Accelerate Your Degree: How To Get Credit for Military Experience

military friendly college credits

Leveraging Your Military Experience for College Credit

Earning credit for military experience is an excellent way toward faster time-to-degree. With more military training college credits, you can earn your degree in less time.

Colleges accept up to 90 transfer credits in their 120-credit bachelor’s programs. Transfer credits can include approved college credits for veterans and active-duty service members. Instead of a four-year time-to-degree, you can earn it in 1-2 years. Indeed, you can save time and money through transfer credits.

Why are military students given the privilege in the first place? First, military students have real-world, job-related knowledge and skills. Colleges and universities acknowledge these valuable competencies through college-level credits.

Featured Programs

Second, military training comes with detailed documentation. Every training, course, and program you’ve completed has its corresponding record. Colleges and universities use these detailed records to determine credit eligibility.

What can you use military-specific credits for? Here are a few examples that will speed up your time-to-degree:

  • Waive prerequisite courses 
  • Substitute a required course
  • Meet course requirements for general education and elective courses

By skipping certain courses, you can cut your time and money spent in college.

How Military Experience Translates to College Credits

The number of credits earned from your military experience depends on three factors.

American Council on Education (ACE) evaluation

ACE, a nonprofit higher education association, evaluates military experience for college credits. The resulting recommendations reflect the content and scope of the military experience. Military friendly online colleges usually accept ACE recommendations subject to their specific policies.

Joint Services Transcript (JST) or the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) transcript

The Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard use the JST. The Air Force uses the CCAF transcript. Your transcript shows the number of credits earned from your military experience. Again, ACE provides the recommendations.

Your military transcript will also list training and experiences not evaluated by ACE. These may or may not be accepted by the online college you’re enrolled in for credits.

College-specific Transfer Credit Policies Adopted

Every college has specific policies on military-specific transfer credits. Many of the best online colleges for military students automatically accept ACE-recommended credits. However, many online colleges have transfer credit limits or adopt validation steps.

Here are the types of military training and experience considered for credits. Note that these are only general guidelines. The final decision rests with the online college you’re enrolled in. 

Basic Training or Boot Camp

Recruits test their physical fitness and learn basic combat and marksmanship skills. Basic training can be converted into physical education courses.

Advanced Individual Training (AIT) and Technical Training

These are specialized training related to specific Military Occupational Specialties (MOS). Note that these are technical training programs. These are usually convertible into credits for specific college courses and tech-vocational certifications.

Examples include: (AIT = Potential military credit/academic course equivalent)

  • Human Resources Specialist (42A) = Introduction to Human Resources
  • Navy “A” School for Hospital Corpsman = Introduction to Nursing
  • Air Force Technical Training for Cyber Systems Operations (3D0X2) = Introduction to Cybersecurity

Note that there are many possible military training that can be converted into credits. Check out if yours fall into these categories:

  • Advanced combat training
  • Joint training
  • Medical training
  • Language and cultural training
  • Logistics and supply chain training
  • Emergency management and disaster response training

Indeed, you must keep detailed records of your military training for this reason. Your entry into one of the best online colleges for military students may depend on it.

Professional Military Education (PME)

These are professional and leadership development courses for military personnel. Colleges usually accept them for general elective credits, among others.

Testing Programs

The Department of Defense encourages its personnel to take DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST) and the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests. You can earn credits for knowledge and skills gained during your stay in the military. Plus, you can take them at discounted fees.

There are two types of CLEP exams:

  • General exams measure knowledge based on the first two years of college
  • Subject exams are computer-based exams, with each exam usually equivalent to three credits

The DSST program offers 38 subject exams in diverse topics. Physical science, mathematics, and business are a few examples. Every DSST exam takes about two hours, which equals an 8-week college course. You can take a DSST exam for knowledge and skills you already know from military experience.


Enlisted Air Force and Space Force members can earn associate degrees through CCAF. This is an accredited two-year college that offers associate degree programs in:

  • Air and space operations technology
  • Allied health sciences
  • Avionic systems technology
  • Computer science technology
  • Information management
  • Paralegal studies

The associate degree credits earned are transferable to a bachelor’s degree program. This is particularly true for military friendly colleges, such as UMGC and ASU Online.

Benefits of Earning College Credits for Military Experience

If you’re an aspiring military student, it makes sense to enroll in an online military college. You will enjoy many benefits that only an online college for military students can offer.

Flexibility, accessibility, and convenience

Military students face unpredictable deployments and intensive workloads. Their unique challenges can prevent them from attending in-person classes regularly, among others.

Of course, you’re familiar with these unique challenges. You will then appreciate the flexibility, accessibility, and convenience that online learning brings. Online programs allow 24/7 access to learning materials. Asynchronous courses mean self-paced learning. Synchronous courses allow students to attend classes anywhere in the world.

Indeed, military students can earn their degrees regardless of location through online colleges. But there are challenges, too, that come with online learning. Effective time management, study habits, and a support system are keys to success.

Faster degree completion

The more college credits transferred to your account, the faster you can earn your degree. Your difficulties in your rigorous military training are worth it. At this point, you can cash in. 

You can also enter the civilian workforce sooner. If you’re planning to stay in the military, your career advancement opportunities await. 

Significant tuition savings

With military-specific credits to your name, you can skip certain courses. You can, for example, skip general education or elective courses.

Fewer courses taken mean less money spent on tuition and related expenses. You can save as much as 50%, depending on your transfer credits.

Finding the Right Online College for Military Students

Many of the 820,000 military students are in military friendly online schools. You have plenty of choices, from your local colleges to prestigious national universities. But finding the right military-friendly online college for you can be challenging.

First, let’s look at the characteristics of the best online schools for military students. You can compare online colleges by using these characteristics for comparison purposes.

Has valid regional accreditation

Always check the university’s regional accreditation. It’s a guarantee that the university meets academic standards and provides quality instruction. Plus, it’s an assurance that the university accepts government financial student aid.

Offers active-duty and veteran educational benefits

The best military friendly schools online take part in government educational benefits programs. These include the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon program.

Many online colleges also offer institutional aid for military students. Liberty University, for example, offers military tuition discounts.

Provides military-specific accommodations

Military-friendly online colleges recognize the unique challenges military students face. As such, they have many military-specific accommodations accommodations, including:

  • Military support offices with satisfactory student support services. Admission-to-graduation counseling services are common. These include admissions counseling, academic advising, and tutoring specifically tailored for military students.
  • Credits for military experience, as discussed above
  • Course deferment and withdrawal without penalty
  • Extended deadlines for valid reasons

Check out these online universities that award credits for military training:

  • American Military University
  • University of Maryland Global Campus
  • Excelsior College
  • Liberty University
  • Southern New Hampshire University
  • Colorado State University Global Campus
  • University of Arizona Global Campus

Which one is the best for you?

  • Determine your personal and professional goals.
  • Consider your financial status and financial aid needs.
  • Conduct extensive research on the colleges’ accreditation, programs, and transfer credit policies.
  • Determine if these align with your current needs and future goals.

In the end, it’s your decision. Be thorough in your assessments for this reason.

How to Apply for Military Credits

While it’s a straightforward process, applying for military credits takes time and effort. Be sure to give it ample time and thought to get it right.

  • Request a JST if you’re an active-duty or veteran member of the Army, Navy, Marines, or Coast Guard.
  • Request your CCAF transcript if you’re in the Air Force or Space Force.
  • Review your transcripts for missing, inaccurate, or incomplete information. Contact JSF or CCAF for the appropriate corrections.
  • Ask about the military-specific transfer credit policies of the online colleges you’re interested in.
  • Work with your chosen online college to evaluate your military experience for college credits.

Conclusion: Making the Most of Your Military Experience in College

Earning college credits from your military experience results in cost and time savings. You can earn your degree sooner, save more money, and grab opportunities faster. So, if you’re in a position to earn transfer credits, you must grab the opportunity, too.