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Civilian credentials can boost your career

May. 16, 2012 - 11:25AM   |   Last Updated: May. 16, 2012 - 11:25AM  |  
A soldier with a field artillery regiment fires an M777 155mm howitzer. Soldiers who do this — and many other jobs in the Army — can get professional certifications that can lead to faster promotions and an edge in the civilian job market.
A soldier with a field artillery regiment fires an M777 155mm howitzer. Soldiers who do this — and many other jobs in the Army — can get professional certifications that can lead to faster promotions and an edge in the civilian job market. (Army)
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ARE YOU ELIGIBLE?

The Army has released charts showing credentialing opportunities toward promotion for sergeants and staff sergeants, by MOS. To see links to all of these charts, click here.

Soldiers now have more chances to get certifications in their job fields, which can mean faster promotion and a better shot at a job after the Army.

Even as the Army gets smaller, opportunities and career incentives are increasing for soldiers to earn civilian certifications and credentials that relate to their military occupational specialties.

Certifications not only can boost a military career, but they carry real job-getting power in the civilian labor market for transitioning soldiers.

A recent update to the sergeant and staff sergeant promotion system shows that credits earned through professional credentialing and licensure are worth promotion points for soldiers in 23 career management fields and more than 140 MOSs in combat arms, combat support and combat service support.

The Army has made it relatively easy to earn a credential through its education system. The process requires some research and a commitment to learning.

Soldiers can get help with the cost of credentialing through a number of resources.

Since Oct. 1 — the beginning of fiscal 2012 — the Army has provided $133,214 in tuition assistance to active-duty soldiers for credentialing-related school costs, $48,123 to National Guard members and $49,635 to reservists.

Both the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill pay up to $2,000 to cover the cost of licensure and certification exams, including fees for retesting and license renewals.

As of early May, Credentialing Opportunities On-Line, the Army tool to assist soldiers with credentialing, had identified 1,247 civilian licenses and certificates as relevant to enlisted MOSs, and 370 tied to warrant officer MOSs, according to Brian Labashosky, COOL project manager for the Army Continuing Education System.

Of enlisted MOSs, 96 percent have directly applicable credentials in the civilian sector, and 91 percent of the Army's 455,000 enlisted soldiers serve in these specialties, according to education officials.

Of the MOSs with directly applicable civilian credentials, 10 percent easily can be earned during a soldier's initial tour of service, usually three years, while 43 percent can reasonably be earned during that period.

The remaining 47 percent will probably take longer than a soldier's initial enlistment.

Soldiers looking for an edge in the increasingly competitive environment for noncommissioned officer promotions should take a close look at credentialing, according to personnel and training officials.

Promotion points

Under the semi-centralized system for sergeant and staff sergeant, promotable specialists and sergeants will be awarded promotion points in a subset of the "civilian education" component of the Promotion Point Worksheet, according to Jeff Colimon of the Institute of NCO Professional Development at Fort Eustis, Va.

Soldiers will be awarded 10 points for each earned civilian certification, up to a maximum of 50 points, when:

• The certification directly relates to the civilian equivalent of an MOS.

• The certification relates to a skill set acquired through MOS training or experience.

• The certification is remotely related to advanced or specialized skills supporting a soldier's career path as determined by the MOS proponent, typically a branch service school or center.

Certificates also are reflected on the Enlisted Record Brief, the electronic form that documents a soldier's service and professional qualifications.

The ERB is a primary source of information for career managers and the boards that select soldiers for promotion to sergeant first class, master sergeant and sergeant major.

"The Army expects professionals to demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning by establishing and achieving individual leader development objectives," said Gerald Purcell, a retired sergeant major who coordinates enlisted professional development policies for the Army chief of human resources.

"The Army recognizes a soldier's commitment to lifelong learning by awarding additional promotion points and by annotating official records with [credentialing] achievements," he said.

Colimon said Training and Doctrine Command tasks MOS proponents annually to review and update technical certifications that can be used for promotion points.

Upon approval of the certification matrix, soldiers can access specific certifications online through the COOL website and Army Career Tracker, the one-stop online tool soldiers can use to map their careers.

"Technical certifications play a pivotal role in the development of NCOs," Colimon said, noting that certifications and professional credentials come under the umbrella of "guided self-development."

Guided self-development complements soldier learning delivered through on-the-job training, attendance at service schools and NCO courses, and the newly introduced online structured self-development courses that occur between NCO Education System courses.

Using services provided through Army Career Tracker, soldiers now are required to create an Individual Development Plan, where they lay down short- and long-term personal and professional goals.

Colimon said certifications and credentials not only are reflected in Army Career Tracker, but the ACT professional development model links a soldier's MOS to the related technical certification.

Personalized plan

The COOL website allows soldiers to determine how much of their MOS training and experiences will count toward a professional certification, according to Pamela Raymer, director of the Army Continuing Education System.

"If soldiers need additional training, they can take courses that will help them meet the credentialing requirements using tuition assistance," she said.

Raymer noted that TRADOC is conducting a pilot project to determine if the content of some MOS qualification courses can be modified to provide a stronger match with credentialing requirements.

ACES' role in the process will be to supplement missing elements in the existing MOS training with education courses that will qualify soldiers for professional credentials.

Credentialing and certifications also were a focus of the 2011 Profession Campaign, the service-wide project to gather information on virtually all aspects of the profession of arms.

A recently released report on the campaign indicates soldiers support the idea that members of the profession need to be certified, according to information provided to Army Times by the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

"One of the most important outcomes resulting from this year-long [campaign] is the confirmation that the U.S. Army is a profession, and the soldiers and Army civilians that comprise the force are professionals," said Lt. Col. Jeff Allen, chief of strategic communication for the Combined Arms Center.

To support that finding, the Army is developing training and educational materials for use in the institutional Army and operational forces.

"These materials … will focus on Army values, essential characteristics, certification criteria and other key concepts needed to steward the Army profession into the future," Allen said.

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