Joining the Air Force provides a wealth of educational opportunities. In addition to the training and education provided by the Air Force during service, many options outside of the military become available. After completing an Associate’s degree with the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF), airmen have a vast number of Bachelor’s programs open to them, which can lead to advanced degrees. Officers likewise have the ability to proceed on to a Master’s or even Doctoral program. For both, Tuition Assistance (TA) helps obtain a degree while still serving, while the GI Bill provides maximal benefits when used after separation.
Finding a meaningful program of study is also important when considering options for further Air Force education and training. Universities have started to offer very diverse programs of study in the past decade, allowing students the option of remaining in their current field even after transitioning to the civilian world. This option is open even to those who have served in specialties such as intelligence or counterterrorism. When considering further Air Force education and training, students should keep programs that will allow them to capitalize on their current skills and experience in mind.
While they are extremely valuable, Veteran’s Administration benefits can also be confusing and difficult to navigate. While base education offices are often helpful, finding a school that is used to working with military members and the VA can save a student a lot of time and headaches. Individual schools can also shed light on which benefits package to choose, when multiple options are available, and how to make the best of any given package. Prospective students should begin exploring benefits options at the beginning of their college searches, and should ask college representatives whether they have experience with military students.
When furthering your Air Force education and training, military-friendly schools can also be helpful for other reasons. They are accustomed to student deployments, and are more likely to have policies in place to handle unexpected orders. They are also more likely to be used to an older student population, with students who may work full-time or have families. Meanwhile, military students are very unlikely to encounter any sort of hostility related to their service, and are likely to find a welcoming atmosphere in student discussions. Distance education options are also especially valuable to students who seek to further their Air Force education and training. Taking courses online allows airmen and officers to continue their education despite PCS moves. Although this will not be an option for everyone, some students have even been able to continue coursework while deployed.
Prospective students who are new to online education should not let this deter them. A good online university will make its courses and procedures straightforward, and will be willing to answer questions when asked. Many officers who earned their degrees from brick-and-mortar institutions have found the transition to online education easy. Meanwhile, those who have taken courses through CCAF will already be comfortable with online learning. Prospective students should remember that online courses require students to take more initiative, and that finding the time to study or complete assignments may not be as easy as it sounds. However, the qualities that serve airmen and officers well in the service will also translate well into educational endeavors.
Although finding and completing the right degree or certificate program is no small challenge, the benefits it can add to your Air Force education and training are worth the effort. Further education can mean a promotion, a better position, or a better civilian career upon separation. Therefore, prospective students should seriously consider their educational options.