How education can boost your career

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force enlisted force structure consists of three separate tiers; Junior Enlisted Airman, NCO, and Senior NCO. To move through the tiers, Airmen must meet certain responsibilities which include living the core values, providing effective leadership, and furthering their education.

In fact, education is becoming increasingly necessary for Airmen as they move up through the tiers.

"Education is becoming [an essential part] of your career development to make you a better leader," said retired U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Darryl Gagne, 23d Force Support Squadron education specialist. "In order to be a leader in today's Air Force, you have to have your [education] done to [show] the ones below you that it's important."

"I've been around for 35 years and [leadership] used to always talk about how important education was, but it wasn't mandatory," said Gagne. "They're not playing around anymore and everyone has 100 percent tuition assistance that they need to take advantage of while they're on active duty."

The Information Learning Center has five different school representatives in their building that offer general education categories every semester. The ILC also offers lunch, night and weekend classes that meet on the installation.

For military members, there are many avenues to pursue a higher education, at little-to-no cost, that could boost career opportunities for active duty members or those who plan to separate or retire. 

Tuition assistance covers $250 per semester hour up to $4,500 per fiscal year, but can only be used while the military member is on active duty.

Additionally, the GI Bill extends money for college to military members upon completion of two years of service. The GI Bill can also be used to cover additional costs while members are on active-duty and up to 15 years after separation or retirement.

One veteran has benefited from using tuition assistance and her GI Bill to obtain her Community College of the Air Force degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree and went through various training programs to kick-start her career.

"Education has really opened doors for me," said Lydia Beatty, 23d FSS education and training chief and prior enlisted staff sergeant. "Basically, had I not completed those education requirements, I wouldn't be in the position that I'm in [today]."

Beatty said, she used her benefits to get degrees and training that would make her competitive in her career field. Like many women and men who take the oath of enlistment, education was one benefit that helped her make the decision to join, but the encouragement and support is what helped her finish.

"[When I took classes while I was on active duty] we had less interruption to our studies, no deployments and less TDYs," said Beatty. "[My] supervisors were very supportive of off-duty education."

A lot of educational opportunities are designed to be convenient, to make attending school easier without interfering with the mission.

Senior Airman Anne-Judith Valcin Sluga, 347th Operation Support Squadron aviation resource manager, finished her CCAF while on active duty during her first enlistment.

"Working full time and going to school is challenging and time consuming," said Sluga. "However it is very doable. You just have to be focused, stay disciplined and organized - especially with online classes."

Online classes can keep students out of the classroom and are sometimes offered as accelerated courses to help students earn credits faster.

Sluga pointed out that she took a few CLEPS and DANTES and the credits she earned helped her obtain her CCAF a lot faster than if she would have attended classes.

CLEPs and DANTEs also provide opportunities for Airmen to earn college credits outside the classroom through standardized testing. Both offer exams on introductory college level courses and are from 90 to 120-minutes long.

Even with the time saving CLEPs and DANTES and all the other convenient opportunities the ILC offers, many military members may still worry about how they'll fit school into their lives.

"People usually procrastinate and put off their education," said Gagne.  "It usually takes someone in their chain of command pushing them to pursue their education, and that's all the push they need. Once people get their CCAF degree they say 'hey, that wasn't so bad, I can do this' and that motivates them to continue on."

If pursuing a higher education is your goal, take the steps to accomplish it.

"Talk to an advisor, they will be able to point you into the right direction," added Sluga. "There are a lot of resources and programs out there, use them! With education come great opportunities."

Anyone interested in exploring the options and programs the ILC has to offer should contact a counselor at 229-257-3150.