Back to Jobs & Education

Pierce College leads the nation in vocation

Educational opportunities build post-military careers

Pierce College at JBLM is a national leader in helping transitioning service members begin their civilian careers. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

Serving in the Armed Forces provides service members with a measure of experience, a modest paycheck, medical coverage and housing. 

But the largest benefit to be found is the classroom, particularly when a service member begins to consider transitioning from the military into the civilian job market.

"Tuition assistance is an incredible ‘use it or lose it' benefit that goes away when you separate from the service," began Mark Haskins, executive director, Pierce College at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), located in the Stone Education Center.

"Many enlisted service members set a goal of at least obtaining their associate degree," Haskins continued, "and when they get out, many have been able to use their veteran's education benefits to get all the way to their master's degree."

Very recent history bears out Haskins' comments.

Pierce College was recently named Washington's top four-year college for veterans by The Military Times. Its annual "The Best for Vets: Colleges 2020" rankings are a school-by-school assessment of veterans and military students and their rates of academic achievement.

The news outlet ranked Pierce College number 25 in the nation, and the highest-ranking four-year college in the state.

While Pierce College is a public two-year community college, it was included in the four-year college category due to its offering of several new Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) degrees.

"Being named to the Best for Vets list is not optional for Pierce College," Haskins said in a recent press release. "Making the list shows we are meeting the mission in an exemplary way for these students, and many of the things that set us apart in this business are the policies and services we provide ... our bottom line is our students."

Using 2018 fall semester enrollment data, colleges across the nation were invited to fill out a detailed survey of 150 questions which focused on operations involving current and former service members and their families.

Five categories -- university culture, student support, academic policies, academic outcomes and cost/financial aid -- were evaluated.

Pierce College serves more military-affiliated students (including active-duty, separated spouses and dependents) than any other school in Washington state, according to Haskins.

"I want to emphasize that being ‘military friendly' is more than simply having a veterans center or being able to process military education funding sources," Haskins noted. "It's things like offering evening and Saturday classes, fully online programs, and refunds past the published date for service members sent to the field during the term."

While the college offers a large variety of options to make earning a degree more manageable, in focusing on transitioning service members, the college's professional and technical programs have forged strong ties to civilian industries.

For those in their last six months of service, Pierce College is a leader in utilizing the Veterans Industry Education 25 (VIE-25) agreement. 

This arrangement connects transitioning service members with the seven public community and technical colleges within 25 miles of JBLM offering short certificate programs in Washington state's top industries.

In looking forward to a career outside of the military, Haskins offered a few words of advice.

"At Pierce College, our experience and military-focused programs and policies make it possible for many veterans to work and go to school," he said.

"In this economy, it's tempting to forego education in favor of the myriad of readily available jobs," he explained. "However, history has shown that, in many cases, those with some education in the bank are most resilient when the economy takes a turn for the worse."

For more information, visit: or call 253.964.6567.

comments powered by Disqus