Military members can pursue several federal education programs available during their service and following their re-entry into civilian life. The GI Bill® authorizes a complex package of benefits that includes tuition assistance, educational programs for veterans, and vocational employment services.
Active-duty personnel, veterans, reservists, National Guard members, and spouses and dependents can use these benefits to advance their military and civilian careers. Following the enactment of the Post-9/11 GI Bill in 2010 and the drawdown of military personnel from foreign occupations, military personnel and veterans continue to increasingly apply their military benefits.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill makes it easier for students to use their benefits and improves the program’s flexibility. It expands benefits for veterans and dependents, making it possible to attend private and out-of-state institutions. The medical field has a high demand for qualified nurses. Military personnel, veterans, spouses, and civilian students interested in military service can pursue many financial aid options.
This guide covers available programs for military personnel and veterans. We also review military scholarships for nursing students and other available programs for the nursing field.
Financial Aid Programs for Military and Veterans
The Montgomery GI Bill®
The Montgomery GI Bill was the first legislation to provide educational stipends to veterans. The program, available to active duty and selected reserve military members who pay into the program for one year, offers an optional Buy-Up Program to increase benefits. Students directly receive stipends, rather than the institutions.
Recipients secure coverage for 36 months of education in approved on-campus or online degree-granting programs, vocational training, apprenticeships, and programs in entrepreneurship or high tech fields. This bill also covers certain licensing or certification exams.
Veterans who entered active duty after June 30, 1985, with two years of unbroken service and an honorable discharge may apply. Different eligibility applies to active-duty service before 1977 and reservists.
How to Apply
Each candidate must complete the Application for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Educational Benefits online or at a VA service center. The decision to use the Montgomery GI Bill is irrevocable, so veterans should review their options carefully.
Post-9/11 GI Bill
The Post-9/11 GI Bill expands educational benefits for veterans and spouses. Spouses receive access to educational benefits, and veterans can transfer benefits to their dependents. The program pays tuition costs directly to the institution and pays a stipend to veterans for books and housing.
Students receive coverage for 36 months of education in on-campus or online programs, stipends for books and supplies, and monthly housing payments. Vocational, technical, and on-the-job training programs are also covered.
Military personnel with 90 days of active-duty service since Sept. 10, 2001, and veterans with 30 days of active-duty service with an honorable discharge or service-connected disability may apply.
How to Apply
Complete VA Form 22-1990, which is available online, by mail, or at VA service centers to apply. Veterans can request assistance from service officers to review their options and complete the paperwork.
Yellow Ribbon Program
This program, an agreement between the VA and participating institutions to make matching funds available for veterans attending private or out-of-state schools, is part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Students must attend approved degree-granting institutions that agree to a set number of scholarships per year.
This program pays for tuition and fees that are not covered by Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, which generally applies to private and out-of-state tuition costs. Students must meet the same eligibility requirements as the GI Bill.
Only veterans who receive the maximum Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits can apply. Each candidate must attend an approved school. Spouses, dependents, and active-duty military are not eligible, even if benefits transfer.
How to Apply
Participating schools maintain distinct application requirements. Students typically apply with their VA Certificate of Eligibility. Schools promote their participation, and the VA website includes a list of approved programs.
National Call to Service
The Department of Defense encourages national service and attracts top talent to special occupational fields through this incentive program. The program is not part of the GI Bill, and participants do not become eligible for full GI Bill benefits unless they re-enlist. Prospective military nurses can also apply.
Each enrollee receives a $5,000 signing bonus, up to $18,000 in qualified student loan repayment, or a partial allowance under the Montgomery GI Bill.
Military personnel serving in specific occupations for 15 months with an additional unbroken period of active-duty service who completed service obligations in the reserve, AmeriCorps, or active duty may apply.
How to Apply
Interested participants should contact recruiters to see if they qualify and complete VA Form 22-1990N (Application for VA Education Benefits Under the National Call to Service Program).
Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance
This education assistance program benefits the dependents of veterans who have permanent service-connected disabilities, along with dependents of service members who died while on active duty. It provides financial assistance to spouses and dependent survivors to achieve their career goals.
Each recipient gets a monthly stipend of up to $1,265 for educational programs at approved degree-granting institutions, technical schools, or on-the-job training for a maximum of 45 months.
Spouses and dependents of veterans who have total and permanent service-connected disabilities, as well as survivors and dependents of a military member who died because of a disability or while on active duty, or who is missing in action, may apply.
How to Apply
Contact the VA to confirm that your program is eligible and complete VA Form 22-5490, Dependents Application for VA Educational Benefits. Students already enrolled in a program should submit their forms to the school.
ROTC Nursing Programs
Army ROTC Nursing
The Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) is a college elective program offered at over 1,100 schools. Students enrolled in the program complete training through their entire college careers. The curriculum teaches leadership and military skills to prepare students for enlistment as officers. Graduates commit four years of service in the Army.
Its nurse training program offers practical learning experiences and military nursing scholarships for ROTC cadets. Nursing students receive individualized mentoring and job training. The summer training program introduces cadets to the Army Medical Department and the work of army nurse corps officers. Students receive training in clinical skills and problem-solving during the paid three-week clinical experience.
The ROTC program also offers competitive scholarships for nursing students in all four years of undergraduate programs. Scholarships pay full tuition or room and board, a stipend for books, and a $300-$500 living allowance.
ROTC awards scholarships based on current degree standing. Each recipient must be 17-26 years old, meet physical standards, hold a 2.5 high school GPA, have a minimum 1000 SAT score, and agree to serve in the U.S. Army or reserves.
Navy ROTC Nursing
The Navy ROTC nursing program offers an opportunity for students to enlist as commissioned officers in the Navy Nurse Corps while earning bachelor of science in nursing degrees. The program refers to enrollees as midshipmen.
Midshipmen complete courses in naval science, maritime affairs, and leadership. Participants complete weekly drill instruction and training lasting 2-4 weeks during the summer. Upon graduation, nurses must serve at least four years of active duty in the Navy Nurse Corps.
The Navy nursing scholarship awards full tuition and fees, a book stipend, and a monthly living allowance. Awardees receive Navy uniforms and textbooks and must participate in three summer cruises. Navy ROTC nursing students learn technical skills in hospital and clinical settings.
Navy nurses work in the field, on ships, and in hospitals with service members, their families, and civilians around the world. Nurses can specialize in many fields, such as radiology or physical therapy.
Each applicant must attend an approved school and be between 17-27 years old with no criminal record or disqualifying moral obligations. Midshipmen must meet physical standards and medical qualifications.
Military Nursing Corps
Air Force Nursing
The Air Force Nursing Corps provides medical services to airmen and their families in clinical, hospital, and field settings. Many Air Force nurses work on base in state-of-the-art settings, while others work in evacuation units.
As commissioned officers, nurses earn increased pay and benefits for specialized services. The Air Force offers technologically advanced training and career development opportunities that can lead to rewarding careers in military and civilian employment.
Nurses may receive specialized training at the Center for Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills or in Expeditionary Medical Support. Training is also available in epidemiology, neonatal services, and surgery. The Air Force offers fellowships in advanced and executive development, along with critical care and trauma.
Two-year and three-year scholarships are available for Nurse Corps specialties. The Health Professions Scholarship Program pays full tuition and fees for nurses pursuing advanced education at degree-granting institutions. Recipients must commit to one year of active-duty service for each year of funding.
For Air Force Nursing program eligibility, you must be 18-48 years old with a degree and license in nursing. Each nurse must pass a selection process and commissioned officer training prior to joining the Nursing Corps.
Army Nurse Corps
The Army Nurse Corps comprises one of six corps of medical practitioners that serve in the U.S. Army. Nurses provide care for service members, their families, military veterans, and retirees. The Army Nurse Corps offers opportunities for professional growth and continuing education.
Nurses receive respect as commissioned officers who lead teams of healthcare providers. You may work in advanced healthcare settings to develop technical and problem-solving skills.
Nursing students and current practitioners may apply for the Army Nurse Corps. The Nurse Corps offers the option of serving in the Army on active duty or in the reserves. Active-duty nurses receive a comprehensive benefits package including officer pay, housing allowance, and possible sign-on bonuses.
Students can also apply for loan repayment programs of up to $120,000. Nurses serving in the reserves can continue to practice in their communities while taking advantage of increased training opportunities and incentive programs.
Military scholarships for nursing students are also available for graduate degree nursing programs. Scholarships pay for tuition and fees and provide monthly pay.
Navy Nurse Corps
The Navy Nurse Corps provides nursing support for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. Navy nurses, also referred to as hospital corpsmen, can be stationed with a Navy medical facility or deployed to Navy or Fleet Marine Force units. A hospital corpsman learns skills in surgery assistance, emergency medical and dental treatment, and field-based medical care. They also spearhead preventative care and clinical tests.
The Navy offers military nursing scholarships for postgraduate medical education. The Health Professions Scholarship Program covers tuition and a living allowance with a sign-on bonus at graduation. While students complete graduate education, the Health Services Collegiate Program pays $157,000-$269,000, a housing allowance, and additional military pay. The Federal Assistance Program offers more than $275,000 during medical residency, an additional $45,000 yearly grant, and a monthly stipend.
An individual without a current nursing degree interested in joining the Navy Nursing Corps must have a high school diploma and pass all requirements for enlistment in the Navy. The Navy provides training to work your way toward becoming a hospital corpsman. Navy training can also lead to credentials in the medical field as sailors, who receive extensive practical training and one-on-one mentorship.
Nursing Scholarships for Military and Veterans
Health Professions Scholarship Program
Active duty members of the Army can apply if they enroll in qualified medical programs, including specialty nursing bachelor’s degrees.
Amount: Full tuition, plus $2,400 monthly stipend and a $20,000 sign-on bonus; monthly allowances for food and housing; plus the cost of books, equipment, and other fees
Army Nurse Corps Scholarship
Students enrolled in bachelor’s or graduate degrees in nursing or nurse anesthesia may apply for this nursing scholarship for veterans of service members of any Armed Forces branch. Children or spouses of Army members may also apply for this scholarship.
The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship (Fry Scholarship)
This scholarship provides funding for spouses or children of active-duty service members who died in the line of duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001.
Amount: Up to $22,805 per year, plus the cost of housing, books, and supplies
Nurse Candidate Program
This scholarship provides funds to nursing students who serve full-time through the Navy. Interested individuals should contact Navy medical officer recruiters.
Amount: Initial grant of $10,000; additional $1,000 monthly stipend for up to 24 months
Non-Traditional Student Scholarship
This scholarship, designed for adults returning to their studies later in life, provides funding for learners in trade schools, professional programs, and two-year and four-year degree programs. Applicants should be active members of the American Legion, Auxiliary, or Sons of the American Legion.
Amount: $2,000 annually
AMVETS grants several scholarships for veterans, active duty members, and reserves, in addition to their spouses, children, and grandchildren. Scholarships range in value, and students can apply funding to undergraduate degrees.
Amount: $4,000-$12,000 annually
Pat Tillman Foundation
The Pat Tillman Foundation offers merit-based scholarships to service members, veterans, and military spouses to help them begin careers in the public and private sectors. Applicants should be enrolled full time in an undergraduate or graduate degree.
Amount: Varies; the average scholarship award is $10,000
Military Order of the Purple Heart Scholarship
The Military Order of the Purple Heart offers this award to Purple Heart recipients and their direct descendants. Applicants must maintain full-time enrollment in undergraduate programs.
Francis P. Matthews and John E. Swift Educational Trust Scholarships
The Knights of Columbus grants this scholarship to undergraduates enrolled at Catholic colleges. Students can apply if their parent was killed or permanently disabled by hostile action while serving in the armed forces.
Amount: Maximum of $25,000 per year
Sport Clips Help A Hero Scholarship
Service members and veterans can apply for this collaborative award from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Student Veterans of America, and Sport Clips Haircuts. Applicants should hold military ranks of E-5 or below and must demonstrate financial need.
TonaLaw Veterans Scholarship
Sponsored by the law office of Thomas Tona in New York, this scholarship offers funding for students based anywhere in the U.S. Applicants should be Armed Forces veterans.
U.S. Veterans Magazine Scholarships List
Veterans can find a wealth of scholarships in a directory from the U.S. Veterans Magazine. Award amounts and eligibility requirements vary, but veterans and their children and spouses generally qualify for these scholarships.
eLearners Military Scholarship
Each applicant must write a 250-word essay in response to a prompt from eLearners. Individuals can apply if they are military personnel, veterans, or spouses of anyone serving in the military (any branch).
General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant
Organized by the Air Force, this grant offers scholarship funding to spouses and dependent sons and daughters of active duty, retired, and reservist Air Force members. The grant committee considers need-based criteria, including family income and education costs.
Tailhook Educational Foundation
This Navy nursing scholarship supports the children and grandchildren of Naval aviators, Naval flight officers, air crewmen, or any veterans who served on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. Applicants should be high school graduates prepared to enroll in undergraduate programs.
Resources for Active Military and Veterans
Aid for Military Families
The Department of Education's federal student aid program website includes a resource list for military personnel and family members.
Department of Veterans Affairs
The VA website helps students find approved schools and programs, research and apply for benefits, and keep track of benefits-related news. Military spouses and veterans will find resources for nursing scholarships.
Student Veterans of America
This organization advocates for veteran education and benefits, with support centers on many campuses. SVA connects students with scholarships, mentorships, and other resources.
Veterans of Foreign Wars
VFW is a longstanding resource organization for veterans. It also offers community centers and assistance in obtaining benefits.
Disabled American Veterans
DAV assists veterans with obtaining benefits and resources for themselves, family, and caregivers as they transition to civilian life. The organization conducts outreach programs and offers employment resources.
The American Legion
This veterans service organization, the largest in the country, assists veterans with benefits. Its site hosts a resource list of state-specific educational benefits.
*GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the VA. More information about education benefits offered by the VA is available at the official U.S. government website.
Featured Image: carlofranco / E+ / Getty Images