For students who want to build a career in the military, a military science degree is a good stepping stone toward being part of the Army, Navy, or Air Force. Military science degree programs give students insights into military interests, military base tactics, and history. Aside from topics that focus on the military field, such programs also include courses in both social and physical sciences, including engineering and mathematics.
The diversity of courses included in the study of military science opens up different career paths. While many may end up in military service, military science students can also pursue careers in engineering, psychology, human resources, and healthcare.
This guide provides detailed and up-to-date information to students interested in obtaining a degree in military science. With this information, students can gain a better idea of what to expect from these degrees in terms of career outlook, degree types, college costs, and the best college towns for this type of degree.
Also called a military studies degree, a military science degree is a two- to four-year college program focused on preparing students with the skills and knowledge needed for military service. To arm students with sufficient knowledge for such careers, these degrees typically cover topics such as military history, negotiation, human behavior, and military strategies. In most cases, issues in diplomacy, warfare, and politics are also tackled during the course of study.
These programs also tend to be highly interdisciplinary, with courses on engineering, psychology, and resource management and in-depth study of how these fields apply to military operations. Most of these programs also combine theoretical knowledge with practical skills development in areas such as following leadership trends, safety and risk management, and physical fitness.
Though degree programs in military science and similar fields are not as popular as other fields of study, data from the National Center for Education statistics show a steady increase in enrollment since 2010.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
These degrees often lead to leadership positions in the military. For instance, many military science graduates start their military careers as officers. However, given the interdisciplinary nature of military science degrees, graduates of such programs will also be able to apply their skills to many civilian positions.
These programs often prepare students for various career paths in different industries, including research, teaching, and law enforcement. For instance, the intensive research involved during the course of study also prepares students for jobs as military scientists or engineers.
Military science degrees tend to be more affordable compared to the average cost of college in the US. Tuition fees tend to vary among institutions as well. Depending on the institution, for instance, military science degree tuition costs may range from $8,000 a year to around $15,000 per semester (Best Value Schools, 2021).
Students interested in gaining the skills necessary for military service and leadership can also enroll in the United States service academies. The United States Military Academy, Naval Academy, and Air Force Academy, for instance, cover the full costs of cadets’ studies in exchange for time in enlisted service.
Students looking to get started on a military career also have the option to enroll in ROTC programs in high school or in college. These programs offer scholarships that cover the costs of either room and board or tuition, fees, and books (Moody, 2020). These scholarships cover the costs of studies anywhere from two to four years.
A degree in military science may be worth it to individuals who are interested in protecting the country’s interests and serving in the armed forces. This program ensures that students have the knowledge and practical skills needed to excel in their military careers.
The low costs and interdisciplinary nature of military science degree programs also make these attractive options for students. Enhanced skills in leadership and communication can also prove to be useful for improving job prospects in general. Even if you don’t want to engage in active military combat, a degree in military science can prepare you for various civilian positions in different fields such as teaching, engineering, and research.
Interestingly, whether in the form of a military science degree or otherwise, some degree of military training has been proven to pay off in more ways than lucrative career outcomes. Guo, Sun, et al., emphasized these benefits in the article “The Role of Military Training in Improving Psychological Resilience and Reducing Depression Among College Freshmen,” published in Frontiers in Psychiatry in 2021. Their findings:
Military training was effective in enhancing psychological resilience and decreasing depression. This … adds further support to the previous reviews and meta-analyses showing the significant positive effects of physical fitness through military training on improving resilience and decreasing depression. Through military training, students develop good and healthy lifestyles such as sleeping early and getting up early, eating healthy food, and exercising intensively. These healthy lifestyles all help students maintain physical fitness and wellbeing, which contribute to better resilience and lower depression.
Going by the military science definition, it would make sense for military science graduates to have plenty of career opportunities in the armed forces. However, these programs prepare students for careers not only within the armed forces but also in the private sector. The interdisciplinary studies involved in military science degrees allow students to gain skills in a wide variety of fields, including engineering, technology, history, and even human resources.
Due to the nature of the work of the Armed Forces, the military is expected to maintain a sufficiently large force for protecting the nation’s interests and overcoming threats. As such, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects job prospects to be “very good” for qualified individuals until 2028. This is especially true since the military typically needs to fill positions at various levels as current employees leave these positions (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021).
As previously explained, students, whether male or female, can expect stable employment in the private sector as well. For instance, military science graduates who specialize in military history can find work as archivists or curators. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these jobs have a projected growth rate of 13% (TheBestSchools, 2021).
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
The salary you can earn with a military science degree greatly depends on the career path or industry you choose. With a four-year college degree, for instance, you can earn anywhere from $83,185 to $104,430 five years into military service (Today’s Military, 2021). Benefits for military personnel in active duty also include dental insurance, medical insurance, medical professional pay, and housing allowance.
On the other hand, military science graduates who work in civilian positions can earn a median salary of $48,400 (archivists and curators) to $113,300 (human resources managers).
Individuals can pursue degrees in military science at different levels. Common military science degree types include bachelor’s, associate’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. These degree types typically vary in required credit hours, average time to complete, and courses required for completion.
Average time to complete: 2 years
An associate degree in military science typically requires students to complete 60 credit hours. This course of study allows students to explore military-focused topics while taking core classes in mathematics and English.
Introductory courses in political science, foreign policy, and military history are common in this degree (LearningPath.org, 2021). Students may also take courses in leadership and communications.
An associate’s degree in military science may be the ideal choice for individuals who want to begin their military career as an officer. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, this is the most popular type of degree for this field of study.
Entry-level jobs: human resource professionals, police officers, museum guides
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
Average time to complete: 4 years
This is a formal four-year degree program offered by many institutions in the country. In most cases, it requires 120 credit hours, during which students gain more in-depth knowledge of military organizations and operations. This course of study also places greater importance on the development of leadership and decision-making skills.
Aside from general education requirements, students often take courses on military leadership, peacemaking, war, and diplomacy (Study.com, 2021). In many universities, the degree also requires students to take additional classes for leadership and physical training (The University of Scranton, 2021).
Furthermore, many universities allow students to choose specializations or minors for their bachelor’s degree in military science. Military studies students at Liberty University, for instance, can choose from four specializations: History, International Security, Professional, and Resiliency (Liberty University, 2021).
Entry-level jobs: military analysts, defense and security contractors, second lieutenant, lieutenant colonel
Average time to complete: 2 years
A master’s degree in military science prepares students for higher positions in the military and is ideal for students who want to work in the government (Study.com, 2021b). Aside from typical courses in military studies, these degrees often require students to do more in-depth research and hone their writing skills as well.
Common courses may tackle topics on military strategy and warfare, along with strategic leadership and advanced planning. There may also be a heavier focus on mathematics, engineering, and advanced communication technologies. In most cases, students are also required to turn in a capstone project or thesis before graduation.
Like most master’s degree programs, this military science degree requires students to hold a bachelor’s degree. Many universities and colleges also allow students to pursue this degree online.
Entry-level jobs: Official at the State Department or at the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, embassy staff, civilian contractor
Average time to complete: 5 to 7 years (coursework and dissertation)
A doctoral degree is the most advanced degree type available for the field of military science. Students who want to earn their Ph.D. in the field are required to hold a master’s degree or equivalent degree. A Ph.D. degree in the field typically takes longer to earn because of the intensive coursework and the need to complete a dissertation before graduation.
Courses commonly included in this degree tackle advanced military defense and tactics and may discuss military technology, current international security policies, and global security threats (Free-Apply.com, 2021). These degree programs also tend to be heavily focused on research and leadership development.
Many universities offer doctoral degrees in more specific aspects of military science as well. The American Military University, for instance, offers doctoral degrees in Global Security and Strategic Intelligence (American Military University, 2021).
Entry-level jobs: professor of military science, senior researcher, senior policy advisor
A number of colleges and universities in the US also offer certificate degrees in military science. Wheaton College in Illinois, for instance, offers a Certificate in Military Science, with courses such as ‘Introduction to the Profession of Arms’ and ‘Applied Leadership in Small Unit Operations’ (Wheaton College, 2021). At some universities, students must also participate in a leadership lab to earn a certificate in military science.
Requirements to get into military science degree programs tend to vary from institution to institution. The following sections provide a rough guide on what students can expect when applying to pursue a military science degree.
Proof of Graduation
Institutions of higher learning require students to have proof of graduation to be able to enroll in the degree program of their choice. Typically, this is a student’s high school diploma, but GED transcripts or any equivalent high school completion certificate also work. Higher-level military science degrees also require students to have at least a bachelor’s degree.
Many colleges and universities also have GPA requirements for their military science programs, especially for ROTC programs and scholarships. Applicants to the military science program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, for instance, must have a GPA of at least 2.0 (University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2021).
SAT or ACT Score
Most institutions don’t have SAT or ACT score requirements for students who want to pursue a military science degree, but it wouldn’t hurt to have an ACT score of at least 21, which is considered a good score (Sarikas, 2020).
However, some universities have a minimum SAT or ACT score requirement for ROTC scholarships. An ROTC scholarship from the South Dakota Mines University, for instance, requires applicants to have an ACT score of at least 19 or an SAT score of at least 920.
One thing that sets military science degree programs apart is that many of these programs require applicants to have a certain level of physical fitness. Some programs require applicants to pass physical fitness tests to ensure that students have enough strength and stamina to endure the program.
Physical fitness is important to individuals who want to pursue military studies or military science, especially since students may be required to participate in rigorous physical training programs throughout their course of study.
As noted by Jones and Hauschild in an article titled “Physical Training, Fitness, and Injuries: Lessons Learned From Military Studies,” published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,
“Almost 50% of military service members experience an injury each year and half of those injuries are caused by physical training (PT), exercise, or sports.” Jones and Hauschild are involved in the Injury Prevention Program of the U.S. Army Institute of Public Health.
Other military science degree prerequisites include proof of English proficiency and letters of recommendation.
With the nature of military science or military studies, students would do well to have at least basic knowledge of American history, political science, and international relations. Along with military science degree skills, an affinity for writing and research can also go a long way in pursuing military science.
Though a military science degree isn’t as popular or common as a marketing degree, you’ll still have plenty of schools to choose from if you want to pursue a degree in military science or military studies. Information in the sections below can help you figure out the best higher education institution for studying military science.
Depending on the type of military science degree, specializations and concentrations for this program may include:
There is currently no programmatic accreditation awarded to military science programs. However, it is always a good idea to check whether the institution of your choice has been accredited by legitimate organizations like the US Department of Education.
It is also best to choose a college or university that has been regionally accredited, as this accreditation confirms the qualifications of instructors and the quality of the program’s curriculum. Credits earned from regionally accredited institutions are also more widely accepted (EDSmart, n.d.).
It is also important to check the student-to-teacher ratio of a military science program since this figure indicates the quality of academic support provided to students. Smaller classes, for instance, provide students with more opportunities to participate in class discussions (Henshaw, 2017). Larger classes, on the other hand, are a better fit for students with learning styles that are more independent and less involved.
Students interested in taking up military science often have a variety of financial aid options to choose from. At the University of Dakota, for instance, students can pursue military science under Army ROTC scholarships. Through these scholarships, students can receive $5,000 per semester for room and board or have tuition and fees completely covered. (University of South Dakota, 2021). Stipends for these scholarships tend to vary between institutions.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you in determining whether a military science degree is a good fit for you. The interdisciplinary nature of military science degrees makes these a good choice for individuals who want to expand their military knowledge without limiting their learning in general education. Military science and military studies programs tackle topics, such as military history and strategy while developing students’ skills in leadership and communication.
The broad nature of these degree programs also allows students to take different career paths in the military and the civilian sector. Job outlooks, especially in the military, are also positive due to the nature of employment in the armed forces. This makes a military science degree ideal for students who want to see a good return-on-investment on their college degrees.
For a more interesting read, you may also want to check out our compilation on free college education statistics.