The competitive civilian job market is a challenge, whether you are transitioning out of the military or are a veteran now in the workforce. Credentials and certifications for skills developed while on active or reserve duty can give you a real edge after you leave the service. Plan ahead, and follow these steps to secure proof of your skills employers will recognize.
Jim Hubbard, special projects manager with the US Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service
(VETS), offers specific advice on the credentialing process.
"If you plan on a short-term military career, the earlier you start thinking about a job in the civilian workforce the better," advises Hubbard. The best way to ease your transition out of the military is to start preparing for your civilian career at least one year before you leave. "To begin with, determine where gaps in your training exist, and then make up those gaps before leaving active duty," Hubbard says.
Use In-Service Resources
"The military will fund a service member's tuition, because they're getting a better-trained service member," says Hubbard. "Complete as many required credentialing courses during your term of service" as you can.
If you've fulfilled credentialing requirements but lack the actual credential, finish the process. This may include:
- Applying for a credential.
- Documenting or obtaining transcripts of your military training.
- Taking an exam.
The government's Credentialing Opportunities On-Line
(COOL) site "will provide you with contact information for credentialing boards," Hubbard says. When you contact them, be sure to "ask about licensure and/or certification requirements."
Keep in mind:
- Determine whether credentialing boards will recognize your military training; there's no guarantee they'll accept your experience.
- If you've already earned a credential, make sure it is active and updated.
- Determine the costs of the credential, and check if the military will subsidize the cost.
Paying for Credentials
"Even if the Army, Air Force or Marines does not offer the courses you need to completely fulfill credentialing requirements, they will know where you can take classes, and will most likely provide tuition assistance," says Hubbard. The military will pay costs incurred for application and exam fees, credentialing renewal fees and required supplementary training.
Another option: The Montgomery GI Bill Licensure and Certification Benefit will cover the cost of certification examinations. The requirements for financial assistance are:
- The certification issuing organization must be VA-approved.
- The service member must be eligible for GI Bill benefits.
As a veteran, you can obtain additional training through the Department of Veterans' Affairs Education Services. Eligibility for these benefits can be found by calling 888-GI-BILL-1.
"It is rare, but you may be lucky enough to find that a prospective employer will fund some of the costs of credentialing," Hubbard adds.
Check on Accreditation
"Accreditation of organizations that offer certificates is like a 'Good Housekeeping Seal,'" Hubbard says. Although many organizations offer personnel certification and accreditation, Hubbard recommends the American National Standards Institute and the National Organization for Competency Insurance.
"It's just common sense," Hubbard adds. "Get credentials from an accredited organization, and watch out for phonies."
Get the Documentation
You will need documentation to verify your military experience, such as DD Form 214 and VMET Form 2586. "These forms work like transcripts," says Hubbard. "They provide a chronology and documentation of all the courses an individual has taken towards his or her skill set."
This documentation confirms the separating service member's training and lets the certifying organization approve it or identify training gaps. If you have lost records, call the National Personnel Records Center at 314-538-4243.
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