Compare School Options

Most schools have rolling admissions and financial help so you can start your degree in a few weeks!

Since 1944, the U.S. has supported those who served in the Armed Forces with benefits to help pay for post-secondary education. Even as higher education has evolved to include online colleges and programs, these benefits have helped veterans, active-duty service members, and their dependents access necessary education for their post-military careers.To help service members and veterans navigate the online college landscape, reviewed dozens of schools to create this list of the best online colleges for veterans. The evaluation process included evaluating quality control factors like cost, retention and graduation rates, rankings, and specific factors relevant to current and former military members.This article also reviews specifics about military benefits, how to access them, and what careers veterans may want to consider. Dr. Elizabeth Pierce, a graduate military academic advisor and adjunct professor at Southern New Hampshire University, offers insight into the application and enrollment process for veterans and active-duty service members.

What You Should Know About Military Benefits for Veterans

The term “GI Bill” refers to two currently active laws — the original Montgomery GI Bill and the newer Post-9/11 GI Bill. Both bills, along with other government programs, help veterans and current military service members cover the costs of higher education and training.Students can use their GI Bill benefits to help pay for tuition, books, and housing at higher education institutions pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree; tutoring assistance; test fees for certifications and professional licenses; apprenticeships and non-college degree programs; flight training; and more. The amount of money students have depends on the specific benefits bill they’re using and how long they served in the military.

Post 9/11 GI Bill

This bill, which went into effect on August 1, 2009, provides benefits to veterans who served after September 10, 2001.


  • Veterans who served at least 90 aggregate days on active duty after September 10, 2001, and remain on active duty or have been honorably discharged. (Note: Active duty includes active service performed by National Guard members under title 32 U.S.C or section 502(f).)
  • Veterans honorably discharged from active duty for a service-connected disability after serving 30 continuous days after September 10, 2001.
  • Purple Heart recipients awarded during service on or after September 11, 2001, and remain on active duty or have been honorably discharged.

Benefits Breakdown:

  • Eligible students can receive up to 36 months of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, which cover tuition, fees, books, and supplies. Money for housing is available if you attend school more than half-time, but the amount of housing assistance depends on the cost of living in the area where your school is located. These benefits apply to two- and four-year colleges, vocational schools, and apprenticeships.

Montgomery GI Bill

Named for its sponsor, Mississippi Rep. Sonny Montgomery, this 1984 bill was designed to support Vietnam War veterans and has two enrollment options:

Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD)

The MGIB-AD helps veterans who served for at least two years pay for higher education programs, including vocational schools and apprenticeships.


  • In addition to service length, eligibility for the MGIB-AD is determined by factors such as when you entered active duty and your current level of education.

Benefits Breakdown:

  • You can get up to 36 months of benefits through the MGIB-AD. These benefits are paid monthly, and the exact amount depends on factors such as your length of service and the educational program you choose.

Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve


  • Eligibility for the MGIB-SR depends on factors such as the length of your service obligation and your current level of education.

Benefits breakdown:

  • MGIB-SR and MGIB-AD benefits are distributed similarly and can be used to cover the same expenses. But like other Selected Reserve benefits, veterans receive less funding through MGIB-SR than they would through MGIB-AD.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill and the MGIB each provide benefits for 36 months. If you’re eligible for both programs, you can receive benefits for 48 months. However, you can only use one GI Bill program at a time. Veterans who qualify for both programs can use one year of benefits from the MGIB program and the three years of tuition and housing assistance available through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E)

This program helps veterans with a service-connected disability prepare for, obtain, and maintain employment. To be eligible, veterans must have a VA service-connected disability rating of at least 20% with an employment handicap or at least 10% with a serious employment handicap.

The services offered by VR&E include skills training, resume development, and job interview practice. VR&E also partners with federal, state, and private agencies to provide direct job placement.

Yellow Ribbon Program

The Yellow Ribbon Program is available to students at out-of-state, private, foreign, or graduate schools. This program helps students cover gaps in their education funding if their GI Bill benefits fall short. Funds from the Yellow Ribbon Program can cover tuition and fees but not optional expenses, such as room and board, study abroad, and late registration fees.

To be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program, you must qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s maximum benefit and attend a participating Yellow Ribbon Program school.

Tuition Discounts

While it’s not a benefit offered through the VA, tuition discounts for veterans and active service members are common at many colleges and universities. These benefits may also extend to dependents of servicemembers. When researching schools, students should check with their financial aid or military benefits office to determine the tuition discounts available to eligible students.

How to Access Educational Benefits for Military Veterans

The process for utilizing GI Bill benefits will vary slightly by school. Says Pierce, “Most colleges have a military benefits department that can help students with questions regarding their military benefits. Some colleges may even have specialized admissions counselors and academic advisors who only work with military students.” You can also contact the VA directly for more information about using your military benefits.

Generally speaking, the process consists of the following steps:

  1. Select your school and apply for admission. Confirm that the school is approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
  2. Submit the necessary applications to the VA. If you’re using your benefits for the first time, this means submitting a VA 22-1990 form. If you used GI Bill benefits before at a different institution, submit form VA 22-1995 to request a change of program.
  3. Submit a copy of your Certificate of Eligibility, which you’ll receive from the VA once you are approved to use your benefits, to your school.
  4. Submit any additional paperwork and documentation your school requires to confirm your benefits.

Accessing Educational Benefits for Military Dependents and Survivors

If a service member is killed in action, missing in action, or permanently disabled following military service, their dependents, including spouses and children, may be eligible to receive GI benefits.

There are two main GI Bill programs that offer educational assistance to survivors and dependents of veterans, the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship (Fry Scholarship) and the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance (DEA) program.

The Fry Scholarship and DEA program offers financial assistance for individuals enrolled in a college degree, business, technical and vocational programs, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training. Spouses or children seeking these benefits must apply through the VA and can only apply to one of the two programs, even if they qualify for both.

“Working with the VA is the best way to confirm which benefits you qualify for,” Pierce says. She also recommends checking with individual schools to see if they offer any tuition discounts to dependents of veterans or active service members.

Best Online Colleges for Veterans

Best Online Colleges for Veterans

University of Central Florida

University of Florida

Southern New Hampshire University

UMass Amherst

Liberty University

Texas A&M University

Fort Hays State University

Penn State World Campus

Averett University

Daytona State College

Arizona State University

University of Oklahoma

Harvard College

University of Maryland Global Campus

University of Wisconsin at Madison

Columbia University

Oregon State University

University of Northern Iowa

Drexel University

Indiana University Bloomington

Embry - Riddle Aeronautical University - Worldwide

Northern Arizona University

George Washington University

The Citadel

Hampton University

UMass Global

Winona State University

Saint Leo University

University of Arkansas

Villanova University

CSU Global Campus

Webster University

University of Nebraska Omaha

Rutgers University-New Brunswick

University of Missouri

East Carolina University

University of Southern Mississippi

CUNY School of Professional Studies

Ohio State University

Georgetown University

Ball State University

Stanford University

University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

University of Arizona

Canisius College

George Mason University

University of Michigan

Boise State University

The University of Iowa

Indiana Wesleyan University

Discover More Options

How We Rank Schools

This list features some of the best online colleges for veterans in the U.S. All are nonprofit, accredited institutions, either public or private, with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions.

We evaluated each online college based on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, reputation, and student resources. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared our picks to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

How to Avoid Scams Targeting Veterans

While GI Bill benefits were designed to help veterans and active-duty service members, bad actors saw an opportunity to take advantage of the program for their own gain at the cost of students.

For decades, for-profit colleges, which include many trade and vocational schools in the U.S., used deceptive recruiting practices and government loopholes to enroll current and former military members and use their GI Bill benefits as a revenue stream. These institutions failed to deliver quality education and, in some cases, took out student loans without their consent.

While the Department of Education has closed loopholes to protect veterans and servicemembers, students should also know how to protect themselves from predatory schools.

The first step is to confirm that the school you’re considering is approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for GI Bill benefits. Approved schools must adhere to the VA’s Principles of Excellence program. If a school cannot meet the standards in the Principles of Excellence, it’s a red flag that it might not be worth your time or money.

Additionally, students should focus their search on nonprofit institutions, which are required to reinvest all revenue into the institution. By definition, for-profit schools are designed to make money for investors and shareholders, which can mean less investment in students and infrastructure and a greater incentive to engage in unethical recruitment practices.

Another way to confirm that a school is legitimate is its accreditation status. There are two types of accreditation for U.S. colleges, regional and national. Eighty-five percent of colleges are regionally accredited, meaning they meet the highest quality standards in higher education. Employers and other institutions also widely accept degrees from schools with regional accreditation.

Don’t discount your gut instincts either, says Pierce, adding, “If what a school is promising you seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Career Options for Military Veterans

“While military training can provide valuable skills, certain industries or positions may require specialized knowledge or additional qualifications that a degree can offer,” Pierce says.  Students can draw on their military experience and skills they gained when deciding what career they want to pursue and the education they’ll need to get there.

When selecting a career path and major, “I recommend looking at what you would like to do with your degree and reviewing job postings to see what type of degree is required for the employment opportunities you want,” Pierce says. “You can also speak to a school or program representative to learn more about what kind of training the program provides and what students will be prepared to do post-graduation.”

Below are some common career paths for veterans:

Information technology

The increased use of technology in military operations means that many veterans and active service members have experience in cybersecurity, networking, and data management. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) names information security analysts as one of the fastest-growing fields through 2031, with professionals earning a median annual salary of $102,600. For entry-level positions, individuals pursuing an IT career typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or cybersecurity. Those seeking management positions may consider earning a master’s or MBA with an IT concentration.

Logistics/supply chain

One of the key skills many veterans take away from their service is planning and strategizing how to accomplish large- and small-scale tasks. They can turn these skills into a logistics and supply chain management career. According to the BLS, job opportunities for logisticians are expected to increase by 28% by 2031. Logisticians analyze and coordinate a company’s supply chain and earn a median annual salary of $77,030. A degree in supply chain management, either at the bachelor’s or master’s level, can help veterans prepare for careers in this field.


Individuals who serve as medical personnel in the Armed Forces can translate those skills and experiences into a post-service career in healthcare. Overall, employment in healthcare-related fields is expected to grow by 13% from 2021 to 2031, with many possible career paths as practitioners or administrators. Options include nurse practitioners, who earn a median annual salary of $123,780; physician assistants, who make $121,530 per year; or medical and health services managers, who have a median yearly salary of $101,340.


Engineering might be a viable post-service career path if your military experience included installing, maintaining, or building infrastructure. The BLS predicts that overall employment in engineering will grow by 4% through 2031, with roughly 200,900 job openings per year. There are several different types of engineering careers students can pursue based on their unique experiences, interests, and skills. These careers includes electrical engineering, civil engineering, and mechanical engineering.

Read more: Veteran’s Guide to Vocational Schools and Apprenticeship Programs

How to Choose the Online College That’s Right for You

Step 1: Select your area of study

Before you begin researching online colleges and programs, getting clarity on your specific educational and career goals is helpful.

Are you looking to build upon existing skills or pivot to a new field? What type of education credentials do you need for the jobs you want? Is a full degree required, or will a certificate program suffice? Are you prioritizing high salary, flexibility, personal fulfillment, or other factors in your career? Speaking to a career counselor or academic advisor can be helpful if you need help to pinpoint what your goals are.

It’s is also an excellent time to think about your logistical needs for your degree program and set parameters to help narrow your search. Some things to consider include:

Step 2: Research schools and programs

Once you know what you’re looking for in an online degree program, then you can begin researching schools.

Regardless of what specifics you’re looking for in an online college, you should always confirm that any schools you’re considering are accredited. There are two types of accreditation for U.S. colleges, regional and national. Eighty-five percent of colleges are regionally accredited, meaning they meet the highest quality standards in higher education. If you’re considering transferring between institutions or pursuing graduate study, you’re better served by attending a regionally-accredited institution to ensure other schools will accept their credits and degrees.

You can evaluate schools and programs by asking the following questions:

  • Is the school VA-approved, and what GI Bill benefits do they accept?
  • What support services does the school offer veterans or active service members?
  • What other resources are available for online students, including health and wellness support, technical support, and academic assistance?
  • How do online students communicate with each other, faculty, and staff?
  • What is the program curriculum, and does it align with your interests and goals?
  • What kind of in-person learning requirements does the program include, if any?
  • What’s the overall culture of the department and institution like?

You can get answers to these questions by visiting the school’s website or contacting their admissions office. Attending in-person or virtual open houses and information sessions is another valuable way to learn more about an institution. You can also follow schools, programs, and faculty on social media to get a different perspective.

Step 3: Prepare for tests and applications

The specifics of this step will depend on the schools you’re applying to, as each one sets its own admissions requirements, policies, and deadlines. The degree level you’re seeking will also inform what your application needs. If you have questions about applications or requirements, contact the school’s admissions office for more information.

In general, an application consists of the following:

  • Application
  • Official transcripts (high school transcripts for first-time freshmen, college transcripts for transfer and graduate students)
  • Letter(s) of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • Standardized test scores (SAT or ACT for first-time freshmen, GRE or GMAT for graduate students)

Undergraduate students should remember that an increasing number of schools are implementing test-optional or test-blind policies for the SAT and ACT.  Before taking these exams, confirm whether any of the schools to which you’re applying require them.

For graduate students, programs may have additional requirements, such as a specific undergraduate degree or coursework, professional credentials, or a minimum level of work experience.

Step 4: Submit your applications

Every school sets its own application deadlines, so the exact timing of your application will vary. Some schools, particularly online colleges, offer multiple start terms throughout the year, while others only admit new students once or twice yearly. A spreadsheet or calendar reminders can help you keep track of important dates and submission deadlines.

There’s no magic number of schools to apply to. Some students select one or two schools based on specifics like program, cost, or location, while others cast a broader net to improve their chances of admission.

Step 5: Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

As a veteran or active duty service member, you’ll likely use GI Bill benefits to pay for some or all of your online degree program costs.

Students using the Post-9/11 GI Bill can expect the following payment percentages:

A service member must serve an aggregate of: Payment Percentage
At least 36 months 100%
At least 30 continuous days on active duty and discharged due to a service-connected disability 100%
At least 30 months, but less than 36 Months 90%
At least 24 months, but less than 30 Months 80%
At least 18 months, but less than 24 Months 70%
At least 12 months, but less than 18 Months 60%
At least 6 months, but less than 12 Months 50%
At least 90 days, but less than 6 Months 40%


If your GI Bill and other military benefits don’t completely cover the cost of your degree, you’ll have to pursue additional funding sources, including student loans, scholarships, grants, and employer tuition reimbursement.

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine what kind of need-based aid you qualify for. We strongly encourage students to research student loans and repayment options before committing to borrowing money to fund their online degree.

Have Additional Questions?

With so many factors to consider when exploring online degrees, it’s common to have many questions. For expert insight into frequently asked questions about degree programs, paying for college, finishing degrees, and more, please visit’s resources pages.