Get Started: VOLED Process

Each step addresses a specific phase of the overall process. Feel free to start at the step you feel best suits you -- please note that may not be Step 1.

You should identify your ultimate career goal before you do anything else. Some careers require a specific degree while others are better achieved through an apprenticeship or earning a license or certification.

The following will help you plot a career and education path and assess your readiness for college and continuing education.

These online assessment tools can help you plan your path toward achieving a degree, license, certification, or completing an apprenticeship.

Kuder Journey Career Assessment

Kuder Journey provides tools to assess your interests, suggest education and career options, prepare you for the job search, and connect you to today's jobs.

My Next Move for Veterans

My Next Move for Veterans is designed for veterans and for Service members transitioning off of active duty. The site shows tasks, skills, salary information, job listings and more for over 900 different careers.

Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook (DOL-OOH)

The Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook can help you find career related information including job duties, required education and training, median salary, and future outlook for hundreds of occupations.


MilGears is for active duty and transitioning Sailors. Whether you're committed to completing a single enlistment term or plan to retire from the military, everyone gets out eventually. MilGears exists to help you plan in advance for that time by highlighting future possibilities and helping you visualize how to reach those goals.

CareerPath DECIDE

CareerPath DECIDE is designed to assist with identifying potential careers based on your military occupation, education level and prior civilian work experience as you transition from military service.

Academic and Training Programs

It is important to understand the different types of degrees and programs offered at educational institutions, as well as other options for obtaining career credentials and apprenticeships. The information below will help you decide the correct path for you to achieve your education and career goals. Find and research the schools that provide the educational programs that fit your career goals. Be sure to keep track of and compare the program details.

College Degree – Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctorate

  • Associate degrees require between 60-90 undergraduate credits and takes two years of full-time enrollment. Associate degrees focus on general education courses and/or specific core courses leading to a specialized career.
  • Bachelor's degrees require a minimum of 120 undergraduate credits. Bachelor's degrees usually take at least four years of full-time enrollment to complete. Note: A completed associate degree is not required to earn a bachelor's degree.
  • Master's degrees require between 36-48 graduate level credits. Master's degrees usually take an additional two to three years beyond a completed bachelor's program.
  • Doctorate degrees are considered the highest level of academic degree that can be obtained. The most common type of doctorate degree is the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). There are also professional doctorate degrees, such as the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or the Juris Doctor (J.D.). To earn a Ph.D., students usually research, write and defend a dissertation or thesis. It can take four to ten years to earn a doctorate degree depending on the program. Doctorate degrees are not covered by Navy Tuition Assistance.

Certificate and Diploma Programs

In addition to college degrees, some academic institutions also offer certificate, certification preparation and/or diploma programs.

  • An academic certificate program is a set of related academic courses that leads to a certificate of academic achievement in a specific field.
  • Certification preparation programs are specialized training programs that focus on preparation for industry specific certification exams and are offered through a career or vocational school.
  • A diploma program is similar to a certificate program, but is vocational in nature and is usually offered through a community college or a technical school.

Licensure and Certification – Navy COOL

Navy Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) helps Navy Service members find information on certifications and licenses related to their jobs or completed academic degrees/certificates. You can find detailed information on:

  • Credentials related to a Navy rating, collateral-duty/out of rate assignment, designator, or completed academic degree or academic certificate
  • How to get a Navy COOL funded voucher to pay for credential exam and maintenance fees
  • Other key resources such as Advancement Bibliographies (BIBs) and Learning and Development Roadmaps (LaDRs)
We encourage you to pursue programs that prepare you for COOL-funded certification or license examinations.

Apprenticeships – USMAP

The United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP) is a formalized, structured training program that combines on-the-job training (OJT) and related technical and practical instruction that provides active-duty Service members the opportunity to improve their job skills and to complete civilian apprenticeship requirements. A Department of Labor Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship is awarded upon completion of the program. USMAP requires no off-duty hours and there is no cost to the Service member.

Just as serving in the military is an intensive process that tests your abilities in all aspects of your life, pursuing voluntary education can test you too. Are you ready? Free assessments can help you evaluate your readiness for the challenges to come and help you identify deficits you need to work on as you pursue your goals.

EBSCO Learning Express Hub (EBSCO Host)

EBSCO Host is for all active duty members, reservists, and their families. The site offers study guides and practice tests that are designed to prepare you for exams such as the ASVAB, CLEP, DSST, SAT and ACT. The site also contains resources to assist with your search for a post-military career, and provides information on the college search and admissions process.

Online Academic Skills Course (OASC)

Online Academic Skills Course This comprehensive online course helps improve ASVAB/AFCT scores. Subject areas include reading comprehension, math and vocabulary skills.

College Placement Skills Training (CPST)

The College Placement Skills Training is a comprehensive online course that can help improve performance on college placement exams as well as college-level courses. Subject areas include Math, English and writing.

Choosing the right school for your personal goals is important to your success. Always begin with thorough research into the schools and programs you are considering prior to making any commitments.

Navy tuition assistance (TA/NCPACE) will fund up to 120 credits over the lifetime of your career that may include associate, bachelor's or master's level study. One certificate, certification preparation or diploma program may also be funded during your career; however, in order for Navy tuition assistance to fund courses leading to one of these programs, the following criteria must be met:

  1. Academic institution must be a signatory of the Department of Defense Memorandum of Understanding (DoD MOU).
  2. Courses must appear on a college transcript as Clock Hours, Semester Hours, or Quarter Hours.
  3. Program is listed on the  Department of Veterans Affairs website.
Refer to NAVADMIN 219/16, Voluntary Education/Navy College Program Transformation - Sept. 2016 for official guidance regarding certificates or contact the NCVEC to verify if a specific program is eligible for Navy tuition assistance.

Every school has its own application process. Check the school's website for application requirements and deadlines.

Many institutions will not require you to take the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) or American College Testing (ACT) to attend. Due to the possible credits granted from your JST, you will be considered a transfer student.

Entrance exams, such as the SAT or the ACT, may be required if applying for special Navy funded programs (e.g. MECP, STA-21).

For graduate study, many institutions require the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), Graduate Record Examination (GRE), Law School Admission Test (LSAT) or teaching certification (PRAXIS).

You can prepare for placement exams using the Online Academic Skills Course (OASC) or the College Placement Skills Training (CPST).

Once you have applied for admission to the school of your choosing, you will need to request official transcripts from any prior college education and your military training/education. The Joint Services Transcript (JST) is the document that schools require in order to grant you credit for your military education and training. You should contact your previous school Registrar's Office to request an official transcript. You may request an official JST online.

Your school may issue you an official degree plan, which is a list of all the courses that will be required as you pursue your degree as evaluated by the registrar's office. Your official degree plan will reflect credit awarded (if any) by your school from prior education and your JST. You are usually able to access this document through your student account. If you are still waiting for your transcripts to be evaluated, your degree plan will not be considered official. If this is the case, the degree plan will be valid for the first 9 semester hours only. Once you obtain an official, evaluated education plan, upload it and contact the NCVEC or OCONUS NCO for approval. An official, evaluated education plan must contain the following:

  • Name of the institution
  • Degree name
  • Student name
  • Any transfer credits to include college, JST, and testing
  • All courses remaining to complete the degree

Once you receive your degree plan, upload the plan into MyNavy Education. Contact the NCVEC/OCONUS NCO to review the plan and finalize your record, which will give you access to the TA/NCPACE application.

If you change schools or programs, we require that you provide a current degree plan. You must upload the new plan and contact the NCVEC or OCONUS NCO for counseling and approval.

Access MyNavy Education

After you have submitted your application to your school of your choice and completed the other steps above, you can request tuition assistance funding. Read more about what will be required during this step in the next section.

Your Navy College Education Counselor is here to help guide you through the process of selecting a pathway to reach your career goals.

  • Organize all the information and research you collected.

  • Prior to your appointment, complete the TA/NCPACE Policy and Procedures Training (dtd October 2019) and the Navy Virtual Training 101 training in MyNavy Education.

    This training is required once per lifetime/service term. Once completed, the results are recorded in your MyNavy Education record. Retain a copy for your records.

    Click on the TA/NCPACE icon to complete the training.

  • Contact your Educational Services Officer (ESO) about your command's specific requirements.

After you have completed the steps above, it is time to schedule your counseling session.

The Voluntary Education (VOLED) process includes a mandatory counseling session with a trained education counselor. You will discuss your career goals and identify potential education programs. Additionally, your counselor will review your submitted education/degree plan and answer any additional questions you may have. Speaking with a counselor is mandatory to secure TA/NCPACE funding when you are ready to begin school.

To schedule your session, contact the NCVEC or your OCONUS Navy College Office (NCO) at: Contact & Feedback

In this step, review the requirements for participating in the Navy Tuition Assistance (TA) and NCPACE programs.

You will also submit your TA/NCPACE Application via MyNavy Education.

Top-Up Program

Top-Up is a program that allows GI Bill participants to use either their Montgomery GI Bill or their Post 9/11 GI Bill to reimburse them for any remaining tuition expenses for courses that are not fully covered by TA/NCPACE.

This process works differently depending on which version of the GI Bill you are using. Using Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to cover remaining tuition costs will often use your GI Bill benefits at a faster pace than if you were using MGIB Top-Up. You need to research which option is best.

For more information, visit

Navy College Fund

Title 38, United States Code, Chapter 30 allows the services the ability to offer an increase to the MGIB basic allowance at the time of initial entry onto active duty for an individual who has a particular skill or specialty and is entering a rating in which there is a critical shortage. The Navy exercises this option through the Navy College Fund. The amount of money the service adds to the basic MGIB allowance is referred to as a "kicker" and is written into a Service member's contract. Service members who are eligible for the Navy College Fund can still receive this benefit if they convert over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, but the benefit cannot be transferred to dependents.

Federal Financial Aid and Grants

State Financial Aid and Grants

Scholarship Search Engines

For Spouses: My Career Advancement Account

The My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) is a workforce development program that provides up to $4,000 of financial assistance to eligible military spouses (with sponsors E-1 to E-5, O1 to O2, or W-1 to W2) who are pursuing a license, certification or associate degree in a portable career field and occupation.

Once you have applied for Tuition Assistance and any other necessary funding, you are ready to execute your plan and move onto the next phase.

We strongly recommend that you submit and seek command approval of your TA/NCPACE Application at least 30 days in advance via MyNavy Education. However, you may submit a TA/NCPACE application up to 120 days prior to the term start date. Per NAVADMIN 219/16, all TA/NCPACE applications must be submitted and command approved no later than 14 days prior to your term start date. | MyNavy Education

Once we authorize your TA/NCPACE Application, an authorization voucher is generated. Download and forward the authorization voucher to your school for payment. Enroll in your classes at your school during the enrollment period.

Confirm that you have the authorized TA/NCPACE voucher before the start of the term.

In addition to tuition, you will need to cover fees, books and supplies. Navy Tuition Assistance does NOT cover books and materials, school fees (including flight training), nor retakes of the same course. Please check with your school regarding any additional fees or costs. Additionally, TA/NCPACE will not fund your courses if you leave the service before the class ends, if you withdraw from the course for reasons other than personal illness, military transfer or mission requirements, or if you fail the course. In the event one of these situations occurs, you will have to provide reimbursement for any TA/NCPACE funds already paid.

A student loan should be your LAST option.

Keep sight of the "big picture" and track many of the out-of-pocket expenses you may incur during the pursuit of your education. There are hundreds of scholarships and grants that can pay for your education and you do not have to pay them back, starting with the PELL Grant on the FAFSA web site.

The Navy sponsors several education programs you may consider as an alternative for your funding needs. Service members enrolled in many of these programs are not eligible to use tuition assistance at the same time.

Congratulations on taking these first steps toward your career goals! You are ready to begin your educational journey.

If you change your degree program, you must upload your new degree plan under "MyNavy Education Plan" on MyNavy Education. Contact the NCVEC or OCONUS NCO for review and approval.

Additionally, if you add or drop a course, contact your OCONUS NCO or the NCVEC immediately to have your authorization voucher cancelled.

After degree conferral, ensure degree credentials are posted to your Joint Services Transcript (JST) by requesting your academic institution submit an official transcript to the JST Operations Center.

At the first sign of any trouble, contact your OCONUS NCO or the NCVEC as soon as possible. Contact Us

This is an official US Dept. of Navy website
Updated: March 17, 2021
A globally-recognized college admissions test that tests your knowledge of reading, writing and math.
An assessment test consisting of a battery of four academic tests that measure academic development in English, mathematics, reading and science reasoning.
The GMAT is most commonly used as the primary exam reviewed by business schools to gain entrance into an MBA program.
The GRE General Test is a standardized exam used to measure one's aptitude for abstract thinking in the areas of analytical writing, quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning.
The LSAT is an integral part of the law school admission process. It provides a standard measure of acquired key skills including reading comprehension, analytical reasoning and logical reasoning. The LSAT is the only test accepted by all ABA-accredited law schools.
The Praxis Series tests measure teacher candidates' knowledge and skills. The tests are taken by individuals entering the teaching profession as part of the certification process required by many states and professional licensing organizations.