Are you thinking of getting a college degree? With your military training and experience you may already be part way there. The Marine Corps’ Voluntary Education (VOLED) Program provides educational services and programs that offer the Marine Corps community the opportunity to complete undergraduate and graduate degrees via both traditional and online methods through a network of regionally accredited colleges and universities. 

The best way to obtain an undergraduate degree in the Marine Corps is to start with the assistance of the Personal and Professional Development Branch or the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC), using credits from training and Professional Military Education (PME).

Military experience could be worth up to 20 college credits. Most colleges grant four semester hours in physical fitness for recruit training. In fact, most colleges give credit for other service schools attended as long as those courses are longer than two weeks and are not of a classified nature. Some Distance Learning Courses (MarineNet Courses and courses formerly known as MCIs) also are worth college credits. Military Occupational Specialty training also may be worth college credits. Together, those credits could account for half the credits required for an associate degree.

Are you interested in learning more about the Voluntary Education Program? Read answers to some of our most frequently asked questions below to determine if VOLED is right for you.

What do I need in addition to my military credits for an associate degree in general studies?

Most colleges require 60 to 65 credit hours for an associate degree and 120 to 130 credit hours for a bachelor’s degree. In most cases, the following college credit hours or CLEP/DANTES (College-Level Examination Program/Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support) exams must be added to the average Marine’s military experience to complete an associate degree in general studies (those numbers will vary by degree program):

  • Eight semester hours in natural science
  • Six semester hours in English
  • Six semester hours in social science
  • Six semester hours in humanities
  • Three semester hours in math

Where can I find out how many credits I’ve earned through training and education?

All training and education is documented on the Joint Services Transcript (JST), which is available online. That document explains how many and what kind of ACE-recommended credit hours have been earned. Marines can obtain a copy of their JST by visiting the JST website at https://jst.doded.mil/smart/signIn.do. Common Access cards (CAC) are needed to log in.

What can the Personal and Professional Development Branch do to help me obtain a degree?

The Personal and Professional Development Branch of HQMC is responsible for a number of education programs, including the DANTES examination program, the Military Academic Skills Program (MASP), Tuition Assistance (TA), Marine Corps Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL), the Leadership Scholar Program, the United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP) and oversight of the installation education centers.

Installation education centers, in particular, play an integral role in facilitating degree procurement. Their employees provide all of the necessary services to help Marines achieve their education goals. The center’s education services officers help identify the available degree programs that best fit an individual’s background, interests and goals. They also assist with TA applications and help with scheduling and preparing for CLEP/DANTES exams as well as professional certification testing. The installation education centers invite colleges and universities to teach evening and weekend classes on base.

What is the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges Degree Network System (SOC DNS)?

Formally known as the SOC Consortium (SOCNAV, SOCMAR, SOCAD, SOCCOAST), the SOC DNS consists of 155 regionally accredited colleges and universities that offer associate and bachelor’s degree programs to servicemembers, to include distance learning programs at or near base education centers worldwide. Many courses offered by DNS institutions have two-way guaranteed transferability, making it easier for servicemembers to complete associate or bachelor’s degrees no matter where they move during their military careers.

How it works: Marines select a “home college” to grant their degree. Through a Student Agreement, the home college will accept up to 75 percent of the hours required for the degree as transfer credits. For example, the home school allows a transfer of 45 (of the 60 required for an associate degree in general studies) semester hours in prior college work, military experience and CLEP/DANTES. The remaining 15 credit hours must be completed with the home college. The program is extremely flexible because it allows Marines to continue their education through changes in duty station, deployments and transitions to the civilian sector while accepting the maximum amount of transfer credit hours.

For more information on the Voluntary Education Program, click here

This content was adapted from an article originally published in Leatherneck Magazine.