On this page

Back to top

Top Online Master’s Degrees for Veterans

A master’s degree can be a crucial next step in your career as a military veteran or even to advance rank. Getting your master’s online allows you to fit school around a busy schedule. Explore the top master’s degrees for veterans that build on your existing skills and give you the education to take your career to the next level.

Author: Ron Kness

Editor: Staff Editor

FIND YOUR ONLINE DEGREE…

Search hundreds of schools for the master’s YOU want……

A focused male military officer in camouflage uniform works on a computer, with an american flag hanging on a brick wall in the background.

If you’re currently serving in the U.S. military, getting a master’s degree can be a beneficial addition to your military career and an immediate boost for a post-military career. By pursuing your advanced degree online, not only can you fit school into your schedule, but you can also attend school from anywhere in the world with an internet connection and a computer. When you learn online, your educational journey doesn’t need to stop if you’re deployed.

Several degrees fit seamlessly with the skills you’ve learned in the military. In this guide, we’ll break down some of the best online master’s degrees for veterans that build on your existing skills and that prepare you for new roles and new challenges.

Benefits of an Online Master’s Degree for Veterans

Getting a master’s degree takes time and money, but there are many reasons why it’s beneficial to get an advanced degree.

For one, getting a master’s degree increases your knowledge base and makes you an expert. Having a master’s has other benefits too, including increasing your network of people who can be helpful when you’re looking for a civilian job, increasing your earning potential during and after your military service, and improving your employability post-military. Let’s look at a few benefits of online programs more in depth.

Flexibility

This is cited as the number-one reason military types, both active duty and veterans, decide to get their master’s degree online. Being able to focus on your studies as time permits means you aren’t tied to having to be in class at a set time. With the busy schedule that comes with being a spouse and/or parent and working while still serving or as a veteran in the civilian workplace, getting an advanced degree online just makes the most sense.

Location independence

For active-duty personnel, working on a master’s degree online means you can attend class regardless of your location. Even in the most remote locations where military personnel can be stationed or deployed, Internet access of some type is usually available. Instead of filling time playing video games or streaming Netflix, many military personnel choose to work on their advanced degrees while deployed. As a veteran, attending school from the comfort of your home can be a good fit because of a difference in age, values, or ideological views between yourself and traditional students; persistent medical issues, including PTSD; or simply to avoid a long or expensive commute.

Ability to grow your career

While serving in the military, you learned new skills. Some of the soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, and problem solving, transfer easily to a civilian job. Hard skills may or may not seem to apply. For example, the skills you’ve developed in learning to maintain aircraft electrical systems might help you see that a master’s in engineering is a good next step for you and a career path that you might otherwise never have considered.

Advance in rank

Officers in the military need to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Having a master’s degree opens even more doors to advancement. In today’s military, you’re unlikely to advance past the rank of O3 without a master’s degree or at least progress toward one.

Increased salary potential

Pay in the military is driven by two factors: grade and time in service. Because a master’s degree can lead to promotion, it means a higher annual salary at the time of promotion and in the future as time-in-service pay increases kick in. As a veteran, having a master’s degree helps you garner higher starting salaries in the civilian workforce in whichever career field you choose.

Significant funding to pay for school

Military service qualifies you for educational funding. By serving for at least three years, you then have at least 36 months of GI Bill entitlement you can use toward your education. If you are still serving and anticipate getting a master’s degree in the future, take advantage of any military education or funding like Tuition Assistance or Tuition Top-Up to preserve as much GI Bill entitlement as possible.

Top Master’s Degree Paths for Veterans

No doubt about it, getting accepted into a master’s degree program is difficult. You’ll want to ensure your application is well organized, complete, and accurately reflects your education, training, and experience in the best light.

The completeness and accuracy of your application and the included details largely influence your chances of acceptance. Before starting the application process, it’s crucial to identify the required tests and scores for your desired program. While most schools typically accept the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), it’s worth noting that an increasing number of master’s degree programs have stopped requiring the GRE for admission.

Consequently, applicants can explore and consider programs that don’t require them to submit GRE test scores as part of their application. In addition to test scores, you’ll be required to submit other information, such as undergraduate and military transcripts, letters of recommendation, and essays, just to name a few. Carefully read through what is required so you won’t have any surprises.

In addition to tests scores, you’ll be required to submit other information, such as undergraduate transcripts, military transcripts, letters of recommendation, and essays, just to name a few. Carefully read through what is required so you won’t have any surprises.

One of the requirements before filling out a master’s degree application is to know what field you want to pursue, as this affects the information required on your application. Undecided? Consider these ten degrees that many veterans pursue because the fields fit in well with military service experience:

MBA

If business is your focus, then a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) is a great choice. Most of these programs focus on business strategy. While that’s important, people at this level almost always also supervise other employees. This is where your military leadership and other training comes into play.

  • Military Skills Required

    Working under pressure, leadership, decision making, and accountability.

  • Potential Career Paths

    Financial officer, controller, accounting manager, analyst, or product manager.

  • Program Highlight

    University of Phoenix Master of Business Administration

Management/Leadership

Veterans typically have outstanding leadership, discipline, and teamwork skills, which makes them a perfect fit for a leadership and management master’s degree. This program builds on their existing skills and helps them easily shift into non-military leadership positions in various industries. While an MBA focuses on the administrative side of business, a leadership and management master’s degree focuses more on the people side of things. If you relate well to people and find you can motivate a team, this may be a top option.

  • Military Skills Required

    Team building/leading, coaching/mentoring, motivation, organizing, communication, and project management.

  • Potential Career Paths

    Sales manager, school principal, corporate trainer, or human resources executive.

  • Program Highlight

    Arizona State University Master of Applied Leadership and Management

Public Administration/Policy

For those who like serving others as an extension of their military career a master’s degree in public administration or policy is a great option. This degree opens up many different paths in areas like government, non-profits, and public service. You’ll gain the skills and knowledge to make a real difference and continue making a positive impact in fresh, inspiring ways.

  • Military Skills Required

    Communications, public affairs, planning, and team leadership.

  • Potential Career Paths

    Government or community relations manager, program manager, consultant, city manager, or politician.

  • Program Highlight

    Purdue University Global Master of Public Administration

Education

Many veterans choose careers in education as a way to reach young people. Some get into teaching right away via the Troops to Teachers program but after a few years get their graduate degree and shift to education administration. A master’s degree in education qualifies you for an entry level position in this career track. Some veterans go on to get their doctorate to progress even further in this field.

  • Military Skills Required

    Leadership, training, management, and organization.

  • Potential Career Paths

    Teacher/professor, principal, counselor, or department head.

  • Program Highlight

    Purdue University Global Master of Science in Higher Education

Computer Science/Cybersecurity

The computer science field has two parts: hardware and software. Those in the information technology and hardware side set up computer networks. Those in the computer science and software side set up the programs to make the hardware work. Cybersecurity is a specialized part of this fast-growing technical field.

  • Military Skills Required

    Attention to detail, problem solving, and decision making.

  • Potential Career Paths

    Information security analyst, digital forensics specialist, network administrator, cybersecurity specialist, or ethical (white hat) hacker.

  • Program Highlight

    University of Southern California Online Master of Science in Computer Science (Computer Security)

Health Administration

The healthcare field is booming and expected to keep growing, mainly due to the rising number of older adults who need medical care. If you’re not into working directly with patients, don’t worry – the administration side is a fantastic option. You can still make a difference by managing, shaping policies, and improving processes to ensure everyone gets the best healthcare possible.

  • Military Skills Required

    Communication, team building/leading, organization, and management.

  • Potential Career Paths

    Administrator for a hospital, clinic, doctor’s office, or outpatient facility.

  • Program Highlight

    Western Governors University MBA in Healthcare Management

Social Work

Military vets usually have great empathy, flexibility, and toughness, perfect social worker qualities. They’ve been through many challenging situations, so they can really get what clients are going through. Being a vet gives them a special insight and connection to help fellow veterans and others who need a hand. Most military members who have at least the grade of E-5 have the military skills required for a master in social work (MSW).

  • Military Skills Required

    Coaching, mentoring, leading, and counseling.

  • Potential Career Paths

    Family counseling, mental health services, crisis intervention, resource navigation, or advocacy for a particular group of people, including military and veterans’ families.

  • Program Highlight

    University of Southern California Master of Social Work

Engineering

A Master’s in Engineering takes you to the next level in the engineering field. Having this degree usually leads to a higher-level supervisory position that could be in a production facility, engineering firm, or on the job in the field. Engineering management includes various specialties, including electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering.

  • Military Skills Required

    Communication, team building/leading, attention to detail, and decision making.

  • Potential Career Paths

    Project manager, engineering manager, or production manager.

  • Program Highlight

    Ohio University Online Master of Engineering Management

Criminal Justice

A Master of Science in Criminal Justice opens a lot of doors for a post-military career in law enforcement. This is one of the best fields that a person with military experience can choose. The military trains service members in most positions in the basic skills that are required to hold a post-military career in criminal justice Having a master’s degree in the field allows you to compete for higher-level jobs and at higher starting salaries. Because law enforcement has the feel of the military structure, generally military members and veterans feel comfortable serving in these positions. Plus, because many of these jobs are within the federal government system, military service applies to the tenure for the position.

  • Military Skills Required

    Attention to detail, working under pressure, decision making, and accountability.

  • Potential Career Paths

    Deputy sheriff, detective, police chief, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security, or private executive security.

  • Program Highlight

    University of Cincinnati Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Military History

Military history has two graduate degree options: Master of Arts and Master of Science. In a Master of Arts program, the topics cover more historical pedagogy, geography, anthropology, and research. In the Master of Science program, the topics lean more toward cartography, weaponry, and historical battle strategy.

  • Military Skills Required

    Operational or strategic planning, training, and organizing.

  • Potential Career Paths

    Teacher/professor, museum director, or defense contractor.

  • Program Highlight

    Norwich University Online Master of Arts in Military History

Financing Your Master’s Degree as a Veteran

A master’s degree program can be expensive. Getting this degree can cost as much as twice the amount of what an undergraduate degree costs, and you must pay that bill in about half the time (or less). Fortunately, as a service member or veteran you have access to several financial aid programs available to help pay for your advanced degree. Below are five of the most popular funding options for military members and veterans.

  • Military Tuition Assistance (TA)

    While you must be on active duty to use TA, TA can help preserve GI Bill benefits that you can use later to work on an advanced degree. All military branches have a TA program but each manages its program differently. For example, Army TA covers 100% tuition per year not to exceed:

    • $250 per semester hour
    • $166 per quarter hour
    • $4,000 per fiscal year
  • While the Air Force/Space Force covers:

    • $250 per semester hour
    • $166 per quarter hour
    • $4,500 per fiscal year
  • Tuition Top-Up

    Another educational program for active-duty personnel is a combination of TA and the GI Bill called Tuition Top-Up. For members reaching their TA maximum early in the year who want to take more classes or those whose tuition exceeds the branch’s maximum cost per semester/quarter hour, with Tuition Top-Up a service member can pay the balance from their GI Bill benefits. While this reduces benefits, it does so at a much slower rate since TA is paying most of the tuition bill.

  • Advanced Civil Schooling (ACS)

    This program for Army officers provides them an opportunity to get a fully funded graduate degree. Officers selected for the ACS program attend classes at a civilian university full time until they graduate. Those considered for the program must meet the eligibility requirements. Army Officers incur an additional service obligation at the rate of three days for each day spent in class.

  • GI Bill

    Veterans may qualify for two different GI Bills. Investigate each one carefully to ensure you’re getting maximum benefits.

    The first is the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which can be a financial boon to veterans who want a master’s degree. If you served for at least three years or got out on a service-connected disability after 90 continuous days of service, you’re entitled to benefits for 36 months.

    Under this program, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pays the student’s school directly for tuition and applicable fees. The student gets a monthly housing allowance based on the zip code of the school, and the allowance is paid at the grade of an E-5 with dependents. The student also gets a book stipend up to $1,000 per year.

    For a public school, the VA pays up to 100% of in-state tuition and fees. For a private or foreign school, reimbursements are limited to a maximum of $26,381.37 per year.

    The second is the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), which applies to active duty and selected reserve members (though benefits vary for reservists). With this option, students receive a monthly check sent directly to the student, not to the school. Students aren’t eligible for housing allowances, book stipends, or the Yellow Ribbon Program (detailed below). The 2023 MGIB payment rate is $2,2100 per month for full-time students.

    If you’re taking classes online, in some cases the MGIB is the better deal because the Post-9/11 GI Bill limits the housing allowance for students pursuing a master’s entirely online. Consider all your options before choosing which GI Bill to cash in.

    Check the FAQs below for more information on the two GI Bills.

  • Yellow Ribbon Program (YRP)

    The YRP is a feature of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and must be used in conjunction with that GI Bill. Schools that have a YRP agreement with the VA waive up to 50% of the difference between tuition costs and what the Post-9/11 GI Bill pays. The VA’s part of the agreement is that they will match what the school pays.

    If a school waives the full 50% and the VA matches it, the student is left with zero unpaid costs. However, a school can choose a lesser percentage in their YRP agreement, thus the VA pays less and the student is left with some unpaid costs. Not all schools participate in the YRP and the specifics of each school’s YRP agreement varies.

  • Veterans-Specific Scholarships

    See our guide to the top scholarships for veterans.

  • Frequently Asked Questions

    You may still have questions about how military service and online master’s programs work together. Keep reading to get answers to the most-asked questions when it comes to graduate school for military vets.

    Q: Can I get credit for my military service?

    A: Yes, you can. One of the best ways to get military service credit is to have the Joint Services Transcript (JST) send a copy of your military training and experience to your school. Each school has access to the American Council on Education conversion of military training and experiences to upper- and lower-level credits. While these mainly apply at the undergraduate level, some will transfer to a master’s degree.

    Q: How do school scholarships, Pell Grants, or other institutional aid affect VA educational benefits?

    A: This aid is deducted first from the tuition and then the GI Bill is applied to the remaining amount. Keep in mind that Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits are deducted at the same rate regardless of how much the VA pays in tuition and fees. With the MGIB the aid is applied first and then the student pays the difference with funds from their MGIB, personal funds, or any other funding sources at their disposal.

    Q: What are the eligibility requirements of the YRP?

    A: Because the YRP is a feature of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, using that GI Bill is a must. The holder of the Post-9/11 GI Bill must be at the 100% tier to be eligible for the YRP. Remember, not all schools have YRP agreements with the VA. Schools establish the percentage they choose to waive, how many students can be in the program at any one time, the maximum amount waived per student, and which degree plans and degree levels will be included in their YRP. Dig into the details to make sure you understand the program.

    Q: How much will I get for my monthly housing allowance?

    A: The amount of your monthly housing allowance (MHA) is based on several factors. The primary one is the location of the school, since its zip code is a major factor in determining how much you get paid each month. Once the amount for a specific zip code is calculated, the student gets paid at the E-5 with dependents pay grade regardless of their pay grade when they got out of the military and if they have dependents or not. When looking up how much MHA you will get using the basic allowance for housing calculator, first enter the zip code and then the pay grade of E-5 and use the E-5 Pay Grade with Dependents rate from the results. After that, your Post-9/11 GI Bill percentage tier applies to that rate.

    For example, if you are attending the University of Arizona (zip code 85721) and are at the 100% tier, you would receive $1,674/month. However, if you are at the 70% tier, you would get $1,171.80/month. The amount of MHA is the same regardless of degree level, and grad students get the same amount as undergraduates for the same zip code and tier percentage.

    The other thing that affects MHA is if you are attending on campus or online. Online-only students get 50% of the national MHA average or about $800/month. One way for online students to get the full MHA is to take hybrid classes, which include a mix of online and on-campus learning.

    Q: If I have two GI Bills, can I use both?

    A: Yes, but right now you must use them in a certain order. To get the maximum benefit, first exhaust your MGIB and then switch over to the Post-9/11 GI Bill to get an additional year of benefits. If you do it the other way around, you’ll lose your remaining MGIB entitlement. If you have unused MGIB benefits and switch to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you will only get the same number of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits that you had left under your MGIB.

    Interview with a Veteran

    Anthony Zimmerman

    Over his 35 years in law enforcement, Police Officer Lieutenant (Ret.) Anthony Zimmerman Sr. came up through the ranks starting as a rookie patrol officer, then moving up to Sergeant and ending his career as the Lieutenant of Police. Lt. Zimmerman holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in law enforcement administration. For both degrees he used a combination of the GI Bill and Illinois Military Veterans’ Scholarship Program. Find out how being a veteran helped him in his career in a criminal justice field.

    Q: What drove your decision to pursue a master’s degree?

    A: I wanted to teach part-time at the junior college that I graduated from, but I needed a master’s degree. I also felt it would help me to become a better administrator and qualify me to be in the running for an appointment as police chief, if I chose to apply.

    Q: What decision making went into which school you chose?

    A: Western Illinois University (WIU) had an extension master’s degree program that was in my area and the university was in the top five in the U.S. for their master’s degree program. The police department paid for my books and the GI Bill paid for the rest, plus I had a veteran’s scholarship from the state of Illinois. (Go Leathernecks at WIU!)

    Q: What effect did getting a master’s degree have on your career?

    A: It made me more qualified for promotion. I was at the top of the list for the next step up, but not for the Police Chief list, so I chose to stay in my position. It assisted me in getting to teach at the Police Academy for several years.

    Q: If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

    A: I wouldn’t change a thing. But I do have the following advice: Do your homework. Choose your school carefully. Make sure the accreditation is recognized in the industry where you want to work. And know how much your degree will cost and where the money is coming from to avoid accumulation of a lot of student loan debt.

    Q: How long did it take to get your master’s degree?

    A: It took me three years of working on it part-time.

    Q: Were you prepared for the challenges of getting your master’s degree?

    A: It was harder than I thought. The thesis was very trying, but with my wife’s assistance—a very educated professional in the teaching profession—I made it. In fact, the university had it published and placed it in their research library.