You keep hearing about credentials. What are they, and why do they matter to you? Credentials supply documented proof of your ability to perform in a certifiable career field.  They help develop a more diversely skilled workforce, broaden professional development, and validate professional knowledge and skills gained through experience, technical education and training. 

Credentialing is the process of meeting specified professional and technical standards required to perform a job and earning official recognition. That recognition is a credential.

Why get a credential? There are two main reasons: career advancement and to smooth your transition to the civilian workforce. 

What type is best for you? Let’s talk specifics, because there are many types.

Credential Type One: Certification

A certification is the action or process of someone or something with an official document attesting to a status or level of achievement. Non-governmental agencies, associations, and even private sector companies may grant certifications to individuals who meet predetermined qualifications. These qualifications are generally set by professional associations (for example, the National Commission for Certification of Crane Operators) or by industry and product-related organizations (for example, Novell Certified Engineer). 

Certification is typically an optional credential; however, some state licensure boards and some employers may require certification. For many occupations, more than one organization may offer certifications.

To maintain a certification, often you must complete continuing education requirements to earn “Continuing Education Units” or CEUs. Learn more about them at Finding the Right CEU for Me on SECO.

Learn more about certifications, including information on what is funded by the Marine Corps on Marine Corps Credentialing On-Line (COOL). Find additional information on certifications at CareerOneStop

Credential Type Two: License

Licensure is the granting of licenses especially to practice a profession. Governmental agencies —federal, state, or local — grant licenses to individuals to practice a specific occupation, such as a medical license for doctors. State or federal laws or regulations define the standards that individuals must meet to become licensed. 

Licenses are typically mandatory.

Many military specialties require certification or licensure to perform the same job in the civilian world. Some types of job that typically require licensing include:

  • Teachers
  • Healthcare workers
  • Attorneys
  • Real estate agents
  • Cosmetology workers
  • Child care workers

To maintain a license, often you must complete continuing education requirements to earn “Continuing Education Units” or CEUs. Learn more about them at Finding the Right CEU for Me on SECO.

Learn more about licensure, including information on what is funded by the Marine Corps on Marine Corps Credentialing On-Line (COOL). Learn more about transferring a license on Military OneSource. 

Credential Type Three: Apprenticeship

A registered apprenticeship program is an industry-based approach to training that combines paid on-the-job learning with job related education.  It is a written plan to move an employed apprentice from low or no skill level to the full performance level for occupationally identified skill sets.  A registered apprenticeship program must meet program parameters established under the National Apprenticeship Act.  The Act and its promulgating regulations are administered by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship or a Secretary of Labor approved State Apprenticeship Agency.

Learn more about apprenticeships, including information on what is funded by the Marine Corps on Marine Corps Credentialing On-Line (COOL)

Find additional information on apprenticeships on USMAP. You might be able to complete an apprenticeship related to your MOS through your work in the Marine Corps. 

Credential Type Four: Certificate

In a general sense, a certificate is a document containing a certified statement especially as to the truth of something, such as your completion of a program of instruction. Certificates are a type of short-term (less than 2 years) training, which can help you find a job, get a promotion, or earn more money in a civilian job. Many programs lead to a certificate, which can give you a helpful edge in the job market.

Certificates are NOT the same as certifications, but they are commonly confused. If you have completed a certificate program, that means you earned a certificate in a given topic, but it does not mean that you are a certified professional or a certified expert in that topic.
Learn more about certificates on CareerOneStop

Credential Type Five: Internship

An internship is a short-term job, often unpaid, that gives students and other adults hands-on work experience.

Internships are NOT the same as apprenticeships, but they are commonly confused. Learn more about internships on CareerOneStop

Want to know more about finding a credential related to your work in the Marine Corps? Check out Marine Corps Credentialing On-Line (COOL) or in MARADMIN 550/13. Still searching for more in-depth assistance regarding credentialing?  Contact your installation’s Voluntary Education and Transition Readiness staff.