College Credit for Military Experience

Jackson M.

As an active-duty servicemember, Reservist, National Guardsman, or Veteran, you’ve received extensive training during your military service and acquired a wealth of knowledge and skills — in everything from communication and problem-solving to strategic planning and leadership. Today, your military experience can be a big asset as you explore ways to save time and money while you pursue a college degree.

Did you know you may qualify for college credit for military experience? Your military training and experience can be documented and evaluated by your Joint Services Transcript and/or CCAF, which may allow you to apply college credit to your degree program at National University, designated a gold-level Military Friendly School®. Here’s your step-by-step guide on how to navigate the process, beginning with what you need to know about the Joint Services Transcript.

What is the Joint Services Transcript (JST)?

Your college will require an official transcript before it awards college credit for your military experience and training. Issued by the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard, the JST provides this official documentation. Your JST includes your:

  • Military course completions — all courses that have been evaluated by the American Council on Education (ACE), with full descriptions and college credit recommendations.
  • Military occupations — full descriptions, skill levels, and ACE credit recommendations.
  • College-level test scores — college credit for passing scores on tests such as the CLEP, DSST, and DLPT.
  • Other learning experiences — additional completed courses and occupations that have not been evaluated by ACE for college credit.

Here are tips on how to request this transcript, which is accepted by more than 2,300 colleges and universities.

Requesting Transcripts Based on the Branch of Service

Requesting transcripts is simple. For the Army, Navy, Marines, or Coast Guard, submit a request on the JST website. For the Air Force or Space Force, submit a request on the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) website.

Crystal G.

What is the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP)?

The CLEP is a group of 34 exams that cover introductory-level college course material. With a passing score on one CLEP exam, you could earn three or more college credits at 2,900 colleges and universities nationwide, including National University.

Military personnel can take their first exam for each subject for free as well as receive a free examination guide containing the same content and sample questions that appear in the CLEP Study Guide Apps. Administration fees are also waived.

Veterans can use their Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits to cover CLEP exams and administration fees. 

There are more than 2,000 CLEP test centers at colleges and universities, independent testing organizations, military bases, and high schools nationwide. You can also take a CLEP exam at home with remote proctoring with the same timing, content, format, and on-screen experience as the test you would take at a CLEP test center.

Maximizing College Credits: Tips and Strategies

Colleges and universities limit how many credit hours are applied to a degree, so when you research academic options, make sure you find a school that allows you to transfer as many credits as possible and accepts course transfers from your military training.

Now that you know how to earn college credits before enrolling, here are three key tips and strategies for working with your college or university to maximize those credits.

Importance of having transcripts evaluated before enrolling

It’s important to have your transcripts evaluated by staff at your college or university before enrolling because this documentation is used to determine your eligibility for admission, scholarships, or transfer credits. This evaluation is typically part of a university’s admission requirements.

Exploring additional avenues like Professional Learning Reviews (PLRs)

Many colleges and universities evaluate the college-level knowledge and skills an individual has gained outside of the classroom for college credit. These evaluations are often called credit for prior learning (CPL), professional learning reviews (PLRs), or prior learning assessments. To learn more about these evaluations, check out the American Council on Education’s ACE Military Guide.

Utilizing ACE’s Learning Evaluations for Military and Workforce Training Programs

Another way to earn equivalent college credit for your training and work experience as a servicemember is through an ACE military evaluation. There are two types of reviews that are conducted either online or onsite at a training location:

  1. Military course reviews. ​The review team analyzes course materials, identifies learning outcomes, and recommends postsecondary educational credit based on its findings.
  2. Military occupation reviews. Your on-the-job training will be evaluated and validated, and review teams composed of faculty members will recommend postsecondary educational credit where appropriate.

To learn more about the process, visit ACE.

How to Turn Your Military Background into NU College Credit

As a military student applicant, you can receive a pre-enrollment evaluation or credit estimate that lists the amount of college credits you can expect to receive at NU.

A specialized military admissions team reviews JST and CCAF transcripts for all eligible course credits from your military experience. They will calculate the equivalent quarter unit credits from your training history and what courses the credits can be applied to for your preferred degree program.

Keep in mind, a maximum of up to 135 quarter units (90 semester units) may be allowed for military experience and military schools that have been evaluated by ACE. An additional 9 quarter units of correspondence (some version of writing) credit is available to active or Veteran Marine Corps students.  

Students who want to learn more about their eligible credits should connect with a military enrollment advisor at [email protected].

Teddy T. - Class of 2021, Military Veteran

Experiences of Military Personnel

What’s it like to transition to higher education as a servicemember? While in the Marine Corps, Lagarian Smith enrolled in National University, where the financial barrier to earning a college degree came tumbling down. NU is a military-friendly college that accepts the Post-9/11 GI Bill® and Montgomery GI Bill and is a proud participant of the Yellow Ribbon Program that aids eligible military Veterans, active servicemembers, and their families in pursuit of higher education to better their lives.

For LaGarian, 4-week courses available at NU were a big plus. “The Marine Corps moves at the speed of light, and things change on a whim. And I’ve considered myself a fast learner because I have really good time management skills. National University offered the best opportunity to finish college in an expedient manner, with the ability to jump in and out of my education when necessary for deployment.”

After earning a bachelor of science degree in IT project management and a master of science degree in cybersecurity, he quickly climbed the ranks to become a senior enlisted leader of the U.S. Cyber Command, a job he loves.

The Value of Military Experience

Your military experience can be a great asset in the academic world. You’ve already learned a lesson or two about determination, putting your best foot forward, successfully working with others, time management, and knowing when to lead and when to follow. By pursuing a college degree, you can build on your already strong skillset and open a brand-new chapter in your life full of possibilities.

National University is here to help you earn the maximum number of college credits for your military background. To find out how to connect with a military enrollment advisor at [email protected].

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