Funding for Military Service Members' Certification Career Development

Expanding credentialing support for U.S. active-duty and veteran service members

By Andrew R. Morton, Lt. Col., U.S. Army (Ret.) July 16, 2020
Funding for Military Service Members Certification Career Development

​Credentialing, along with education and experience, is a critical part of the workforce development triad. Recognizing this, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are increasingly emphasizing the career development of active-duty service members and military veterans, including by providing access to relevant credentials and certifications in multiple industries and professions. These initiatives, called Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL), began in 2002 and are integrated across all of the military branches.

SHRM's competency-based certifications have become in-demand credentials for service members in HR and related career fields. The military's expanding commitment to career progression within each branch means there is unprecedented funding available for service members to pursue SHRM certification long before their time in uniform is complete.


Expanding Access and Awareness

Now, nearly 20 years after the launch of the first COOL website, some of the service-specific credentialing assistance programs have built SHRM certification into service members' professional development, expanding the military's commitment to SHRM's competency-based credentials within traditional HR-related occupational specialties.

Two recent examples are the U.S. Army Recruiting and Retention College (USAREC) and the U.S. Air Force's university, First Sergeant Academy. Each organization recognizes the competency crosswalk between their service members' everyday duties and the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge (SHRM BoCK).


Army and Air Force Leaders in HR and Related Roles

The USAREC provides Army non-commissioned officers (NCOs) serving in the military occupational specialty career field of recruiting and retention with access to SHRM certification as part of their career development. A partnership among SHRM, USAREC and the Army university at Fort Leavenworth has enabled several dozen service members to meticulously prepare over the past six months to take the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP exam during the current testing window.

With continued funding through the Army COOL program, recruiting and retention specialists across the Army will have earned a SHRM credential, an achievement that will have a direct impact on their missions today as well as their post-military careers.

The Air Force COOL program recently expanded eligibility for SHRM certification to all of its senior NCO leaders regardless of their Air Force background or Specialty Code (AFSC). First Sergeants are charged with supporting the readiness, health, morale, welfare and quality of life of service members and their families. The Air Force recognizes that their missions will be enhanced by SHRM certification, given that the role directly relates to HR skills and competencies. SHRM, in turn, recognizes that supporting these Air Force leaders fosters a well-trained cohort of future HR professionals.

These examples of SHRM's ever-increasing role in the professional development of today's military are indicative of the broader relevance of HR and related competencies within military circles. Building the SHRM competency-based credentials into service members' career development is part of the broader DOD commitment to active-duty military personnel.

As I've shared previously, the military mantra of "Mission First—People Always" is not just good leadership, it's good HR.

For more on SHRM certification and today's military community, visit the SHRM Military Eligibility page or connect with us at

Andrew R. Morton, Lt. Col., U.S. Army (Ret.), is SHRM's director of Veterans and Certification Affairs.


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