How to Read and Use Military Transcripts

Joining the military provides you with an opportunity for education and training in addition to the real-world experience of serving your country. Not only does that education help you become a better soldier, but once you leave the military, you are already on the path to earning a college degree, as your military experience can be converted into college credits by using the Joint Services Transcript.
two people sitting and reviewing military transcripts

As with any transfer student, colleges will look closely at your military accomplishments to compare them against the requirements of your chosen degree and award credit only where there is equivalent experience. Requesting credit for your military experience can save you time and money and move you toward your goals that much faster. The first step toward receiving that credit is understanding your military transcript.

What is a Joint Services Transcript?

Just as a student who attends a civilian school has a transcript outlining the courses taken, the credit awarded and the grade earned, military service members have a transcript providing documentation of the education, training and job experiences they completed during their enlistment. Designed for civilian colleges and employers, the Joint Services Transcript explains your experience, what you have accomplished and lists your skills in specific areas. The JST is available to all active-duty, reserve and veteran members of the Army, Navy, Marines or Coast Guard; members of the Air Force receive their transcripts via the Community College of the Air Force.

To get a copy of your military transcript, register for an account at the Department of Defense website and follow the instructions. In addition to viewing and printing a transcript for your own records, you can also request for official copies to be sent to the schools of your choice, which will be required for a credit review.

Understanding Your JST

Every school has their own criteria for accepting transfer credits, usually based on how well your completed coursework aligns with those required for your intended degree, your performance in the course, and the age of the credits. There is never a guarantee that all of your credits will transfer, so it’s a good idea to compare your experience to the school’s requirements ahead of time so you’ll have reasonable expectations and be able to plan accordingly.

Here are some tips for understanding the components of your JST so you can have a better idea what to expect.

ACE Recommendations

Most military training and educational courses, as well as occupations, have been reviewed by the American Council on Education. The ACE provides recommendations for the amount of academic credit students should receive in terms of semester hours. Each JST lists these recommendations, as well as the course name, description, dates completed and the level achieved. The JST also provides an ACE course identifier, which allows schools to look up the specific course on the ACE website and review the learning outcomes and methods of instruction for the course. In most cases, these details are compared to the courses required for the degree to determine whether credits should be awarded.

It’s important to note that a single military course may include credit recommendations in multiple areas. For example, the transcript may recommend giving credit in both teaching and public speaking to someone who worked as an instructor, whereas someone who worked in IT might receive a recommendation for credit in leadership as well as computer science. This is one reason that the transfer credits you receive may be different than you expect, as your college may grant credit for your experience even if you never took an official course in that subject. It’s also possible that you won’t receive credit that you expected because the learning outcomes as reported by ACE don’t align with the specific college program.

Test Scores

The JST also includes your test scores from any CLEP or DSST exams you completed, how the scores compare to the ACE recommendations, and the recommended number of credits to be awarded. Again, individual college policies vary, but you may receive credit for some courses based on these results.

Additional Training and Experience

Finally, your JST will include information about training or experience you completed that hasn’t been evaluated by ACE and therefore doesn’t have any associated credit recommendation. This doesn’t mean that you won’t receive credit for this experience, but it is less likely that you will.

Next Steps

When you opt to enroll at a military-friendly school like Columbia Southern University, your JST will be reviewed by an experienced counselor who has an in-depth understanding of military transcripts and will carefully review your experience to make fair and accurate recommendations.

To learn more about how CSU can help you make the most of your military experience and help you reach your goals, visit ColumbiaSouthern.edu/Military.

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