Sailors need to be experts at their jobs instead of focusing on college degrees. College experience is a good way to get ahead of the competition, but should a degree that has nothing to do with a billet or rating career path hold so much weight in promotion? As a former Navy E-4 without a bachelor’s degree, I often found I had more relevant knowledge and focus than many of my peers who had gotten ahead by having a degree that had no relation to their jobs. For example, a major in art or psychology gets four extra points toward promotion even if the sailor’s job does not use those skills. Those random college degree points can be the difference in a sailor getting promoted or being chosen for an early promotion over another sailor with more practical knowledge and experience. The Navy should weigh promotions more heavily toward practical knowledge and skills, not toward degrees that have no relation to the job at hand.
Advanced degrees can be useful and should be rewarded—when relevant. While college degrees can have some intangible benefits to sailors, such as developing leadership and writing skills and studying habits, the Navy should focus on practical considerations. Points given toward promotion based on advanced degrees should go to sailors who have or are in the process of getting degrees that would help with specific jobs—for example, sailors in the aviation maintenance rate with a computer science or engineering degree. This would help sailors who want to stay in the military get promoted and increase their options in the civilian job market after retirement or separation, as they would have a degree that backs up their specific military experience. Overall, rewarding specific, relevant degrees would increase leadership opportunities for sailors and allow for greater knowledge in the field of specialty.
It is unfair that a sailor who joins the Navy right after high school and one who joins after four years of college are viewed differently. The sailor with a college degree is automatically seen as more knowledgeable and thus more fit for a leadership position. Age and college courses that have nothing to do with a sailor’s rating should not put one sailor over the other. After A School, it should be a level playing field. Unless one sailor has a degree that contributes to his or her rating, both have the same experience through bootcamp and A School and go through the same learning curve. Neither should be given an advantage if they have the same level of expertise.
Focusing on the pursuit of relevant skills and knowledge instead of random college degrees in promotions will lead to a more professional Navy and sailors who are more career focused during their service. Even after retirement or separation, these sailors would better represent the Navy and how it molds sailors into professional men and women.
Furthermore, having leaders who are professional and have extensive knowledge about their jobs is key to developing a successful work center. If you were in a section and your leaders were less knowledgeable about your specific profession than you were, would you trust them? Without trust in their leaders, sections ultimately will fail. The Navy can help prevent this by emphasizing practical skills. But, if a sailor has 15 college credits before joining, or even a degree that will help him or her in a specific rating, then he or she should be able to go to bootcamp as an E-3.
The only way a sailor should get points on an advancement exam is if he or she has a degree or college credits that helps in their rating. This will encourage sailors who want to stay in the Navy to get a degree in their specific job field and make them more knowledgeable and well-rounded leaders in the future. Getting a job-specific degree would also help undesignated sailors strike for a desirable rating when joining. Commissioning programs should have the same expectation. A degree in business or computer science, or another that helps with leading people in the field, should be encouraged. These changes would contribute to a more knowledgeable and driven military.