-based business school, accepts 4.5 credits for every year of active military service for a maximum of 20 hours and up to 45 academic credits through non-college learning — a boon for veterans with tactical experience. Credits are there; you just have to find them. But, how?
Accessing Higher Education
Offered by Transition GPS, Accessing Higher Education is a two-day, 16-hour course designed to prepare veterans transitioning from active duty to student life.
Stacy Nichols, master trainer and teacher, outlines the goals of the program: teach veterans to understand their transcripts, learn what military credit means, prepare them to make the best choices for their career and personal goals, and discuss admissions processes. She sums it up by saying, “AHE helps fast-track veteran education because, with this course, they get to school quicker and get through school quicker”.
By finding scholarships, federal funding and understanding the GI Bill, education is expedited by minimizing the need for part time jobs during degree programs.
Not only is military experience valued in the academic realm, but it also qualifies you as uniquely able to serve — in our government.
Justin Brown, founder of HillVets, and Tom Manatos of Tom Manatos Job List, are collaborating to bring more veterans to the decision-making table. “With their military experience, training and insight, how can they (nonprofits and legislators) not want to hire them,” Manatos says of veterans.
Internships on the Hill are not limited to legislators, however, and several nonprofits and NGOs seek veteran experience. These internships, or fellowships, are typically six month commitments and pair well with a degree program — so get creative and put your GI Bill to work (after your AHE course) by completing a fast-track degree while working a fellowship on the Hill and boost your resume, work experience and education all in one shot.
Specialized training is also available to veterans in a condensed environment, making the transition from active duty to civilian as seamless as possible. Empower America, a nonprofit training company, uses a two-week training period to teach veterans solar panel installation. Afterward, veterans take the NABCEP exam, the gold standard of training for the solar industry.
Mario Pabon, president and CEO — and father of a Marine — says that trainees of the Empower America program pass the exam at higher rates than the national average, and are then given hands-on experience during an apprenticeship program while they simultaneously job search.
“Veterans have found jobs as solar photovoltaics installers, they have been hired as assistant designers, warehouse managers because of their logistics backgrounds, sales roles — all from this combination of their installation training and their military experience,” says Pabon, “They are professional and hard-working — I can’t keep up with the demand for them.”
So, what are you waiting for? Take advantage of these opportunities and start making the most of your benefits so you can get your degree, certificate, internship or apprenticeship, and get on with your life — FAST!