Credentialing is a smart way to increase your chances of landing a civilian job without having to repeat coursework that's equivalent to your military training. Whether you're an active-duty service member or a veteran, it's time to familiarize yourself with the credentialing process.
"A credential will qualify your military training, and you need a credential to go to work," says James Hubbard, special projects manager at the US Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service.
Hubbard, who served in the Army for six years during the Vietnam War, has devoted his career to working on behalf of veterans, focusing on vets' employment issues. He predicts: "Out of more than 200,000 military personnel who separate from the services each year, about 38 percent will need a credential."
The two primary types of credentials are:
- A license, issued by a political entity such as the local, state or federal government, that allows an individual to practice a specified occupation.
- A certificate, issued by private organizations that maintain skill-set standards, that documents an individual's capabilities.
Credentialing covers a broad range of enlisted jobs. For example, a license is needed to operate a commercial vehicle or to work in a nuclear power plant's control room. Computer technology companies such as Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco Systems offer vendor-specific IT certification. Healthcare jobs, such as radiology tech and dental assistant, require certification, and nurses must meet state licensing requirements. Aircraft maintenance and repair occupations, like an aircraft body repairer or flight engineer, both require federal certification.
A Typical Credentialing Scenario
You've spent four years on active duty and have been trained as a medical technician. To work as a medical technician after you leave the service will involve getting a license from the state in which you wish to work. To obtain a license, you must meet certain criteria, which differs from state to state. Depending on where you're located, you may have to take more courses. You may have to get a degree if you don't have one, and you may have to get a certificate from American Medical Technologists, the association that sets basic practice standards for medical technicians. That certificate may qualify you to take the test for the state license. Keep in mind that depending on when your military training took place, you may need to engage in some additional coursework to receive a credential.
To transition your military skills into a civilian career:
- Identify whether you need credentials.
- Determine where and how you can earn them.
- Plan how you will complete the credentialing process.
"The process can appear complex," Hubbard says. "There are 53 states and territories with more than 3,000 organizations issuing credentials, and the procedure is different for each state and each of the 105 military-transferable occupations." Since requirements vary by state, Hubbard advises checking with the state licensing board to find out more about specific requirements, and then obtaining the proper application form. In some cases, federal licensing is required.
Find Help on the Web
To learn more about how to meet specific credentialing requirements, Hubbard suggests visiting the Army's Credentialing Opportunities On-Line site.
"You can click on an occupational specialty code, which will direct you to that occupation, instruct you on what else you need to do to get a certificate and locate where you can get it," Hubbard says.
"Most people have been through a credentialing process, as most Americans have a driver's license," Hubbard says. "Transitioning out of the military and earning a credential is a similar process. You have to learn a skill and then take a test before you can practice your skill."
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