Many people join the armed forces as a stepping stone to obtaining a college degree with the help of the G.I. Bill. While this is an excellent way to get the financial assistance you need to pursue your dreams of a higher education, sometimes a Bachelor's Degree isn't enough.

To assist soldiers with long-term academic goals, in 2012 the School of Advanced Military Studies developed a program that combines a professional army education program and a doctoral degree. Located in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the School created the Advanced Strategic Planning and Policy Program, or ASP3, that lets military officers study history, strategic theory and planning. Although there are only 60 officers currently participating in the program, there's plenty of room to grow.


Why should you get a PhD?

In the past, a Bachelor's Degree would give you a competitive edge in the job market once you transition into civilian life. In some cases, even other post-graduate programs like an MBA or a Master's degree won't suffice in the modern job market.

Obtaining a PhD with the ASP3 allows you to not only further your educational pursuits, but it also provides a pathway to development from a field-grade officer to a strategic planner and future senior military leader.

Not only does a doctorate give you a solid educational foundation and support for your future experiences, it also gives you a personal sense of accomplishment. This is especially true for people who enjoy surmounting challenging situations and for those who truly enjoy the learning-teaching process.

A PhD program is also a great route if you're interested in innovating and inventing new concepts, processes and fields of study. 

"The ASP3 program is a promising career path for bright officers."

How do you know if you should get a PhD?

While earning a PhD will certainly help you obtain a higher-paying job, it isn't a path for everyone.

You'll be required to conduct countless hours of research and write a comprehensive thesis. However, if you have the ambition and the commitment, the program is a promising career path for bright officers who want to progress to the next level of leadership and still hold a command position.

Speaking with the U.S. Department of Defense's new teams, Army Col. Oscar Doward Jr., commander of the U.S. Army Central's 2503rd Digital Liaison Detachment, explained his reasoning for pursuing a PhD at the School of Advanced Military Studies.

"Applying for the program was an opportunity for me to earn a [doctorate], a desire I've always had," said Doward. "I also saw it as a great opportunity to have an effect on the strategic policy level."

Currently, Doward is writing his dissertation on "African-American officer development and evolution in the Army during the 20th century, focusing on the period between World War I and the Korean War." 

Although juggling your military and academic responsibilities can be difficult, it opens the door to a number of great opportunities. But by taking a good look at where you want to be in five or six years time you can draft a plan of action that puts you on a route to getting your PhD while you're in the armed forces.