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Tier Status: Conform to the Norm

Military Education Requirements

Updated: October 20, 2014

With the use of the Department of Defense’s three tiered education evaluation system, the education requirements for joining the military can be very confusing and frustrating. Today, an Associated Press article questioned the DoD’s stance on those who receive a high school diploma via an online course. Before we discuss the article, I provided a brief explanation of each of the three tiers;

Tier I

In a nut shell, for a Tier I classification, a classification/credential that removes any education caps and allows for a service minimum ASVAB qualification score, you must have at least 75 percent of the credits earned towards your high school graduation requirements, per academic year, through classroom based (student-teacher environment), instructor-led learning experience. High schools, accredited Home Study, Distance Learning, Independent Study, Self-Study, Correspondence School, Cyber School or Virtual Learning Programs must be evaluated by the service’s educational specialist (use Tier I link below for a detailed explanation for each credential), and Post-Secondary credits (15 semester hours or 22 quarter hours of college credit) earned must be from an accredited degree granting institution listed in the current or applicable American Council on Education (ACE) Accredited Institutions of Post-secondary Education (AIPE) Directory. College credits earned through on-line internet courses from an accredited AIPE institution are acceptable as long as you are also attending classes via classroom instruction.

Use this link for a much more detailed explanation of Tier I credentials.

Tier II

The most common Tier II Credential is the General Education Diploma (GED) (Interestingly, it was the United States military, during World War II, that asked the American Council on Education to develop the GED as a method to measure a person’s academic ability). Many programs could ultimately be classified as either Tier I or II, such as Home School, some Public and Adult schools that do not meet the minimum requirements for Tier I, such as a High School Certificate of Attendance or Special Education; also, successful completion of programs such as the National Guard Youth Challenge and the Seaborne Challenge Corps would qualify as Tier II. Tier II education requires a minimum of a 50 ASVAB QT.

Tier III

A Tier III classification is for those not currently attending high school or alternative education programs and hold no secondary or post-secondary education credential. For the Navy, those classified as Tier III are not enlistment eligible due to a historically high first-term enlistment dropout rate.

Cyber-school students: Pentagon snubs our service, by Susanne M. Schafer of the Associated Press, details some of the issues confronting military applicants that complete an online high school diploma. The reason those cyber-school students are having an issue is because those with a non-traditional diploma cost more.

It comes down to money because its costs $45,000 to replace someone who hasn’t met their full term [and] data collected since 1988 shows only 28 percent of graduates with traditional diplomas leave military service before their first three years in uniform, while those with non-traditional backgrounds have a 39 percent attrition rate, [Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez] said.

Sometimes it may seem as if the education gurus at DoD stay about 20 years behind the real world, but where the academics one participates in is important, it isn’t the main reason the strict education requirements are in place.

Former Marine and Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr., R-Calif., who is the only member of Congress to have served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, said it’s unbelievable that potential recruits are being turned away during wartime.

“Their level of education is often right on par with traditional public school graduates,” said Hunter.

Academically, yes, but the congressman misses the point. It is all about conforming to the norm; the time in the classroom and being able to successfully work amongst your peers.

I know in the Navy, and I am pretty confident the other services, has tried to use other measures for individuals that did not complete a Tier I education. From age to work history and various combinations of those and test scores and years of education, mad-scientist stuff, but no matter what, the results always seemed to point to the same drop rates for traditional vs nontraditional.

Should those who complete an online high school diploma be allowed Tier I status? Because a few in congress have an interest, before that question could be answered, I believe recruiting needs to run a 1-2 year pilot program, much like we did for Home School.

In a time of ever decreasing resources, ensuring those enlisted have the best chance of completing an initial enlistment is the responsible thing to do for the American taxpayer.

30 Responses to “Military Education Requirements”

  1. Fred Miller says:

    Good morning!
    President Obama on Dec. 31, 2011, signed HB1540, the Defense Authorization Act of 2012.
    Contained on page 196 in Sec. 152 of that legislation is a policy change to make all secondary school diplomas, including cyber charter school diplomas, equal “for the purposes of recruitment and enlistment in the Armed Forces…”
    Please revise your information to reflect this long-overdue change.
    Thank you.
    Fred Miller
    Communications Coordinator, Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School

  2. NCCM(ret) says:


    I am aware of the new law, but that notwithstanding, the services still have to implement the new law before I will update the change. The law left a provision for the services to add requirements – see my post of Nov. 23rd.

  3. Jake M says:

    I’m a cyber student who’s been dealing with this whole fiasco for months. Any word on when the change will go into effect? I passed my ASVAB close to a month ago and because I go to cyber school and have a tier 2 status my test has to be “reevaluated” by an education specialist. I’d love to serve my country and make a carreer out of the military but i’m at a stand still, waiting for the word to get my physical and meet a job recruiter to enlist…

  4. NCCM(ret) says:


    I am surprised that we haven’t heard any new guidance yet. When the law was passed, it had a loop hole that would allow the services to place additional requirements – I think it is that loop hole that is extending any movement for online schools to make it to Tier I status. Rumblings I have heard is something will be coming out soon, but I have no idea what the guidance will entail – as soon as I do, I will be posting it.

    My post on the law change.

  5. Eric says:

    My son has attended a private high school for 3 years and plans to enlist in the Navy when he completed his high school education. As he heads into his senior year of high school he is considering switching over to an online school (in his home state of Ohio). From what I’ve read in a separate article, it sounds as though a diploma received through an online school would be considered Tier I as long has he scores a 50 or higher on the AFQT. Also, if he’s considering focusing on an IT related career is there anything in particular he should/can do to get that training in the Navy? Thanks for your time.

  6. NCCM(Ret) says:


    Yes with regards to the online school, but before you do go that route, have the recruiter verify that the particular online program that ya’ll have selected meets the criteria and will be accepted (should be okay – the command’s Educational Specialist will be able to provide a thumbs-up or advise further).

    For IT, he must stay out of trouble, do well on the ASVAB, and hope that it is available when he enlists.

  7. Eric says:

    Great information – thank you!

  8. mila says:

    My son has a GED, he was asked to complete 15 hrs of college of which he did. When he got down to his weight requirement, and was ready to take his ASVAB test he was told that he would have to take 15 more hrs of college, or go to 6 months of job corp. What will stop them from denying him entry if he completes these requirements this time.

  9. NCCM(Ret) says:


    What type of classes are the 15 credits he has earned so far? If they are remedial classes or if they are from a non-accredited institution, they do not count. If he has 15 credits from an accredited college that are not of the remedial kind, then the credits he has should be good enough — he needs to have the recruiter explain why the current credits are not eligible for meeting the Tier I education requirement.

  10. Lisa says:


    I find this Navy education stuff to be hilarious. I graduated from Choices alternative school in Clovis,NM (this school receives the same diploma as any other student who graduates Clovis High) in the state of NJ,they are considering it a GED, while in Clovis individuals are joining all branches of the service from this school on Tier 1 status and they also do not have to score a 50 or better on the ASVAB. So, my question is, shouldn’t it be recognized the same all around? How are they getting away with this kind of stuff?

  11. NCCM(Ret) says:


    Each Navy Recruiting District has their own Educational Specialist, and they make the determination of what a school’s status will be, and if the local EDSPEC made a determination that your credential is not of Tier I status, then that is the ruling. Each service uses the guidance DoD supplies, but each service can also add to requirements, they can never lesson a requirement.

  12. Fred Miller says:

    The Navy is obviously circumventing the intention of the law change, which stated that all high school diplomas are to be have equal status. By requiring cyber or alternative diploma holders to score higher on the ASVAB than traditional diploma holders, the Navy is simply returning these graduates to Tier II status – that of a second-class citizen.

  13. NCCM(Ret) says:


    Actually, that isn’t totally correct. The aggregate number of Tier II status recruits that are allowed to join the military is capped at 10% (some services are less, some more, but the total cannot exceed 10%). With the making those schools a Tier I, that cap has been removed for those applicants. The requiring a 50QT by the services was actually allowed in the wording of the new law, and the services, well, the Navy at least, has chosen to add the additional test score requirement.

    As a point of interest, you will find that during this current recruiting environment, just about everybody is being required to have a 50QT.

  14. Fred Miller says:

    I am communications coordinator for a nonprofit that provides curriculum and management to cyber charter schools. On Dec. 6 2012 I received a call from a father whose son is a senior in the Pennsylvania Leadership Cyber Charter School (not one of my company’s clients). They reside in SW Pa. He said his son wanted to enlist in military service, but a Marine Corps recruiter in Indiana, Pa., informed them that a graduate with a cyber charter school diploma would have to score 50 or better on the ASVAB test to enlist, while a graduate of a traditional high school only has to score 35 or better. He also said he was told that a cyber charter graduate would have to score 65 to be considered for the Air Force, also a higher score than a traditional diploma holder. We traded emails and he provided me with the name of the recruiter. I advised him to contact his Congressman and ask for his help. I have heard nothing further from them.

  15. Alijah says:

    Is it possible to enlist and get a SEAL Challenge Contract with a GED and a high ASVAB score but not get college creds? I don’t necessarily want to take college courses to be Tier 1 if its not necessary, but I’ll do whatever it takes. I get that its all about willing to stick with it, but why endeavor to be a SEAL if I didn’t want to stick with it, right? The GED is just to join as soon as possible(17).

  16. NCCM(Ret) says:


    The SO rating does allow applicants who have obtained a GED; however, enlistment seats have to be available, and you will find that those enlistment seats will take you quite some time to get — if ever. It will take you much longer to get one of those seats than it will for you to go back to school, get your Tier I credential, join the workforce, get married, have kids, watch them grow-up to graduate high school and join the Navy (I jest, but it isn’t far from the truth).

    Because of the state of the economy, applicant who have completed a Tier I credential are joining at such a high rate that the services don’t need people who only have a Tier II (GED, etc.). Those with a Tier II credential have demonstrated that they have a difficult time completing a first term of enlistment, and that is why they are so very limited in the first place.

    Go back to school.

  17. Alijah says:

    Could you explain/reference an explanation of the process that selects Tier II applicants?
    Also, is this still legitimate policy? From what I understand, it says that Tier II becomes Tier I with a 50 on AFQT:

  18. NCCM(Ret) says:


    This page may help explain it better — not all GEDs count as Tier I; very few would, no matter what you score.

  19. Alijah says:

    How does the selection of Tier II recruits work? Is it on a “first come, first serve” basis(pun intended), or do they review the applicants and select the most promising candidates, or what? It might be helpful to have a site reference.

  20. NCCM(Ret) says:


    In my district, I had a list. Each division would have one or two people ready for when/if I had a seat open up. When it happened, I would call the division Chief, and if they could not contact the guy and confirm he could be at MEPS the next day — I went to the next person on the list, and would work down the list till the one seat i would have was filled. To find out how your local NRD may do it, you need to contact your recruiter.

  21. Alijah says:

    Okay, that’s good to know. Thank you for helping me. I personally think it would make more sense to review candidates for the seat to ensure that the person who gets it is likely to complete their enlistment and serve well and such, but it is how it is. Again, thanks. I’ll contact my local recruiter this weekend.

  22. NCCM(Ret) says:


    When I say they had a couple of people ready, that means they had taken the ASVAB, physical and everything else except the swearing in part. All of them were just as capable — we didn’t take the time to process those that we didn’t think would do well. Without the proper education credentials, you will find that you are at least one step behind the person that does have it — no matter how smart you may otherwise be.

  23. Sabrina says:

    Hello NCCM,
    You answered a few questions for me before, but I am in another jam. My husband really wants to join the Navy. He is from another country and we have been gathering everything we need for the recruiter. We sent off for his transcripts, received them, then sent them unopened to the recruiter. He now says that we need them translated, but he didn’t have any recommendations on where to go. I don’t know if he opened them and pray that he didn’t. But my question is where do we get them translated. Also does it have to be transcripts or can it be the actual diploma translated. We are trying to get this done but feel the recruiter isn’t helping us as much as we would like. any suggestions?

  24. NCCM(Ret) says:


    I assume he sent the transcripts to the Educational Specialist and he/she needs them translated before a determination can be made. For languages like Spanish and French, we used to have a person at the district headquarters that could do it (that may not be true for all districts), but for other languages, we recommended that the person check out the local colleges — they tended to have people on staff that could translate. I would offer that suggestion to the recruiter to ensure it is still a good idea, but it should be okay.

  25. Fritz says:

    Hi my son wanna join to ARMY and he legal status by deferent action (DACA)
    And the recruiter gave him a letter to go to USCIS to change the status use the form I 551 become a greencard, sponsor by ARMY, my question he have to choose active or take a military school? Because he like to go to military school first.please help me for this question, thanks

  26. NCCM(Ret) says:


    The military cannot sponsor anyone. He must obtain the proper documentation on his own.

  27. Mary says:

    Checking your website today (8/16/14) I don’t see Job Corps listed anymore as an option. Have the rules changed? Is Job Corps no longer acceptable in lieu of 15 college credits? I have a HSD from a Tier 1 school, and I planned on going to Job Corps to complete 1 trade, while also doing a semester of online college at Columbia Southern University. Would doing these things help me or not matter?

  28. NCCM(Ret) says:


    Job Corps can still be Tier I; Tier I credentials are described on this page, but if you already have a Tier I credential, then maybe you are looking for advancement? Information about how many clock hours you will need for advancement to E-2 and E-3 are on this page.

  29. evelyn says:

    Hello My name is Evelyn I would like to join the Navy I have a GED but I would like to get my High Diploma I didn’t graduate on time I just need 15 credits to get a High School Diploma Iam currently working full time and I was wondering if the Navy accepts a Penn Foster Diploma …I would do my 15 credits online its more convenient with my schedule….

  30. NCCM(Ret) says:


    Your recruiter can make contact with the local Navy education specialist to inquire as to whether the school you would be attending online is infact accredited and can be used for enlistment. I have no way of knowing an individual school’s status.

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A Navy recruiting blog that delves into the military enlistment process and benefits of service. This is NOT an official United States Navy or government web site. The opinions expressed are my own, and may not be in-line with any branches of the government or military.

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