The traditional GI Bill education benefits are often thought of as being tied to a four-year brick and mortar university with ample prerequisite classes. While this type of education is appropriate for some people, not all want to subject themselves to this type of experience.
Fortunately, alternative education is offered to those who wish to use their GI Bill for technical and vocational education. Not only does this nontraditional educational experience make a better fit for some folks, but also allows them to make good money right out of the box. The demand is high for these types of careers, and jobs are readily found across the nation.
The Department of Labor cites that skilled workers in the trades have an average salary of around $25 an hour — from electricians who make $25 an hour, pipefitters who make $27, to electronics installers and repairers who pull in on average $28 an hour. That is not bad money, and the work certainly is in demand with many companies looking for workers.
The question is, how does one get trained for these jobs? The answer can be at a technical school, with an apprenticeship, or even doing some on-the-job training at some corporations.
Technical schools are a great way to get into a trade. While you do have to attend traditional classes, the structure involved and being around others with similar interests can be a good thing. Many veterans find day-to-day interaction with peers to be comforting after leaving the military. While you won’t get the same camaraderie as you did in your old unit, you will be able to make acquaintances and expand your contacts in your new world.
As far as the costs involved with getting your education and training in a technical career, the advantages are substantial. In fact, according to the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE):
- Students can attend public community and technical colleges for a fraction of the cost of tuition at other institutions: $3,520, on average, in 2016-2017.
- According to research in Texas, Colorado and Virginia, graduates with technical or applied science associate degrees out-earn bachelor’s degree holders by $2,000 to $11,000.
- 27% of people with less than an associate degree, including licenses and certificates, earn more than the average bachelor’s degree recipient.
As you can see, you may be able to both save money while paying for your education as well as make more than those with a four-year degree!
Apprenticeships also are a very attractive way to get technical training. And guess what? The GI Bill can pay for your apprenticeship, too!
But don’t think that these apprenticeships are a walk in the park. The Department of Labor states that the length of an apprenticeship program can vary depending on the employer, complexity of the occupation, and the type of program. Furthermore, the DOL says that: “Registered apprenticeship programs typically range from one year to six years. During the program, the apprentice receives both structured, on-the-job training (OJT) and job-related education. For each year of the apprenticeship, the apprentice will normally receive 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and a recommended minimum of 144 hours of related classroom instruction”. As you can see, you have to work at it. But again, the rewards are a well-paying career in a stable trade.
You also can find apprenticeships offered by the various trade unions. A great example is the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Oregon who offer a five-year apprenticeship. Those accepted into the program expect “… apprentices are assigned to an electrical contractor for a minimum of 8000 OJT hours; there is no guarantee of 40 hours per week. Apprentices will complete a total of 10 terms of school; classes are currently one day per week at the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center”. Unions offer similar programs for pipefitters, steamfitters, and various other trades.
As you go through your program, you are eligible to use your GI Bill benefits for other expenses. Know that “Veterans in an approved program can use their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit and receive a taxfree housing stipend which is the equivalent of the Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) of an E-5 with dependents. The stipend starts at 100% and decreases by 20% every six months as wages increase.”
This means you will receive 100% of your applicable MHA during the first six months of training. Here are the increments:
80 percent of your applicable MHA during the second six months of training
60 percent of your applicable MHA during the third six months of training
40 percent of your applicable MHA during the fourth six months of training
20 percent of your applicable MHA during the remainder of the training
Post-9/11 GI Bill recipients will also receive up to $83 per month for books and supplies
As you can see, the smart money is on technical and vocational training to pay off in the long run. By starting your education in a technical field, you will save money in the short term. You can also use your GI Bill to pay for expenses and make more money right out of the gate.
And you may even have leftover benefits you can transfer to your dependents! Read comments