Translating military experience into a civilian-friendly resume is one of the big hurdles a servicemember has to get over when thinking about retiring or separating from the military. Some have it easier than others; a military career in law enforcement has distinct similarities. Ditto for anyone working in healthcare, mental health, dentistry, computer security, and many other careers.
Having similar skills is one thing; having similar credentials is quite another. Not all military specialties have the same requirements and standards as their civilian counterparts. For example, did you know that those who work as Army doctors or Air Force nurses do not pay for malpractice insurance while practicing medicine on duty?
That isn’t a credentialing issue per se, but it does show some of the major differences between working in uniform and competing for jobs in the civilian workforce.
Fortunately, service members have the option of using official resources to help meet civilian certification or licensing requirements related to your career field or your military rating. A great example of this? Navy Credentialing Opportunities Online or Navy COOL, which is a resource you can use to:
- Learn about civilian licensure/certification
- Sailors and Marines can learn what civilian credentials are relevant to their military training and experience
- Learn where and how to get credentials
- Civilian personnel can learn about professional development opportunities
- Learn how to bridge the gap between Navy training and civilian credential requirements
- Find civilian job credentialing resources
- Find sources to pay for credentialing exams including DANTES and the GI Bill.
Each branch of military service has their own COOL equivalent (see below) but for this article we’ll use Navy COOL as our example. Each version of this program is unique to the branch of service it represents and different rules and processes may apply.
How COOL Began
In 2002, the U.S. Army launched the first COOL site, and some four years later Navy officials partnered with the Army to launch the Navy version. It would not be long before the Air Force and Marine Corps followed suit. All four of these branches of military service have their own COOL websites and by 2017 the program had expanded on the Navy side to include Department of the Navy civilian employees.
According to the Navy COOL official site, “Because DON civilian COOL focuses on the broad federal occupational series and not just Department of Navy-centric duties, the information contained in DON COOL can apply to all federal employees.”
Who Can Use Navy COOL
- Civilian employees
- Education, Career and Transition Counselors who work with military communities
- Credentialing agencies
Navy COOL Defined
Navy COOL is built specifically for the Department of the Navy and is meant as a “workforce professionalization” tool to be used by Navy members, Marines, and civilians. Navy COOL is intended for currently serving military members and is not meant “solely as a veteran resource” according to the official site.
Navy COOL is a resource–it is NOT a credentialing agency and does not provide any sort of testing. You cannot obtain training materials, and is not a duplicate resource of materials from the Department of Veterans Affairs and is not related to the Veteran Education Center.
Using Navy COOL
The Navy COOL site has search tools you can use to find credentials in your field or area of expertise. The tool starts by asking a few simple questions (“officer or enlisted” and “type of credentials” you are interested in are a few of these) and then you will be asked to choose from a list of possible credentialing opportunities.
These opportunities may vary depending on the specialty and some have many more opportunities than others. Compare the Arts options with Electronics, for example. Under “Art & Media” the sum total of results were (at press time):
- ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist (ACSM-CEP)
- Adobe Certified Expert: Adobe Dreamweaver CC 2015
- Adobe Certified Expert: Adobe Illustrator CC 2015
- Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC)
- Certified Group Exercise Instructor
- Certified Personal Fitness Trainer (CPFT-NESTA)
- Certified Personal Trainer (ACE-CPT)
- Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM-CPT)
- Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT)
- Certified Personal Trainer (NCSF-CPT)
- Certified Personal Trainer (NFPT-CPT)
- Certified Service Manager
- Music Therapist – Board Certified (MT-BC)
- Strength and Conditioning Coach Certified (SCCC)
For electronics, a mere quarter of the entire list includes just about as many as the full list under Arts & Media:
- Associate Safety Professional (ASP)
- Broadband Distribution Specialist (BDS)
- Certified Control Systems Technician – Level I (CCST-I)
- Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT)
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- Certified Linux Administrator (LPIC-1)
- Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (CMRP)
- Certified Records Manager (CRM)
- Certified Safety Professional (CSP)
- Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA)
- Check Point Certified Security Administrator (CCSA)
- Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA)
No matter which subject matter area you choose, from there you are taken to a page that explains the credential requirements and agency contact information.
The real value of this page includes a list of exam requirements for each individual credential. Here’s one for the Adobe Certified Expert: Adobe Dreamweaver CC 2015 credential from Adobe Systems Incorporated–this is not the full page, just a sample of what to expect from the contents of the written exam, which will test your abilities to, in Adobe Dreamweaver, do the following:
- Navigate the workspace
- Work with the Document window
- Manage files in the Files panel
- Update properties in the Property inspector
- Configure workspace layout and docked panel sets
- Define a site
- Create the local root folder
- Set server information with hosting account details
- Create web pages
- Use the New Document dialog box
- Organize the site structure
- Set Page Properties
- Preview pages in a browser
- Work with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
- Work with styles in the Property inspector and Live View Interface
- Use CSS Designer to visually define CSS properties
After reviewing this information you can navigate to the Testing Info tab to learn where testing is held and other information. Navy COOL literature indicates that once you have selected your credential, a voucher request is next. “The Navy’s Credentials Program Office has a limited amount of certification/license funding voucher funds each year and vouchers are issued on a first-come, first-served basis.”
You can learn more about this step of the process at the Navy COOL official site.
In general, Navy COOL describes the credentialing process as a combination of a variety of factors including:
- Work or Professional Experience
- Other Unique Job-Related Requirements
What you bring to the process from these areas will be evaluated according to each program’s unique requirements. There is no one-size-fits-all credentialing process for all careers.
It is important to note that certifications, while national in nature, are not necessarily the same as approval for occupational licenses. Such licensure requirements may vary state-to-state. Not all states require licenses for certain jobs, and not all states have reciprocity for certain kinds of credentials. You will need to check to see what transfer requirements may be enforced for your career field.
Why Navy COOL? Do The Other Branches Have An Equivalent?
Navy COOL is not the only version of this program. Each branch of service mentioned above (Army, Air Force, Marine Corps) have their own version of this program. Each program is service-specific and has options and requirements that may be unique to that branch of military service. You can find your branch’s COOL program below:
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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