What is MyCAA?
This post will help you understand a military spouse education benefit if your spouse is active duty or a reservist in the United States Military. This benefit is called My Career Advancement Account or MyCAA for short.
The MyCAA Grant is for Active Duty Military Spouses with spouses that are currently ranked from E-1 to E5, W1 to W2, or O-1 to O-2. The benefit pays for up to $4,000 in tuition for continuing your education beyond a high school diploma or GED. The benefit helps spouses to pursue licensure, certifications, or associates degrees. The government provides this grant to help military wives and husbands integrate into the workforce and further their own career goals. MyCAA is administered through Military One Source and the Department of Defense.
It is up to $4,000 in education funding just for active duty military spouses. It is not competitive, it doesn’t require a resume, it is literally free money for your education.
There are a lot of nuances and fine details to the MyCAA program that can be really difficult to navigate. You can only use MyCAA on MyCAA approved programs. You can really get the most out of it but like everything else in the military you need to know the rules. But don’t worry – that’s why Milspouse Education is here. To guide you through all the details so you can become the best, most empowered version of yourself!
So where do we start on such a complex topic? Well, let’s start by figuring out who qualifies for the MyCAA grant.
Who Qualifies for MyCAA?
Who qualifies? Military spouses who have active duty married partners that are currently ranked from E-1 to E5, W1 to W2, OR O-1 to O-2. The key here is your spouse is active duty.
So what is active duty? Active duty means your spouse is on Title 10 orders. If your spouse is on an active duty contract, you qualify if they fall between the ranks of E1-E5, O1-O2, or W1-W2.
Spouses of service members of all branches of the U.S. military qualify: Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and soon to be Coast Guard!
You still qualify for MyCAA if your spouse is a Reservist, but only during the time when your spouse is on Title 10 orders. Keep in mind, your spouse must still meet the rank requirements of E1-E5, O1-O2, and W1-W2. Arranging education for yourself in such a small window can take a bit of pre-planning but that’s my expertise and purpose for this website- to help you use your benefits even when you have a short timeline.
If you qualify based on the above information, keep reading. There are additional rules and I have made an easy to use checklist so you can verify your eligibility.
How Do I Get Started Using Military Spouse Education Benefits?
All you have to do is determine your eligibility and go to Military One Source’s website to register. But before you do, here’s some important things to absolutely have to know about the MyCAA scholarship.
1. The #1 thing you need to know about MyCAA is that they only pay the school on your behalf, they will never reimburse you for anything you’ve already paid for. Do not expect that you can get an educational cost reimbursed. That is not how MyCAA works.
2. You can’t use the MyCAA grant to obtain a bachelor’s degree, but you can use it to get an undergraduate certificate, post-secondary (graduate) certificate or an associate’s degree. Read more on this topic in our related article: Can I use MyCAA if I already have a bachelor’s degree?
3. When is the best time to use MyCAA? Now, preferably. But in reality, as soon as is right for you. But use it WISELY. MyCAA is approved as part of the Department of Defense budget and thus relies on Congress. You know with the military that funding can come and go- and it is best to use it wisely in the best and soonest way possible.
4. The program only pays $2000 per fiscal year, something to consider while planning your coursework. There are many ways to work around that.
5. To use MyCAA there are two main parts: a career goal and an education plan. The career goal is what you tell Military One Source and SECO you will work towards. Your career goal determines what kind of program you can do. Be careful because this is where you have to do a lot of pre-planning. Counselors will try to get you to declare your career goal early which can inadvertently pigeon hole you into an education path you don’t want. That’s why it’s critically important to have a solid plan before you declare your goal because otherwise it can restrict you and you will have less flexibility.
Your career goal is made by you and your education plan is made by the program you want to attend.
Free Money and a Great Education! That’s Great, But What’s The Catch?
Honestly, there is no catch. You just need to know the rules.
I was able to use the MyCAA grant to pay for two graduate certificates when I was short on time. Full disclosure: I am not associated with the Department of Defense, MyCAA, or MilitaryOneSource. But, I have used these benefits myself and know how to make the most of them. I researched a long time to find the best programs for my needs. I can help you do it too!
I found out from a ton of research the best way to use the benefits- and was surprised to find there are programs out there that are trying to scam military spouses out of these benefits.
Avoiding MyCAA Scams
These scams look really convincing.
They claim to have “accreditation” that is in reality worthless. They have really professional websites, predatory recruitment practices, and deceitful marketing. But I cannot name names, because some have literally sued students for damages who were just sharing their story because they had been scammed.
So, all I can do is educate you on the signs of a scam. Here is an infographic with easy to remember information about spotting an education scam that targets military spouses.
Signs a program is a scam:
- The school is a “for-profit” college.
- The school is “nationally accredited”. That’s not what you want. You want a school that is regionally accredited.
- Google the school’s name and the word “scam”. See what the search results yield- it will say what I can’t.
- The school “pays” you to recruit other military spouses to use their MyCAA benefits with their programs.
- It’s being advertised online by an “influencer”.
“Okay, I have education funding- I don’t want to fall for a scam. How do I use MyCAA on a quality program that meets my needs?”
That’s what I’m here for.
Like I said before I am not associated with the Department of Defense, MyCAA, or MilitaryOneSource. I am, however, a teacher that helps students plan and prepare for college and have used these active duty military spouse benefits myself.
There are a lot of specific rules for using MyCAA. There are rules on what it will pay for, what it won’t pay for, what programs you can use it on, and if the timeline in which they can pay for it.
But don’t be discouraged- that is what this website is for!
The people who work for Military One Source and SECO do a great job. They truly do. They are very professional. But they can only tell you whether a program qualifies or not. They cannot give opinions. They cannot say “Honey, I think that’s a scam” or “Friend, you’re short on time and I think these are your top 3 options”. They can give career guidance, but they cannot endorse a specific program. They are the government and the government simply cannot do that.
However, I am here to help you use your benefits in the best way for you- not a scam, just sharing what I know, and if you’d like to get advice I am here for that too.
I have written a book and developed worksheets that will help you clarify what your next steps should be on your educational journey specifically using the MyCAA benefits. To get started, see my book here.