The Army Credentialing Assistance (CA) Program aka Army COOL is offered by the Army Credentialing Opportunities On-Line official site, designed to help soldiers get training and/or credentials for skills they have in their current military job (subject to restrictions) or any career you might be interested in post-military. This program features more than 1,600 career specialties soldiers can use to enhance their current skill sets or those they need to develop for civilian careers.
To that end, Army CA offers to pay for courses and exams for approved credentialing. This is an off-duty program for soldiers who have completed certain Professional Military Education (PME) requirements.
You cannot be approved for Army CA funding without completing these education requirements first. We’ll cover program specifics below, but first it’s important to know what you must achieve in your PME efforts first.
Is The Army CA Program Mandatory?
Getting classes and credentials by using Army CA is an optional perk of being in the Army. That said, read what the Army official site has to say about this program:
“The Army supports civilian credentialing for active duty members because it improves the professionalism of Soldiers. In fact, if a credential is related to your duties, the Army may award promotion points for earning it.” Promotion points are, as any soldier comes to know, very important.
For some Army careers, credentialing is required. For others, it may be optional. In cases where the Army requires it, the CA program cannot be used–these credentials should already be funded by the Army and are assigned via Army training.
But for credentials not required by the MOS, a soldier can apply for Army CA funding for one or multiple certifications simultaneously. A separate request is required for each and you cannot exceed the Army’s current fiscal year limit for simultaneous classes.
Basic Eligibility And Sign-Up Rules
In order to apply for Army Credentialing Assistance program funds, you must complete a minimum amount of required PME. First-term soldiers may be eager to get started, but first, the following must be satisfied depending on the nature of your military service:
Enlisted Soldiers must have graduated from Advanced Individual Training (AIT).
Warrant officers must have graduated from Warrant Officer Basic Course.
Officers must be graduates of the Basic Officer Leaders Course.
Once you have completed this PME requirement, you can begin using the Army Credentialing Assistance Program official site to search for credentials related to your career interests, select a program and vendor, and make your request.
There is one caveat–even if you have completed PME, if your military records aren’t updated fully to reflect that, you will have to wait until the official record shows you are eligible to apply for Army CA. If you have recently completed PME, ask how long it may take for your records to update in order to use this program.
Army rules say that Credentialing Assistance Program funds can be used to pay for the following credentialing expenses:
- Classroom instruction
- Hands-on training
- Online/blended training
- Study guides
What kinds of classes can be funded using Army CA? The official site has a search tool matching some 1,600 Army job skills with approved classes and/or credentialing opportunities. New users must create or use an existing ArmyIgnitED account in order to use the information they find via the search tool in their application form, but you can use a public-facing version of that search tool without accessing an account.
Here are some of the most popular Army CA certifications:
- Associate Professional in HR (aPHR)
- Certified Logistics Technician (CLT)
- Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)
- Certified Welder (CW) Commercial
- Commercial Driver License (CDL)
- Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
- Lean Six Sigma
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
- Private Pilot, Airplane Single Engine
- CompTIA A+ CompTIA Security+ Certification
The list above is not intended to be comprehensive or to show the full range of credentialing opportunities, but it does give you an idea of the possibilities.
Once the account is created or accessed you may be asked to digitally sign a Soldier Statement of Understanding (SOU).
You’ll be asked to choose a credential that is either in keeping with your current MOS (Army job specialty) or one that is not currently MOS-related. There is a place to select the “credential path” and another step where you request the actual funding.
When you have selected your credential path, you’ll be given an opportunity to search for the class or examination you need.
Once that is selected, you submit your request and your application will be reviewed. Applicants are notified by email but know that the official site advises, “Most requests are processed no later than three days prior to your start date.” According to the official site, all books and materials approved for Army CA “will be sent directly to you.”
While it is true that you can sign up for multiple credentials at once, all applicants are bound by the same spending limits as for Army Tuition Assistance (TA). Soldiers can use both Army TA and Army CA, but they are limited to the fiscal year limit ($4000 in FY 2020, this number may change and is provided as a reference only) and you cannot exceed that limit whether using one program or both.
What Not To Do
Do NOT pay out of pocket for any expenses related to classes or certifications you want via Army Credentialing Assistance. You will NOT be reimbursed for any payments you personally make to the vendor or institution.
Do NOT begin coursework in any way until you are notified from the Army Credentialing and Continuing Education Services for Soldiers (ACCESS) and/or the ArmyUfinance team that you may proceed.
Do NOT expect Army CA to pay for classes “for which a Soldier receives reimbursement in whole or in part from any other Federal source, including veterans’ education benefits and Service-funded programs” such as the following:
- ROTC scholarships
- Education-related incentives or bonuses
- Advanced civil schooling
Essentially, if you are getting paid to attend from another source, Army CA funds cannot be used. Furthermore, do not expect Army CA to be approved for any credential related to doctor’s degrees as defined by the U.S. Department of Education.
Special Information For Army Officers And Army Warrant Officers
Army Credentialing Assistance is offered to commissioned officers in the Army as well as Army Warrant Officers; however this program can be used for training only if these applicants agree to a Military Service Obligation (MSO) in accordance with the most current Army Tuition Assistance program requirements.
Note the emphasis on training in the paragraph above. Officers and Warrant Officers who are using CA funds for testing and/or recertification (as opposed to training) are NOT required to incur a new MSO.
You can learn more about these opportunities at your nearest Army Education Office–search for a list of offices near you at the GoArmyEd Education Center.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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