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Build Your Future with Education

Douglas Johnson, Program Manager, Military Training and Evaluations Program, Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES)
Michele Spires, Acting Executive Director, Learning Evaluations, American Council on Education (ACE)


Congratulations, You Did It!   

You successfully completed your active time in service and decided to pursue your education.  Imagine the excitement as you research the different academic opportunities and options available to you.   Whether you are just starting, continuing, or completing your education, it is an important step in your future development both personally and professionally.  

At this point in your career, you have undoubtedly completed numerous military training courses and your “on the job” training experience is at an all-time high.  So how do we get the academic colleges and universities to recognize your accomplishments?   After all, any academic institution should be able to look at your military experience and apply it to meet the degree requirements for your academic area of study.  Piece of cake, right?  In a perfect world, the answer would be yes, but the reality is that it is often difficult to align and apply military training and occupational experience to post-secondary institution requirements.  As academic institutions continue to define future learning environments, it’s now more important than ever to leverage your experience as it relates to your military training and on-the-job learning.  

So what are your goals? Is saving time to degree completion, lowering cost of tuition books and fees, and career planning important to you?  As a veteran, leveraging your prior military experience can be another important tool to help propel you toward your educational success.  


Why is prior learning important to you as a veteran?

Bottom line, prior learning assessment (PLA) or credit for prior learning (CPL) or recognition of learning (RoL) provides you with a head start.  It’s really important to think about how the learning you’ve obtained can support your admissions process, pre-requisite requirements, or be used as transfer credit to meet course equivalents. Let’s also consider these aspects: 

  • Saves time: Fewer courses needed to complete your degree / credential requirements.
  • Reduces costs: Reduced number of courses equal lower expenses for tuition, books, and fees.
  • Helps in career planning: Provides a means for competitive advantage in career programs (advancement, commissioning programs, transition) and in your resume portfolio.
  • Creates competitive options: More than 2,300 colleges and universities accept ACE credit recommendations giving you the chance to find the right institution that fits your needs and goals.


What else might you do? We recommend you take three steps and DEL (Determine, Evaluate, Learn)!

  1. Determine your long and short-term goals.
  2. Evaluate your military transcript and other academic and professional credentials.
  3. Learn transfer of credit protocols at the institution(s) and for the programs you wish to attend.

1 – Determine Your Goals

We have seen firsthand the unpredictability of life unfold right in front of our eyes.  Will we ever go back to normal operations?  Your guess is as good as mine!   However, what we do know is that recent unemployment rates have caused close to 7% of the workforce to seek out more nontraditional methods to either reinvent or refocus their careers. The unemployment numbers do not include those who are trying to reskill or upskill in a way that will lead to a career transition, promotion, or other advancement.


2 – Evaluate Your Military Training 

Did you know that your military transcripts provide documented evidence of your professional military education and training and occupation experiences? When evaluating your prior military learning experiences, you should ask yourself two key questions:  First, am I getting maximum education credit for my prior military experience?  Second, am I wasting time and money by taking courses that may have already gained credit recommendation through ACE?     

It is important that you audit your military transcripts for accuracy and understand the details of this specialized tool. This critical step of auditing supports your research of degree programs, job pathways, certificates, or professional licenses for alignment. It is also an important action in determining potential gaps that you will have to mitigate to meet your goals.  


Your official military transcripts:

  • Provide a description of military schooling and work history in civilian language.
  • Display degrees; apprenticeships via the United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP); and certifications/licensure and tuition assistance courses (past or current) for Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard Joint Service Transcripts.
  • Serve as an advising tool as you work with academic and career counselors.
  • Facilitate the preparation of your resume and explain military work experience to civilian employers.

The Joint Services Transcript (JST)

The JST ( is a document that no service member or veteran should be without. The unified transcript resolved several redundancies and allows all stakeholders (military-affiliated students, academic institutions, government agencies) to concentrate on one transcript that have the same look and feel for the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard. 

 Like standard college transcripts, the document lists all courses and occupations completed by you as a professional military learner. Many of the occupations and training courses have been evaluated by the American Council on Education (ACE) to include descriptions, academic subjects, and the corresponding number of recommended college credits in semester hours. The JST is owned and managed by your respective branch of service. ACE provides quality assurance audits and provides the evaluation data to the services but does not own student records and cannot make changes. ACE credit recommendations are recognized and considered by many regionally accredited colleges and universities throughout the United States. The benefits of JST include an increased return on investment, uniformity and centralization and the alignment of service-specific information. To use your JST: 

To provide crucial support to your JST, you will want to visit the Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Services, also known as the ACE Military Guide ( This go-to tool provides civilianized language, terminology, and outcomes to enhance connections from your formal military training and occupation experiences. This will help you leverage your military transcript and prepare you for selecting the right program for you!

Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) Transcripts

The Air Force continues to utilize the transcript services from (CCAF) ( for their enlisted personnel. ACE does not evaluate any Air Force courses that are directly aligned with CCAF. 

It is important to note that any service member from the USA, USMC, USN, USCG that completed Air Force training may be eligible for CCAF transcript. In exchange, any service member from the USAF that completed training from another service may be eligible for a JST. 


3 – Learn Transferring Credit Protocols 

Acceptance of recommended transfer credit is determined by the receiving institution. When the college or university determines whether and how much credit to apply to your individual record, that credit will then appear on your college/university transcript. Typically, grades are not included with the transfer process, so they are not factored in as part of the grade point average (GPA).

Academic institutions establish their own transfer credit policies and procedures. It is recommended that you immediately identify and locate these policies to help you understand the process and set a plan for making the most of your credit recommendations. When you research these policies, you will want to comprehend the details listed in the institution’s catalog or bulletin. Often, the transfer policies will be general in nature. As you continue to research transfer information, look for more specific requirements for credit being transferred from another accredited academic institution, the military, professional training, or testing. Many institutions also post their transfer policies on the institutional web site. You may want to search for keywords such as transfer credit, military transfer credit, or transfer policies.

There are several factors that affect transfer of military credit, such as institutional policy, alignment with appropriate courses, procedures, requirements, and transfer application deadlines. Here is a quick list to help you facilitate your transfer credit experience:

  • Research and identify an academic institution that meets your individual needs. You may want to select an institution and academic programs that have policies to maximize your nontraditional learning (military credit, CLEP, DSST, etc.). 
  • Learn, understand, and know your academic institution’s policies and procedures regarding transfer of credit. These practices are established by each institution and will vary. 
  • Audit and review your military transcripts periodically (every six months if on active duty) for updates and modifications.
  • Start the transcript and transfer review process early, with your application to the institution. Have all your official transcripts from previous colleges and service branches sent to your new school for evaluation before you start taking any classes. Official copies must be securely transferred electronically or bear the appropriate institutional signatures, seal, and date of issuance. 
  • Speak with your academic adviser. He or she should be able to help you avoid taking classes for which you may receive transfer credit until an official evaluation is completed. Many students waste valuable time and money taking classes that are unnecessary duplications of previous courses, because they signed up before their military and prior college transcripts were completely evaluated.

In preparation for meeting or speaking with your academic adviser, consider these steps:

  • Review your degree plan and identify potential academic courses for transfer. 
  • Consider the level of the credit recommendation and analyze the appropriateness to the degree plan.
  • Identify the comparability of the course in terms of the credit recommendation. For example, how does the content of the institution’s academic course compare to the ACE Military Guide exhibit in terms of the learning outcomes and topics?
  • Take ownership during the transfer process by following up with the transfer, registrar, or admissions department. 
  • Monitor your curriculum plan, transfer approvals, and documentation within formal university systems (degree audit).

By compiling and organizing this information, you will be ready to maximize your college credits, as well as have a better idea of the remaining courses you will need for degree completion. 


How we are helping to improve veteran education success?

DANTES has partnered with ACE to help veterans succeed by gaining maximum credit for prior military training and occupational experiences. We are increasing the number of courses and occupations that are validated for academic credit recommendations to be posted to your JST. In addition, there is significant work in progress to design and implement a modernized ACE Military Guide that is interoperable with colleges and universities. This creates a lighter lift for you because we are making military transfer credit easier for higher education to review, determine and process.  

You are not alone in navigating for next steps. If you need help, stop and ask!  Simply open up your email and contact ACE’s Student Resource Center at  You can also visit the DANTES website to learn more with their upcoming webinars, financial assistance links, and review the resources under Education Programs.

To quote John Dewey, a revered American education scholar from the first half of the twentieth century, “Education is not an affair of telling and being told, but an active and constructive process.” Make your next move to build your future with education!


1 Unemployment rate falls to 6.9 percent in October 2020 : The Economics Daily: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (

2 The Military Guide (

3 Student Resource Center (

4 DANTES - Home Page (

5 DANTES - Education Programs (