Whether you're a military spouse or a veteran looking to go back to school, there are a few things to consider when selecting your program.
Going back to school is a commitment, and you want to make sure you choose a career path and educational opportunity that will benefit you the most in the future.
Most military service members and spouses opt to go to school online. Online school is a convenient option when you need flexibility, especially since military needs come first. Traditional schools are great if you know you’ll be in an area for a long time, but that’s never a guarantee in the military lifestyle.
With so many choices, it can be hard to narrow down the perfect school. But there are a few key characteristics of online schools that can create a better experience if you know what to look for.
For 2019-2020, schools of every shape and size earned the Military Friendly Schools designation, including MedCerts. These schools were surveyed and evaluated for their ability to best serve their military students.
So, what should you look for in a military-friendly school?
Here are five must-have traits:
Even if you move every few years, don't let that stop you from going back to school. Many online schools and satellite campuses make it easy for military spouses to get a certification or degree.
When you’re constantly uprooting and moving, you’ll want to know your program can easily move with you. Additionally, make sure your coursework is available whenever you have a free moment to complete quizzes, study guides, etc. Find a program that allows you to complete coursework anywhere in the world, especially when deployment orders can come at any time.
How to check: Look into the details of the program you want to enroll in. See if there’s a deadline to complete all courses by and if you need to attend any onsite experiential learning or other practicum classes.
2. Accreditation and Awards
Accreditation simply means students can expect to receive a high-quality education and that an outside agency has verified an institution's credibility. Employers look favorably on students who attend accredited schools since the standards are higher. It also means you run less of a risk of your degree and training being a scam or rendered useless upon graduation.
Military spouses and vets may also want to consider schools that have received the Military-Friendly School Award. Educational institutions that receive this award are known for their dedication and support of military students.
How to check: Most schools proudly display accreditation and accolades on the main page of their websites. Some institutions will list it in their “About” section of the website, which can be found on the main menu or all the way at the bottom of the main web page.
3. MyCAA Eligibility
This applies only to military spouses, but it’s a great benefit to know about. MyCAA (My Career Advancement Account) is an educational benefit for spouses. The program offers up to a $4,000 grant for spouses who want education or training to land a job in high growth, high demand industries like IT or healthcare. Essentially, it’s free money for school.
Even if a school is online, it doesn't mean students should get shorted on necessary college and career resources. In order to make a successful transition from college student to employee, educational institutions should offer career counseling, experiential learning opportunities, and more as part of your overall education experience.
How to check: Call admissions and ask questions. Take the time to explore your future college or institution’s website. Live chats, experiential learning information, financial aid resources, and career services are all necessary services for new and current students. Most of the information on how to use these resources are located in dropdown menus or tabs on the school’s main website.
5. Student Support
At any given time on your academic journey, you should be able to reach out to an education or career counselor. Whether you feel like the classes aren't a good fit for you, or you are struggling academically, you want to know that you have someone to turn to anytime to answer your questions and validate concerns. Educational institutions and their employees should provide just as much “customer service” as they do educational services to students.
How to check: Before you enroll, make sure that you are able to call an admissions office or education counselor. As a prospective student, you should be able to get a live person on the phone to answer any questions you may have about enrollment, classes, curriculum, and more.
Gather All the Details Before You Apply
While it’s normal to be excited about going back to school, don’t let a creative marketing campaign reel you in before you do enough research. Ensuring you thoroughly research your potential school is important to make sure you are well-supported throughout your program.
Easy degrees and certifications don’t exist; it takes hard work and dedication to get training that’s worthwhile.
Once you get your certification or degree, you’ll feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in completing challenging coursework to better yourself. Your earning potential also significantly increases when you earn a degree or certificate — especially if you go to a reputable online school.
As you start your research, keep the above five characteristics in mind as you search for the perfect program for you. Military friendly schools will have your best interests in mind, not just an interest in taking all of your money.