A smarter military makes for a safer nation. The U.S. military encourages intellectual and professional growth by providing tuition assistance programs, points toward promotion when you earn a new degree, and counseling support as you pursue a degree. Active military members, especially officers, can get a master’s degree to help advance within the ranks and provide a selling point when transitioning into a civilian career. The best military-friendly colleges and universities offer significant financial aid options, a robust list of student support services, and resources devoted entirely to helping active military, veterans, and their families.
This guide looks at why an online master’s is a solid choice and explores 10 of the most military-friendly schools with master’s programs. Plus, you’ll learn about tricks for cutting the cost of your graduate degree and the resources at your disposal. Keep reading to see which colleges and universities stand out.
Why an Online Master’s is Military-Friendly
While you’ve received extensive specialized training during your time in the military, a degree helps you enhance your military credentials and boost your career options and earning potential if and when you hang up your stripes. If you plan to stay in the military, a degree can help put you on the path to becoming an officer. Plus, service members often have access to special financial incentives for enrollment.
Online programs offer military students a blend of flexibility and affordability to complete course requirements whenever and wherever is most convenient. These programs rely on self-guided coursework, recorded lectures, and interactive group work to enhance virtual learning—a popular option for military students and working professionals alike.
In addition to the flexibility and accessibility of online programs, the best military-friendly schools provide ample academic and personal support. Plus, top schools help mitigate the financial burden of higher education, offering tuition assistance to military members, veterans, and their families.
Top Military-Friendly Master’s Programs Online
The top military-friendly graduate schools actively support service members, veterans, and their families. These online programs offer flexible and relatively affordable degrees that boost career options and increase earnings potential.
In addition to strong academics, the schools highlighted below provide significant student support through resources such as counseling, health services, and career training. In addition, standout military-friendly graduate programs offer financial assistance to service members, and many offer college credit for past employment and military experience. Keep reading to see which schools stand out.
Arizona State University
Based in the Phoenix area, Arizona State University (ASU) was founded in 1885 and is a popular option for students interested in flexible online programs. For members of the military, ASU offers support through tuition assistance, family program benefits, and access to the Veterans Educational Assistance Program. Consistently ranked among the most military-friendly institutions, ASU offers dozens of online graduate programs.
In addition to various programs and services, ASU is also home to the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, an invaluable resource for on-campus and online military students. This initiative connects military students and their families with support services and career options.
Philadelphia’s Drexel University is home to a large catalog of online degrees. It is consistently recognized as one of the most military-friendly universities. As a participant in the G.I. Bill’s Yellow Ribbon program, Drexel has provided more than $20 million to support military members, veterans, and their families through free tuition. Drexel’s expansive list of master’s programs covers academic areas from behavioral and school psychology to nursing and health professions.
At Drexel, online master’s students with a military background can receive significant tuition reductions—25 percent for most computing and informatics degrees, 25 percent for most online nursing health degrees, and 30 percent for education master’s tracks. Drexel’s online programs never require a campus visit and have 10-week terms and four start dates per year.
Established in 1971, Liberty University is a private evangelical Christian institution and ranks among the most military-friendly online schools. Dedicated to offering extensive support for service members, veterans, and their families, Liberty provides a host of flexible and affordable online graduate degrees.
Liberty is home to more than 300 online master’s programs and provides service members, veterans, and their families access to military-specific degree plans, tuition discounts, and fee waivers. Liberty also offers flexibility and support for deployed personnel.
This Virginia-based institution awards transfer credits for approved military training, education, and professional experience. Liberty University also provides support through the Yellow Ribbon Program, G.I. Bill initiatives, and family-based educational assistance programs.
Penn State World Campus
Penn State World Campus (PSWC) provides academic programming to more than 14,000 students and offers more than 50 online master’s programs. Whether you’re interested in an online MBA or a master’s in homeland security, this military-friendly institution provides service members, veterans, and their families with convenient and flexible programs. PSWC includes tuition assistance, scholarships, and assistance with access to VA education benefits.
Online grad students can utilize the school’s career service, tech support, online tutoring, and a robust online research library. Prospective students work hand-in-glove with PSWC’s military admissions team, which guides them through the admissions process and helps them secure available benefits.
Regent University is a private, Virginia-based, Christian institution that is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Consistently ranked among the most military-friendly colleges, Regent offers a Military Resource Center where military students, veterans, and their families can access information vital to their graduate school experience.
Regent helps military members and their families secure their VA education benefits, offers discounts for military and veterans, and provides financial awards for military service, veterans, and ROTC students. Regent is recognized as a Military Spouse Career Account school and provides a 15 percent tuition discount for military spouses and dependents.
Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) has a long reputation as a military-friendly institution. Established in 1932, SNHU is home to an extensive catalog of online graduate programs from accounting to sports management.
SNHU offers a tuition discount of up to 30 percent for active-duty, National Guard, and spouses of active-duty service members. Online learners also have access to United States Department of Veteran Affairs education benefits, the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program. (Scroll down to learn more about some of these programs.)
Prospective online graduate students must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Whether a student is on active duty or is a veteran, SNHU works with applicants to ensure that they receive all available benefits.
Syracuse University is a prestigious private research institution founded in 1870. As one of the most military-friendly schools, Syracuse offers significant academic, financial, and personal support for military members, veterans, and their families. Home to more than 20 online master’s programs, military graduate students can pursue areas from journalism to cybersecurity.
This elite school’s Office of Veteran and Military Affairs helps students with the admissions process while securing tuition assistance through the Yellow Ribbon Program and other sources. Syracuse also provides specific support for female veterans and career training for transitioning service members, spouses, and veterans.
Thomas Edison State University
Thomas Edison State University (TESU) celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022 and is ranked as one of the most military-friendly schools. TESU offers flexible and affordable graduate programming through 12-week, asynchronous courses. Popular online graduate programs include educational leadership, business administration, accounting, and homeland security. All programs are 100 percent online and don’t require standardized test scores for admission.
TESU offers affordable education through discounted tuition rates, tuition assistance, and established scholarships for service members, veterans, National Guard members, and spouses. Service members also can receive college credit for military training and have access to military-specific counselors who assist in academic advising, career counseling, and personal support.
University of Central Florida
Based in Orlando, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is one of the largest universities in the U.S. and ranks among the most military-friendly. Established in 1963, UCF is home to more than 6,000 online learners and boasts a significant catalog of online degree programs. UCF offers free tuition for members of the Florida National Guard.
The university provides military students with an academic transition plan and offers access to tuition assistance, scholarships, and employment services. Popular online master’s programs include criminal justice, digital forensics, nursing, and education.
University of Maryland-Global Campus
Established in 1947, the University of Maryland-Global Campus (UMGC) is one of the world’s leading providers of online academics. UMGC offers more than 90 academic tracks with popular online master’s programs, including data analytics, cyber security, IT, and business. As one of the top military-friendly schools, UMGC offers college credit for military experience, reduced military tuition rates, and tuition assistance.
UMGC prioritizes military students and connects them with an experienced military advising team. The school’s Veterans Initiatives Office offers a weekly virtual workshop focusing on professional growth and personal enrichment.
Military Tuition Assistance Programs
Initially established in 1944 as a post-World War II benefit, the GI Bill expanded access to higher education for veterans and active-duty service members. The GI Bill has continued to evolve, with the latest addition—the Post-9/11 GI Bill—offering scholastic benefits for those with more than 90 days of active-duty service following September 11, 2001.
In addition to tuition benefits, the GI Bill provides funding for room and board and books. Military members who do not use their GI Bill benefits can transfer them to spouses and dependent children. Since the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, nearly 800,000 veterans and their families have benefited from the program.
GI Bill benefits are typically available for all active-duty service members, those honorably discharged, members of the National Guard or Reserves, and survivors and/or dependent family members.
The Yellow Ribbon Program is part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and offers financial support for military members enrolling in expensive private institutions, graduate programs, out-of-state schools, and fees that the Post-9/11 GI Bill fails to cover.
Those interested in securing support from the Yellow Ribbon Program must meet certain requirements. Conditions may include serving at least 36 months on active duty, receiving the Purple Heart after 9/11, or serving at least 30 days with discharge because of a duty-related disability. Prospective private colleges or universities must participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, be certified institutions of higher learning, and have room for Yellow Ribbon recipients before reaching their cap.
State University Tuition Discounts
State universities typically offer tuition discounts for military service members and veterans. This amount varies by school but can be significant. When investigating prospective graduate programs, be sure to see if schools offer financial assistance.
Schools billed as “military friendly” always offer some form of tuition assistance. Still, some schools are more generous than others. Yellow Ribbon school Drexel University offers a 25 percent discount for tech-based graduate programs and a 50 percent discount for students pursuing a master in fine arts in creative writing.
Public institutions like Kentucky’s Murray State University provide military members and veterans with in-state tuition, regardless of residence. Like other public schools, Athens State University in Alabama offers a military rate that saves students $75 per credit.
In some states, public colleges waive tuition fees for military members, veterans, and their families. Schools in California, Connecticut, Nebraska, and Washington offer tuition waiver programs.
Tuition may have the most significant impact on college costs, but the various fees associated with enrollment can add up quickly. Schools such as Albany State University help military students cut costs by eliminating technology, athletics, activities, and transportation fees. Similarly, Liberty University offers technology fee waivers, saving military students $249 per semester.
While some military members have access to waived tuition, others still face high costs when financing their graduate degrees. These students may rely on scholarships to help cover the cost of their master’s programs.
Scholarships come in varying amounts and with varying requirements—some target specific individuals while others support a broader audience. Additionally, scholarship amounts vary; many military members apply for multiple scholarships to help offset school costs.
Some popular annual scholarships include the Marines Memorial Tribute Scholarship, AMVETS Scholarship, Army Women’s Foundation Legacy Scholarship, and the U.S. Army Enlisted Commissioning Program, which runs through the Army Medical Department.
University Resources for Active Military & Veterans
In addition to offering generous financial support, many military-friendly schools have staff and departments dedicated to helping military students thrive. Regent University offers a Military Resource Center to assist students throughout their master’s program, from admissions to career support. Similarly, the University of Maryland’s Global Campus provides military students with a military advising team.
While it’s common for schools to provide military-specific admissions advising, some schools go even further to support military students and their families. Syracuse University’s Office of Veteran and Military Affairs offers a one-stop-shop for the academic, financial, personal, and career needs of its veteran population.
Whether online or on-campus, the best schools provide extensive student support services. At these military-friendly institutions, students can take advantage of academic counseling, online tutoring, mental health services, groups dedicated to veterans, and other student interest groups.
Accommodations for Military Life
Military life can differ significantly from civilian life, and military students have a unique set of academic, personal, and financial needs. From looming deployments to combat-related mental health issues, military students and their families rely on flexible academics and compassionate student services to make the most of their college experience. The most military-friendly schools offer enhanced accommodations and flexibility to bolster academic success.
Short-Term and Long-Term Deployments
For military service members, the possibility of deployment is part of the job, but academic and administrative support can help in the process. Before their departure, deployed military students should consider various academic and financial details. Suppose most of a student’s coursework is already complete. In that case, top-performing students can ask their professors to post their grade as it currently stands.
Receiving a grade of incomplete is another option and is given at an instructor’s discretion. An incomplete grade allows military students the chance to finish course requirements later. Before being deployed, students should also consult administrators regarding financial aid.
Students serving in the armed forces may face situations when called on active duty or active service that prevents them from attending classes or completing academic requirements. As a result, the most military-friendly schools offer flexible leave policies to ensure students don’t lose money or college credit.
Georgetown University offers clear guidance on its leave policies. If approved, students receive a 100% percent refund and re-enroll later without having to repeat any coursework. Students deciding to re-enroll pay the tuition rate that was applicable when they were originally enrolled.
Credit Transfer Policy
Most military-friendly colleges and universities accept the military experience as college credit. Transfer policies vary among schools and are considered on a case-by-case basis. Military students should share their transcripts from their branch of service with schools they’re considering. To help with awarding credits for military experience, the American Council on Education offers schools recommendations regarding how many credits they should award for military jobs, Army Advanced Individual Training, and Military Occupations Specialty training.