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Chapter 3:


The majority of the enlisted force have high school diplomas (over 94 percent), as indicated in Table 3.7. In FY 2001, 97 percent of female and 94 percent of male enlisted personnel were high school diploma graduates (Tier 1). These results are very similar to FY 2000. Other trends that continue are that there were fewer people with no credentials in the military than in the civilian labor force (less than 1 percent versus 11 percent), and fewer people with college experience (27 percent versus 56 percent). This latter comparison is misleading because enlisted occupations are generally comparable to civilian occupations that do not require college degrees. Most military members with college degrees are officers (96 percent of officers have undergraduate or advanced degrees). The education levels of the officer corps are discussed in Chapter 4.

Table 3.7. FY 2001 Education of Active Component Enlisted Members, by Service, and Civilian Labor Force 18-44 Years Old (Percent)
Education Level
Marine Corps
Air Force
18- to 44-Year-Old Civilians*
Tier 1: Regular High School Graduate or Higher
Tier 2: GED, Alternative Credentials
Tier 3: No Credentials
College Experience1
(Part of Tier 1)

* Civilian percentages combine Tiers 1 and 2.
1 Air Force data from the Air Force Personnel Center, Interactive Demographic Analysis Section. Due to coding differences, the Air Force reports 15 semester hours of college, whereas the other Services report 2-year college graduates. Military data represent only enlisted members. Officers, who usually have college degrees, are not included. See Chapter 4 for a discussion of officers. Civilian college experience is defined as attendance, full- or part-time, in any 2- or 4-year college or university in a class for which credit may be applied toward a degree.
Also see Appendix Table B-27 (Education by Service and Gender).

The proportion of Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force high school diploma graduate enlisted members changed very little from FY 2000 to FY 2001 (95, 92 and 99 percent, respectively). The Army dropped from 94 percent in FY 2000 to 92 percent in FY 2001. Almost all Air Force members held diplomas (99+ percent). The Navy and Army have the largest proportion without at least a high school diploma (8 percent each). The Air Force had the smallest proportion (three-tenths of one percent).

The Services encourage enlisted members to continue their education while in the military. Many college-level classes and degree programs are offered on military installations around the world. A recent program, Army University Access Online, facilitates enrollment in college-level distance learning courses, assists soldiers in securing course credit for military training, and aids participants in earning degrees. In-service tuition assistance programs pay 75 percent of tuition costs. Members also can use the Montgomery GI Bill to cover the majority of the cost of off-duty college and technical courses. [Footnote 9] The investment in continuing education is a sound one. Enlisted personnel who used tuition assistance had higher promotion rates and stayed in the service longer than those who did not. [Footnote 10]

[Footnote 9]  Department of Defense, Biennial Report to Congress on the Montgomery GI Bill Education Benefits Program (Washington, DC: Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense [Force Management Policy], May 2001); Memorandum from Alphonso Maldon, Jr., Assistant Secretary of Defense (Force Management Policy), Subject: Uniform Tuition Assistance Policy, April 4, 2000. [back to paragraph]

[Footnote 10]   See Boesel, D. and Johnson, K., The DoD Tuition Assistance Program: Participation and Outcomes (Arlington, VA: Defense Manpower Data Center, May 1988). [back to paragraph]


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