Military spouses often find themselves having to pack up the house and move to a new duty location when the military member gets reassigned.
Some of those spouses will be getting ready for a move from one stateside base to another. But some military spouses find themselves getting ready to accompany the military member to an overseas base in Japan, Germany, and sometimes South Korea depending on the military member’s rank and career field.
When relocating to an overseas location, most spouses will be there between two and four years. This is the typical assignment length for many overseas duty locations not considered to be “forward deployed” or an unaccompanied tour.
Two to four years is an ideal length of time for spouses to attend college classes, earn a degree, and move forward in a career. But what education opportunities await military spouses living outside the Continental United States (CONUS)?
The Department of Defense issues contracts to a select number of colleges and institutions. These schools will provide on-base classes, distance learning, or a combination of the two. This allows both military members and family members to study while assigned overseas.
Consider the 2015 press release from the Headquarters, Air Force Pacific Public Affairs office. It notes, “The Defense Department awarded contracts to four colleges and universities to provide in-resident college and graduate programs at overseas military installations across U.S. Pacific Command to include mainland Japan, Okinawa, South Korea and Guam.”
Overseas Spouse Education Opportunities from Certificate Programs to Graduate School
You read that correctly. Graduate-level programs are available at overseas bases. The caveat is that the number of degree programs may be limited compared to what college students are used to from stateside universities.
For example, for those stationed at Misawa Air Base, Japan, The University of Maryland offers nine Associate’s degrees, approximately 20 undergraduate Bachelor’s degrees, and one graduate program. This is a Master of Business Administration degree.
Many of the University of Maryland offerings are practical, career-oriented programs such as English, Homeland Security, Criminal Justice, etc. But there are also foreign language programs, cultural studies, and history classes.
The University of Maryland isn’t the only college offering classes to those assigned to bases in Japan. Troy University adds some fierce competition by offering a Doctorate program as an online-only option for those interested in higher-level college work in International Relations. The number of colleges and courses offered will depend on the military base. Online learning options can expand a student’s capabilities to learn and earn degrees while stationed outside the U.S.A.
Multiple Colleges to Choose from Depending on Location
Misawa Air Base, Japan is only one example. There are college education opportunities at many bases all over the globe. The University of Maryland has a Europe division as well as an Asia division. Troy University is found in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and elsewhere.
Those assigned to European installations such as Geilenkirchen NATO Air Base in Germany will enjoy options that include both of the previously mentioned colleges along with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the University of Phoenix, and several other institutions.
Some Colleges That You May Find at Your Next Overseas Military Base
- University of Maryland College Asia / Europe offers traditional and distance learning courses for certificates, associates, bachelor and master’s degrees. They depend on location, demand, availability of online or in-residence courses at the military base.
- Central Texas College provides vocational-technical associate degrees in applied sciences, plus the Microsoft Certification Program and other options.
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has on-base and distance learning options (depending on demand, availability, etc) for programs such as an Associate of Science degree in Professional Aeronautics, Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics, and a Master of Aeronautical Science. These courses may feature online components or some programs may be exclusively online with no local classroom options.
- University of Oklahoma has offered a Master of Human Relations and a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies focusing on international relations. Current or future offerings may depend on demand, funding, etc.
These colleges may depend on Department of Defense contracts to remain a service provider for the military communities at overseas bases. That said, the University of Maryland and other colleges have been associated with the military for many decades. And these programs are not just for spouses. Any qualified potential student can sign up including military members working on degrees and career advancement.
A Note about The University of Phoenix
The University of Phoenix was, at one time, a common presence on military bases for some time. But controversy surrounded the college and the university did not receive a DoD contract in 2015 like the previously mentioned schools did. A CNN Money report notes that the Federal Trade Commission put the school under investigation in 2015.
However, University of Phoenix may still have obligations to certain military students to complete degree programs. Any military member or spouse that began a degree program with this college and looks to return to school will need to discuss their needs including University of Phoenix transcripts with an academic advisor. Get advice on the best way to proceed with the University of Phoenix credits previously earned.
It’s best to act sooner on this issue rather than later to avoid future problems with access to transcripts, recognition of applicable school credit, transferring etc.
How to Find Colleges at an Overseas Military Base
The first resource to use when trying to find on-campus or distance learning in your location? The Education Office at your military base. Some branches of the military may label their education office the Adult Education Office or Adult Education Center. When doing a Google search for college opportunities at overseas bases, you will encounter search results for base education that is aimed at dependent children and parents.
You can help refine your search and save time by adding “adult education” to your list of search terms and searching for phrases such as “college classes overseas military bases Germany” or other highly-targeted and location specific search tactics.
Distance Learning Options outside the Military System: Pros and Cons
The nature of online education allows military members and spouses the option of simply signing up for an online degree program at the college of their choice. The time zone difference is one advantage that students at overseas military bases have when selecting a program associated with the military base or theater of operations.
Distance learning at overseas military bases will, when administered in the local area, feature classes that meet at “regular” times for that part of the world. There may be programs aimed at those who do shift work depending on location. In general, students will find that the locally-hosted programs that meet in person or require online attendance will meet at typical times of day.
But if you sign up for distance learning or online degree programs that are administered stateside, you will be required to show up when the class meets–on stateside time.
That isn’t a problem for some, but the time delay factor is a serious one for many students. It cannot be taken lightly when choosing a program. That’s one compelling argument for looking at the local degree programs offered at the military base first.
You may decide in the end that the stateside based program is more to your liking. Adjusting to the time differences and the school schedule based on those differences may be more challenging for some than for others.
Another issue is internet connectivity. Depending on the quality of your connection at the overseas location, you may or may not experience technical issues at times with classroom attendance that is half a world away. Know what to expect from your equipment, connections, and connection speeds before you commit to taking classes administered in real-time from a U.S. time zone.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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