Marine Corps has set a goal growing the force to 202,000 Marines, which has been going smoothly on the enlisted side, but it is more time consuming to produce Marine officers, and the Corps has been trying to keep pace.

It takes about one year before a Marine officer can finish all their schooling and be assigned to the fleet as a 2nd Lieutenant in charge of a Marine platoon. The Marine Corps puts its officers through intense training to ensure they are ready to lead Marines.

Ground zero for training Marine officers is The Basic School (TBS) at Quantico, VA. TBS normally graduates about 1,600 lieutenants each year; right now they are on target to graduate 2,000 officers, which has not lessened the quality of the training, but has put a lot of stress on the NCOs who train the men and women.

The Corps is expected to reach its new size by looking to take on 2,050 officer candidates in 2009 and 2,108 by 2010. Despite the increased numbers, the goal of TBS is still the same: teach these new Marine officers the basics of weapons, tactics and how to manage small units like platoons and companies.

There are four ways for men and women to become Marine officers: Officer Candidate Course, Platoon Leaders Class, enlisted to officer programs and finally through graduating from the Naval Academy or the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps. A full 64% of Marine officers currently come through the first two options.

The path into the Marine Corps is more direct for enlisted Marines. After graduating from a 12-week basic training known as “boot camp” they can officially call themselves Marines. From there they go to their advanced school to study whatever it is they will do in the Corps: artillery, infantry, intelligence, etc.

Once an enlisted Marine gets settled, he can then further his civilian educational training by using Marine Tuition Assistance (TA), which he can use at any accredited vocational school, community college or university of his choice.

And since many Marines are deployed abroad or are on Naval ships all over the world, they can also using their TA benefit at an accredited online school, so that they can prepare for their civilian career from anywhere in the world. And the best thing about TA is that Marines pay nothing-out-of-pocket – the military pays the schools directly.

Some schools also offer military spouse scholarship to the spouses of active-duty Marines. Some scholarships allow a Marine spouse to enroll in a training program at no cost when the Marine uses TA to enroll at that particular school.

Online schools come in all shapes and sizes, so Marines should make sure that the school is nationally accredited. The Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) is a government-approved accrediting body that many online schools look to.

Students should also look for live student support, so they can call up a school representative when they have questions about their course or program. Many online schools also work with service members on a consistent basis and can be very helpful with TA paperwork.

Jake Kim is a editor of Education4Military.com offers military education in real estate, professional, medical and business programs. Allied schools also offers 100% military tuition assistance for active-duty military and scholarships for military spouses.

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