Will the Military Pay For My Master’s Degree?

Although the notion of a college degree has become more important than ever, the cost of higher education has rapidly increased along with it. In addition, a bachelor’s degree no longer carries the same weight in the job market, leading many undergraduate degree holders to consider pursuing a Master’s degree. While it is true that having a graduate degree will often boost a person’s standing among candidates applying for the same job, it also comes with additional expenses. There are several different paths to securing graduate funding, but today we shall take a look at one specifically, namely graduate funding obtained through military service.

Will the Military Pay For My Master’s Degree?

Although the question appears straightforward, there is no simple yes-or-no answer to it. At the same time, the answer is not a simple “no” either and in fact, there are several ways to secure graduate funding through serving in the United States Armed Forces. The paths available to a specific individual will depend on their past-or-future role in the U.S. military, the length of their military service, and even on the specific branch of the armed forces.

Enlisted Personnel

There are several ways of joining the military, but they can usually be narrowed to the applicant’s future position in the service, namely that of an enlisted, or that of an officer. The two groups represent very different worlds of the U.S. Armed Forces, and each comes with its own salary schedule, and unique set of benefits and college stipends.  According the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, enlisted members are offered several financial incentives, including those that can be used towards graduate school tuition. First of all, there is the Montgomery G.I. Bill, which comes with multiple tuition reimbursement packages. For example, individuals with 36 months of service and an honorable discharge, who enroll at public universities and colleges with “resident” status, receive full reimbursement of all tuition and fees. For private universities, the current annual cap is set at $19, 198.31. Additionally, individuals are also eligible to receive a monthly housing allowance that can be used towards room-and-board fees. In addition to the GI Bill, newly-enlisted U.S. Army personnel is also eligible for the Army College Fund that includes numerous work-study programs and other opportunities to lower their graduate tuition costs.

Commissioned Officers

The other part of the U.S. Armed Forces is occupied by commissioned personnel, who all have officer-level ranks. In addition to much higher pay awarded to military officers, the group is also eligible for additional tuition reimbursement options. First, there is the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, a program available at many universities in the United States that trains future U.S. military officers while they attend college. The program covers tuition and room-and-board fees, in exchange for future obligatory military service. The obligatory period can range from a 4-year to an 8-year commitment, based on the received scholarship and the specific branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. For U.S. Army, the rule of thumb is often described as three days of service owed for every day of college that is paid for by the military. Although the ROTC program is mainly used at undergraduate level, it can be extended to graduate school at a price of extended future military commitment.  In addition to the ROTC path, U.S. Army officers wishing to go to law school are eligible for Fully Funded Legal Education Program that covers law school tuition in exchange for future service in the Office of Judge Advocate General (JAG). Finally, the U.S. Army also offers several partially funded programs, such as the Degree Completion Program that can provide graduate college funding for up to 18 months.

Final Remarks

Ultimately, the United States Armed Forces do offer several options for individuals wishing to pursue Master-level degrees. However, both the enlisted as well as the commissioned personnel will be expected to sign a legal contract that requires future military service in exchange for the funds. The specific length of the obligatory service will be dependent on the candidate’s future role in the military and the level of accepted assistance. Nevertheless, individuals hoping to attend graduate school and receive financials assistance in exchange for military service, will find several opportunities available to them.