You are here
What’s the difference between a license, certification and credential?
A license is legally required by the organization that oversees a specific occupation. Licenses are granted by federal, state or local government agencies to allow individuals to practice a particular job. For example, states require drivers who cross state lines while operating commercial motor vehicles (like tractor-trailers and buses) to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
A certification is an award that’s earned by passing an exam in a certain occupation. Unlike licenses, certifications are granted by nongovernment agencies, associations and private sector companies to people who meet predetermined qualifications. Licenses are mandatory to practice in an occupation, while certifications are often optional. The information technology field offers many certifications—Apple Certified System Administrator and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert, for instance—that can help boost an individual’s chances of getting hired or being promoted, but aren’t necessarily required for performing their job.
A credential is an award that verifies qualifications or competencies. Credentials can include any award from occupational licenses to educational diplomas, certificates and degrees. Overall, licenses and certificates (or certifications) are the most common types of credentials.
How can I find out if I qualify for a waiver for a certification exam or parts of the exam?
Though it is mandatory to take all parts of exams to obtain certification for certain jobs, many states are working toward offering military skills test waivers for various civilian credentials. For example, 43 states now offer a test waiver for earning a CDL. According to the Department of Labor, at least seven states give credit to service members with military emergency medical technician (EMT) training. And similar efforts are being made by more states to expedite credentialing for EMTs and licensed nurses based upon military training and experience.
Waiver eligibility is based on your military experience and its equivalence to the civilian occupation. Current or former Guard members must apply for the military skills test waiver.
What happens after I pass the certification exam?
After passing the exam, you can obtain your license or certificate. There are usually two types of costs required to secure the credential; the first includes credentialing board or agency fees, and the other includes fees for additional education or training.
After obtaining the license or certificate, you may have to take further steps to ensure it remains active in the future. Consult the credentialing agency to determine which steps, if any, are necessary to retain the credential. For example, it is important to find out whether there is a renewal period for certification. If there is a renewal period, be sure to ask how long it is. In addition, some credentialing agencies may require additional training or continuing education, while others may require a certification exam to be taken at the end of the renewal period to retain the credential.
Is there financial assistance that helps cover the costs of getting and renewing credentials?
Yes. Several sources of financial assistance help cover costs of obtaining a license or certification. Your GI Bill benefits can help cover the primary costs of credentialing in many cases. The GI Bill not only offers financial assistance with licensing and certification, but also offers assistance for supplemental education and training.
The GI Bill can be used by eligible Guard Soldiers and Veterans to pay for up to $2,000 in fees associated with exams for civilian occupational licensing and certification. This reimbursement includes fees for re-testing and renewal of credentials; however, registration fees, preparation guides and processing fees do not qualify for reimbursement under the GI Bill.
The GI Bill provides certain “benefits for costs associated with an undergraduate degree at a college or university, a certificate or diploma from a business, technical or vocational school, training programs, apprenticeships, and others.” For more information, visit the VA’s Education and Training website at Benefits.VA.gov/gibill.
Through the Army National Guard’s certification, licensure and reimbursement program, Guard Soldiers are also potentially eligible to receive an additional reimbursement of up to $2,000 per test for licensing and certification test fees. Unlike the GI Bill, this program may also reimburse you for prep courses and study materials up to $500 per exam. Ask your Guard State Education Office about the process of requesting reimbursement.
Where can I find more information about providers of civilian training?
The Department of Defense (DoD)’s SkillBridge initiative (DoDSkillBridge.com) is an excellent resource for civilian job training programs. SkillBridge allows eligible Soldiers to focus on industry training instead of performing military duties in the final months of their military careers.
As explained on the SkillBridge website, “Service members use the SkillBridge application to search for training opportunities that best fit their goals.” To be eligible for the program, a Guard member must have completed at least 180 continuous days on Active Duty and must be within six months of being discharged or released from Active Duty. The training opportunity also must provide “a high probability of employment” for the Soldier.
How does the government help Soldiers who are transitioning to civilian jobs?
The DoD works with states to find ways to help Soldiers, Veterans and military spouses move into the civilian workforce as quickly as possible. The DoD has developed three options to speed up the transfer of licenses that are substantially equivalent to civilian licenses: licensure through endorsement, temporary licensure and expedited processes for issuing licenses.
President Barack Obama established the DoD Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force to ensure service members are provided skills and experience in their military training that will translate to civilian occupations. Among other things, the task force is in charge of: 1) identifying Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs) that readily transfer to high-demand jobs; 2) working with civilian credentialing associations to address gaps between military training programs and credentialing requirements; and 3) providing service members with greater access to necessary certification and licensing exams. The task force has focused its efforts on occupations that have a high demand for skilled workers and industries that are well paying.
The government is also undertaking the Military Credentialing and Licensing Initiative. Through this effort, the federal government is working with states and industry leaders to help translate military training and experience into waivers or credit toward obtaining civilian licenses and certifications. Some of the initiative’s major objectives include streamlining states’ occupational licensing processes; partnering with academic institutions to determine equivalency between military training/experience and civilian licenses/certificates; and establishing a process to bridge the gaps between military training/experience and state licensing requirements.
HOW THE ARMY HELPS
- The Army’s COOL (Credentialing Opportunities On-Line) website assists Soldiers in researching certifications and licenses related to their MOSs. Learn how to meet civilian credentialing requirements and find a list of resources to help get you started at COOL.Army.mil
- The GoArmyEd program helps Guard Soldiers with tuition assistance online. For details, check out GoArmyEd.com/public/public_tuition_assistance_policies.aspx
- Get up to speed on the National Guard Tuition Assistance Program at FAFSA.com/student-financial-aid/tuition-assistance-programs#National GuardTuition
Read on for licensing and certification information about jobs in transportation, healthcare, information technology, energy and manufacturing.
91B Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic
Standard credentials are from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, which has offered certification exams since 1972. Many employers require that service technicians become certified.
There are more than 40 ASE certification tests, covering almost every aspect of the automotive repair and service industry. To become certified in most specialty areas, you must pass one or more of the ASE certification exams and present proof of at least two years of relevant work experience, says the ASE.
Advanced-level certification requires an additional year of experience beyond the two-year Repair Technician requirement. But you may substitute relevant formal training for up to one-half of the work experience requirement, the ASE says.
Technicians who pass multiple tests can earn ASE Master Status in one or more test series. Masters must re-certify in each test area every five years. If even one area expires, you lose your Master status.
For a list of the ASE Certification Test Series, visit ASE.com/tests/ase-certification-tests/test-series.aspx.
Additionally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all technicians who buy or work with refrigerants to be licensed in proper refrigerant handling. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says no formal test preparation is required. However, many trade schools, unions and employer associations offer training programs designed for the EPA exam.
You can take most ASE tests even if you do not have the required work experience. You will receive a score report, but you will not earn certification or receive a certificate until you fulfill the related experience requirement. The amount of required work experience varies by test and is specified on ASE’s Work Experience Form, which can be found here: ASE.com/medialibrary/images/pdf%20folder/ase_work_experience_form.pdf
In some cases, formal training in the military can substitute for part of the work experience requirements. Attach an AARTS or JST transcript; DD Form 2586; DD Form 295; or DD Form 214 to your Work Experience Form. Wheeled vehicle mechanics (MOS 91B) will receive full credit toward the Repair Technician requirement for time spent in that MOS. Other MOSs, such as aircraft mechanics, can also be considered for partial or full credit.
There is a $36 nonrefundable, per-person registration fee each testing period. Additionally, you’ll pay $35 per test (and if you’re taking Advanced-Level tests L1 and L2, those are $70 each). Re-certification test fees are the same, except they’re capped at $105, regardless of the number of tests you take.
If you want to pursue more training before taking ASE’s certification tests, you may want to check into vocational or other postsecondary programs in auto service technology, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Programs usually last six months to a year. Short-term certificate programs in a particular skill are also available, the BLS says.
There are also associate degree programs out there, with classes that include mathematics, computers, electronics and automotive repair. One reason you may want to consider pursuing this degree is that automotive technology “is becoming increasingly sophisticated,” the BLS says. “Some employers prefer automotive service technicians and mechanics who have completed a formal training program in a postsecondary institution.”
- Download and print out the ASE Work Experience Form before you leave military service, because you’ll need your supervisor to fill out a section verifying your military work experience and job details; plus, they must sign it for you.
- Check into associate degree programs sponsored by various automobile manufacturers and dealers. As a student/employee, you would alternate your time between full-time classes and full-time shop work, under the guidance of an experienced technician, the BLS says.
- If you’re a Wounded Warrior, be aware that the ASE provides testing accommodations under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. To request those, visit ASE.com/tests/ase-certification-tests/ada-accommodations.aspx.
If you plan on servicing motor vehicle air conditioners, you must be trained and tested by an EPA-authorized organization, such as ASE. The most convenient method to take the ASE’s Refrigerant Recovery Program is online. Here’s the link for the ASE Online Testing and Education Center: ASECampus.com/ihtml/application/student/interface.ase/index.htm
Aviation Maintenance Technician
15B Aircraft Powerplant Repairer; 15G Aircraft Structural Repairer; 15N Avionic Mechanic
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has two separate certifications—one for bodywork and one for engine work. Airframe mechanics, known as “A,” handle bodywork, and powerplant mechanics, known as “P,” handle engine work. In your job search, you may find that employers prefer to hire mechanics with both airframe and powerplant (A&P) ratings, which certify your basic knowledge and abilities. This certification is often referred to as a “license,” but if you see the terms switched, be aware that the credential is one and the same.
You’ll increase your chances of employment and higher wages with an A&P certification, because the FAA requires that aircraft maintenance is done by or under the supervision of a certified mechanic with the appropriate ratings or authorizations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual wage for aircraft mechanics and service technicians was $55,210 in May 2012.
To maintain ongoing certification, you must have completed relevant repair or maintenance work within the past 24 months. You can take classes from your employer, a school or an aircraft manufacturer to fulfill the requirement, the BLS says.
If you want to further your career, there are more licenses and certifications available after you receive the A&P. After three years of having an A&P rating and meeting other requirements, you may receive the Inspection Authorization (IA). This allows you to sign off on many major repairs and alternations. Other certifications include Repairman of light-sport aircraft and Designated Airworthiness Representative (DAR), says the BLS.
Most military aircraft maintenance technicians are eligible to pursue the A&P certification based on documented evidence of 30 months of practical aircraft maintenance experience in airframe and powerplant systems.
If you’re breaking into the field for the first time, aircraft mechanics and technicians gain entry by attending a Part 147 FAA-approved Aviation Maintenance Technician School. Many schools offer avionics courses that cover electronics and instrumentation, and the FAA recognizes their certificates of completion to meet requirements for its exams.
For a list of maintenance schools, check out the FAA’s search engine.
With a high school diploma, you can also get on-the-job training and bypass schooling. Until you receive FAA certification, you can work in the field under supervision. However, most job postings require a minimum of two to three years of practical experience, coupled with certification, says the website Education Portal.
When you’re ready to test for your A&P certification, visit the FAA’s aviation mechanic testing information website at FAA.gov/mechanics/testing.
Classes range from 12 to 24 months, according to Education Portal.
The cost of the A&P prep course ranges from $900 to $3,500, says the website Airframe and Powerplant Dot Com. Written tests cost $60 to $175 each. The oral and practical examination ranges from $300 to $800.
The testing process for the A&P certification can seem daunting, but Airframe and Powerplant Dot Com has some helpful steps for getting through it.
- Before heading to a testing site, gather and organize documents that detail your aircraft maintenance experience. This should include dates, aircraft types, N-numbers (if applicable), pay slips, photo IDs, procedures performed and your supervisors’ signatures.
- At your local FAA Flight Standards District Office, you have to prove you’re qualified to proceed with testing. Bring your documentation and be prepared to answer questions about work history, aircraft and engine types and procedures you’ve performed. If all of your documentation is in order, you’ll receive Form 8610-2, which you must have before you’re allowed to take the test.
- After you receive the Form 8610-2, study hard. Airframe and Powerplant Dot Com recommends that you take a refresher course, because you may encounter questions on the test with which you are not familiar, even with your military experience.
- You have to take the written test at an FAA-authorized testing center, and you must score at least 70 percent on each of the three tests (general, powerplant and airframe) before you can take the oral and practical exam.
- The oral and practical exam is administered by a designated mechanic examiner (DME). For tips on preparing, see AirframeAndPowerplant.com/oralandpractical.html.
- After passing, you’ll receive a temporary A&P certification from the DME, and the FAA will mail you a permanent certification within 120 days.
- Check out AirframeAndPowerplant.com for comprehensive answers to specific questions on testing, FAA forms, schools and requirements.
- You may be able to use Veterans’ benefits to cover the cost of training or testing for specific certifications and licenses. Visit the VA’s “Apply for Benefits” page here.
- When using search engines to find jobs, use the terms “Airframe and Powerplant” and “Aviation Maintenance Technician” in search boxes. Some popular sites include FAA.gov/jobs, MyNextMove.org/vets, VetCentral.US.jobs/vet_index.asp?stype=moc, USAJobs.gov/veterans and H2H.jobs
Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver
88M Motor Transport Operator
Obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). This is for drivers who go across state lines and operate any combination of vehicle which has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of more than 26,000 pounds, or any single vehicle with a gross weight of at least that much for commercial use. You also need a CDL if you are operating a vehicle transporting hazardous materials in amounts that require placards. And CDLs are required if you’re driving a vehicle that is designed or is being used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver).
The CDL program has three federally defined classes, depending on the configuration of the vehicle you are operating. The Class A CDL permits you to drive a combination of vehicles, while Class B and Class C CDLs are meant for lower-category commercial vehicles. If you’re thinking of trucking as a career, aim for Class A.
Also, there are certain types of commerce in which you will have to submit a current medical examiner’s certificate to your state driver’s licensing agency. This will give you a “certified” medical status as part of your driving record. Your medical examiner’s certificate always must be kept up-to-date, or you will become “not certified” and may lose your CDL. For state-by-state instructions on submitting your medical certificate, see AAMVA.org/cdl-program and click on the “Medical Certification” tab.
If you have at least two years of safe driving experience in a large truck or bus during your military service, there are now federal rules and regulations that allow state driver’s licensing agencies to waive your CDL skills test. Be aware, however, that your state may apply other restrictions. A state-by-state, comprehensive list of places where you can obtain the CDL is at “CDL Digest” here.
If this is a new career venture for you and you wish to receive training and qualify for the exam, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators recommends that you complete a recognized driver training program. An example would be a Professional Truck Driver Training (PTDT) certified course.
The right CDL training can qualify you to start earning up to $40,000 in your first year on the road, according to CDLTrainingToday.com, an online resource center for truck driver training.
Each state is responsible for regulating the requirements to obtain a Class A CDL. Some states have guidelines on how long training should last, the number of classroom hours and how much on-road instruction you should receive. Other states allow truck driving schools to determine the amount and length of training.
Class A CDL training costs are different for each school. But be careful. According to CDL Training Today, any school that promises it can get you on the road in a week or less “is not being truthful with you.” Most training programs from certified and reputable truck driver training schools last three to 12 weeks. The length of training depends on whether you attend classes full time or go during evenings and weekends.
- The GI Bill is available for truck driving training costs, the CDL license fee and housing allowances.
- Some trucking companies will also pay for your CDL training. The best way to find out is to visit their websites or LinkedIn profiles, which prominently discuss these options if available.
- The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators offers a “CDL Manual,” which has been approved by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This will help you prepare for the license and testing process. Keep in mind it is not a substitute for a certified driving training program, however. To place an order for a manual, contact email@example.com.
- Other training materials for entry-level commercial vehicle operators are available through the Professional Truck Driver Institute, J.J. Keller & Associates and the Commercial Vehicle Training Association. All three come recommended by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.
- Veteran CDL Training can help you find the right veteran truck driving school that meets your requirements. Staff will help you through the entire process of securing funding for a Class A CDL program.
- Also check out CDLTrainingToday.com, which offers similar programs and resources to get you started.
Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
68W Health Care Specialist
The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) is currently coordinating a transition in certification classifications. The EMT–Basic Certificate classification will become Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in a change that will be finalized in 2015–16. This is an entry-level certification. The Intermediate/85 will become Advanced EMT (AEMT) in 2016–17; the Intermediate/99 will complete the transition to Paramedic in 2018–19; and EMT-Paramedic will become simply Paramedic in 2017–18.
NREMT exams are used by 46 states as the lone basis for certification at one or more EMT certification levels. An NREMT exam consists of skills and patient assessments as well as a written portion. Most states require candidates to hold EMT certification to obtain an EMT license, and all states require EMTs to be licensed. Certification by the NREMT, at all EMT levels, requires passage of cognitive and psychomotor examinations covering knowledge and skills learned as part of a state-approved training program. Some states offer their own certification exam or give prospective EMTs the option of taking a state or NREMT exam.
To maintain their license, EMTs must be re-certified every two years. The length of the state-approved training program depends on the level of licensure being earned, with the entry-level EMT program taking as little as six months and paramedic programs taking up to two years.
Students in an EMT certificate program learn how to handle trauma, respiratory and cardiac emergencies as well as assess and report patients' current status. The Department of Labor says the demand for EMTs and paramedics will increase 33 percent by 2020. According to Salary.com, the average median salary for an EMT is $32,073.
Army medics are required to pass the EMT national certification at the end of their technical training at Fort Sam Houston, TX. States generally recognize the national EMT certification as a requirement for obtaining a state license, but most states also have additional requirements for state licensure and these requirements vary.
The NREMT cognitive exam covers the spectrum of emergency medical services (EMS) care, including airway, respiration and ventilation; cardiology and resuscitation; trauma; medical and obstetrics/gynecology; and EMS operations. Items related to patient care are focused on adult and geriatric patients (85 percent) and pediatric patients (15 percent). To pass the exam, a candidate must meet a standard level of competency. The passing standard is defined by the ability to provide safe and effective entry-level emergency medical care. Applicants must also successfully complete a state-approved EMT psychomotor examination. Candidates should speak with their instructor or state EMS office about the format and logistics of the psychomotor test.
The NREMT cognitive exam is a computer adaptive test (CAT), and the number of questions ranges from 70 to 120. The time limit is two hours, and the cost is $70. Candidates also must pass a state-approved EMT psychomotor exam.
- According to Army COOL (Credentialing Opportunities On-Line), reimbursement for EMT exam fees has been approved for payment through the GI Bill.
- The NREMT suggests candidates take their time with the cognitive exam and read each question carefully. Less than 1 percent of candidates do not finish the test, so there is plenty of time to read questions thoroughly. Take practice tests at http://www.test-guide.com/free-emt-practice-tests.html.
- All advanced-level psychomotor examinations are standardized examinations administered in a variety of settings across the U.S. Many are coordinated by state EMS offices and others are coordinated by educational institutions under authority of the state.
Under the NREMT transition plan for new certification titles, the EMT Intermediate/85 will complete the transition to Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (AEMT) in 2016–17.
To pursue an advanced EMT certification, a candidate must possess a current national certification at the EMT level or a current state license at the EMT level or higher. An applicant also must complete a state-approved advanced EMT course that meets or exceeds the national EMS education standards for the advanced EMT. The advanced EMT certification requires successful completion of both a cognitive and psychomotor exam. Advanced EMTs earned an average $36,817 per year, according to the 2011 salary survey by the Journal of Emergency Management Services. The Department of Labor estimates that, by 2020, the demand for EMTs/paramedics will increase 33 percent. A bridge program for EMT to AEMT could be developed for the Army.
The AEMT cognitive exam is a computer-based test that contains 135 questions. The time limit for the exam is 2 hours, 15 minutes, and the cost is $100. The NREMT says the psychomotor section of the examination process “consists of 10 separate skills presented in a scenario-type format to approximate the abilities of the AEMT to function in the out-of-hospital setting.”
- Veterans with a medical background can get extensive financial help toward college degree and certificate programs through the GI Bill and other programs such as the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ Yellow Ribbon Program, the Montgomery GI Bill, and the Veterans Educational Assistance Program.
- PracticeQuiz.com provides a free practice test for advanced EMT candidates.
- For more information on financial assistance and the NREMT exams, see the EMT Tips/Advice above; much of the information is applicable to the advanced EMT classification.
Under the NREMT transition plan for new certification titles, the EMT-Intermediate/99 will finish the transition to Paramedic in 2018–19 and EMT-Paramedic will complete the transition to Paramedic in 2016–17.
Paramedic programs, often offered as associate degree programs at community colleges and technical schools, provide the most comprehensive EMT training available. The paramedic certificate program requires extensive fieldwork in ambulatory or urgent care facilities and makes certain students are experts at using complex medical equipment.
To apply for a paramedic (NRP – Nationally Registered Paramedic) certification, the NREMT says applicants must have completed a “state-approved and Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education (CAAHEP)–accredited (or one that has a letter of review) paramedic (NRP) program.” Candidates’ program directors must verify students’ successful completion of the course on the NREMT website.
The Department of Labor estimates that, by 2020, the demand for EMTs/paramedics will increase 33 percent. The median pay for a paramedic is $39,953, according to Salary.com. To pass the cognitive exam, an applicant must meet a standard level of competency—or possess the ability to provide safe and effective entry-level advanced emergency medical care.
The NRP cognitive exam is a computer adaptive test (CAT) with 80 to 150 items and a time limit of 2 hours, 30 minutes. The cost is $110. The NREMT says the psychomotor segment of the exam process “consists of 12 separate skills presented in a scenario-type format to approximate the abilities of the paramedic (NRP) to function in the out-of-hospital setting.”
- Fisdap, a software company that builds educational software for emergency medical services, provides three tips for taking the NREMT paramedic cognitive exam: 1) Don’t be surprised if you see similar questions; 2) Don’t be alarmed if you get a difficult question right away; and 3) Don’t just study the “easy” stuff. Include application or scenario-based questions in your preparation.
- According to Army COOL, reimbursement for paramedic exam fees has been approved for payment through the GI Bill.
- For more information on financial assistance and the NREMT exams, see the EMT Tips/Advice above; much of the information is applicable to the paramedic classification.
66P Family Nurse Practitioner
A registered nurse with a master’s degree can pursue a nurse practitioner certification by taking an examination through national organizations such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The AANP Certification Program (AANPCP) is for graduates of graduate-, postgraduate- and doctoral-level adult, adult gerontology and family nurse practitioner programs. If applicants pass the AANPCP exam, they are awarded the credential NP-C (Nurse Practitioner-Certified). The ANCC, a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association (ANA), uses targeted exams to test prospective NPs in many specialty practice areas. By passing the ANCC Family Nurse Practitioner exam, for example, a candidate is awarded the credential Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (FNP-BC). In addition to requiring certifications by one of the national organizations, NPs also must be licensed through state boards of nursing.
A nurse practitioner (NP) is a highly trained registered nurse (RN) who is certified in a specialty practice area and can serve as a primary care provider. Aspiring NPs should obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, which prepares them to become registered nurses. Once they have earned RN status, they must pursue a master’s degree in nursing in which they emphasize a specialty area such as family care, pediatrics, mental health, diabetes management, women’s health or geriatrics. After earning a master’s, an RN needs to be certified as an NP by passing one of the national certification exams mentioned above. NPs can prescribe medications, including controlled substances, in all 50 states. In 26 states, NPs have authority to practice independently. About 15 percent of NPs have private practices. There has been an initiative to require a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree as a requirement for prospective NPs, but it has not been mandated. A master’s or doctorate continues to fulfill the education requirement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected job growth for nurse practitioners is 34 percent through 2022. The bureau also reported the median salary for an NP was $92,670 as of 2013.
The AANPCP exams contain 150 test items with 15 as sample questions that don’t count in the final score. The time limit is three hours, and the cost is $240 for members and $315 for nonmembers. The ANCC board certification computer-based exam contains 175 or 200 questions depending on the specialty area (including 25 pretest questions that aren’t scored) and has a time limit of 3.5 or four hours depending on the number of questions. The ANCC exam fee is $270 for members of the ANA and $395 for nonmembers.
- The GI Bill may pay for NP exam fees for Guard Soldiers.
- The AANPCP offers 90-minute practice tests that have 75 questions and cost $50. For more information, go to AANPCert.org/ptistore/control/about/practicetests.
- A breakdown of the ANCC test subject matter and sample questions are available at NurseCredentialing.org/familynp.
- Fitzgerald Health Education Associates (FHEA) offers free seminars that help applicants prepare for NP exams. FHEA also offers courses and a variety of study material options. Go to FHEA.com or call 800-927-5380.
- Veterans with a medical background can get extensive financial help toward college degree and certificate programs through the GI Bill and other programs such as the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ Yellow Ribbon Program, the Montgomery GI Bill and the Veterans Educational Assistance Program.
- The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) funds 20 schools of nursing through the Veterans’ Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing (VBSN) program. The schools award academic credit to Veterans for their military experience and training in healthcare and nursing. For more information, go to BHPR.HRSA.gov/veterans/nurses.html.
- Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi offers an eLine Military (ELM) Program for Texas residents who are members of the military or Veterans with previous medical experience. ELM is a distance-learning program that helps participants earn a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN), prepare to take the National Council Licensure Examination–Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) exam and enter the RN workforce. This is also a stepping-stone opportunity for students who hope to advance in their careers and become NPs.
- The Department of Defense SkillBridge program is an excellent resource for transitioning service members seeking training for civilian jobs. The program allows eligible Soldiers to focus on industry training instead of performing military duties in the final months of their military careers. The industry training is also provided at little or no cost to service members on or near the installations where they are stationed. For more information, go to DoDSkillBridge.com.
65D Physician Assistant
Physician assistants are required to be licensed by the state in which they practice. Along with completion of an accredited training program, the licensing process requires passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). Candidates who pass the PANCE may use the Physician Assistant–Certified (PA-C) designation.
Physician assistants (PAs) provide healthcare under the supervision and direction of doctors. They perform many duties normally reserved for physicians. Prospective PAs must receive formal training through an educational program approved by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). These programs often require applicants to have bachelor’s degrees and some amount of experience in the healthcare profession to gain admission. Most PAs have experience as emergency medical technicians, nurses or paramedics before pursuing admission to physician assistant programs, which take about 26 months of full-time study to complete.
PAs can be traced to the Vietnam War, when returning Veterans demonstrated valuable skills that could be used in civilian medical settings. Guard Soldiers are educated and trained to become PAs at the Interservice Physician Assistant Program (IPAP) at Fort Sam Houston, TX. Candidates must pass the PANCE as part of the program.
The Department of Labor projects the demand for PAs will grow 29.5 percent by 2020. In 2012, the annual median pay for PAs was $90,930, and the median hourly wage for a PA ($42.62) is more than two and a half times the national median. In the civilian sector, the career preparation to become a PA involves graduate-level education, training and clinical experience. The required advanced training could be provided to service members and Veterans by the DoD, by civilian academic institutions or through partnerships between the two.
Administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), the PANCE is a computer-based, multiple-choice test comprised of questions on core medical and surgical knowledge. The five-hour exam includes 300 multiple-choice questions administered in five blocks of 60 questions with 60 minutes to complete each block. The fee for the exam is $475.
- Candidates can familiarize themselves with the PANCE format at NCCPA.net/examscontentblueprint. PANCE practice exams can be purchased for $35 at NCCPA.net. Applicants can also purchase the PANCE Secrets Study Guide hard copy or downloadable e-book for $39.99 through an independent company called Mometrix Test Preparation.
- The Army COOL (Credentialing Opportunities On-Line) website is a good resource for credentialing questions and opportunities.
- The Army provides education loan repayment programs, residency programs and continuing education opportunities to support continued career growth and development for PAs.
- Veterans with a medical background can get extensive financial help through the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other programs such as the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ Yellow Ribbon Program, the Montgomery GI Bill and the Veterans Educational Assistance Program.
- Prospective PAs may be eligible for civilian employment, after completing their Army service, by enrolling in the Army PaYS program. PaYS is a recruitment option that guarantees a job interview with employers who are looking for experienced and trained Veterans to join their organization.
- With help from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), colleges in nine states offer PA education programs that include “Veteran-specific recruitment and retention strategies, mentoring programs and/or curricula that meet the skills and needs of Veterans.” For more information, go to the HRSA’s “Helping Veterans Become Physician Assistants” website.
68W Health Care Specialist
All states require graduates to earn a license in order to legally work as a registered nurse (RN). Candidates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), which is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).
RNs need more education than licensed practical nurses (LPNs). RNs must obtain at least a two-year degree while LPNs receive about a year of nursing education. To qualify for the NCLEX-RN, candidates must complete an associate or bachelor’s degree program as well as an approved nursing program. The NCLEX-RN is an individualized test that uses computerized adaptive testing (CAT) and requires candidates to answer between 75 and 265 questions. Once an answer is given, it can’t be changed. States might also require additional testing or licensure requirements, such as background checks or health screenings.
Before candidates can take the exam, they need an Authorization to Test (ATT). To obtain this, they need to apply to the board of nursing/regulatory body (BON/RB) in their state and then register with Pearson VUE, the company that conducts the test.
Aspiring RNs can choose to pursue an associate degree or a bachelor's degree in nursing. Some educational programs can be intertwined; a prospective RN who has earned an associate degree could pursue a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) by enrolling in an RN-to-BSN program. A BSN is required if a nurse wants to advance in the profession to positions such as clinical nurse specialist, anesthetist nurse, midwife nurse and nurse practitioner.
One of the requirements for becoming an RN is completing a supervised employment experience at a hospital, clinic or healthcare facility. An experienced professional oversees the student's work and offers additional instruction on nursing duties and procedures.
The average salary for RNs is $65,470, and the Department of Labor predicts job growth of 19 percent through 2020.
The registration fee for the NCLEX-RN is $200, and the time limit for the exam is six hours.
- Exam fees may be paid through the GI Bill.
- Before taking the NCLEX-RN, candidates should review the NCLEX-RN Candidate Bulletin to familiarize themselves with the format of the test. Candidates can prepare themselves further by taking practice exams at 4Tests.com and MightyNurse.com. Among MightyNurse.com’s preparation suggestions are: take the test as soon as possible after graduation “while academics are still fresh on your mind;” study intensely for two to three weeks; and consider taking a preparatory class through either Kaplan Review or Hurst Review.
- Applicants should check with their state board of nursing for possible waivers on education requirements. According to the NCSBN, as reported in a 2013 Modern Healthcare article, 11 state nursing boards allow graduation from a military medical training program as a substitute for a nursing degree when awarding a nursing license.
- Veterans with a medical background can get extensive financial help through the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other programs such as the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ Yellow Ribbon Program, the Montgomery GI Bill and the Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program.
- After completing Army service, aspiring RNs may be eligible for civilian employment by enrolling in the Army PaYS program. The PaYS program is a recruitment option that guarantees a job interview with military-friendly employers that are looking for experienced and trained Veterans to join their organization.
- The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) funds 20 schools of nursing through the Veterans’ Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing (VBSN) program. The schools award academic credit to Veterans for their military experience and training in healthcare and nursing. For more information, go to BHPR.HRSA.gov/veterans/nurses.html.
- Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi offers an eLine Military (ELM) Program for Texas residents who are members of the military or Veterans with previous medical experience. ELM is a distance-learning program that helps participants earn a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN), prepare to take the NCLEX-RN and enter the RN workforce.
- The DoD SkillBridge program is an excellent resource for transitioning service members seeking training for civilian jobs. The program allows eligible Soldiers to focus on industry training instead of performing military duties in the final months of their military careers. The industry training is also provided at little or no cost to service members on or near the installations where they are stationed.
In the last decade, few industries have grown like information technology (IT). For motivated individuals, the barriers to entry are low, and the ceilings for advancement are high. Unfortunately, heavy reliance on specific IT credentials has typically made it difficult for hiring managers to translate military experience to real-world certifications; however, progress has been made, and it’s easier than ever for military members to get the licenses they need to prove what they’re capable of.
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2012 median salary for computer and IT professionals was $72,000, with some jobs requiring only an associate degree.
- The bureau rates the growth prospect of nearly all IT jobs as “faster than average” or “much faster than average.”
- Since 2003, the number of U.S. jobs in information technology has risen by 18 percent, and is expected to grow by another 6.1 percent annually until 2020, compared to 2.9 percent in all industries.
- According to the career-focused industry website Dice.com, the unemployment rate in the technology sector averaged 2.7 percent in the third quarter of 2014, while the rate for other sectors averaged 6 percent or more.
Information Technology Specialist
25B Information Technology Specialist
The basic certification for information technology (IT) specialists is the CompTIA A+ certification. CompTIA is an independent licensing organization that has become the leader in IT certifications. Its A+ certification is the industry standard required for many general IT positions. When you receive the certification, it’s good for a total of three years.
IT specialists handle anything and everything computer-related. They’re primarily generalists, with a broad range of knowledge about both computer hardware and software. While entry-level jobs in IT (like computer support specialist) do not require certification, there is very little room for advancement without it, and most attractive IT jobs will require it.
Receiving the CompTIA A+ certification requires applicants to pass two exams. The first focuses primarily on hardware installation and setup. The second has questions related to installing and configuring desktop and mobile operating systems. The exams have a maximum of 90 questions, and CompTIA suggests they will take 90 minutes. The exams each cost $194, making the total cost of certification $388. Exams must be taken at licensed testing centers, which are available in most U.S. cities.
Because the CompTIA A+ certification is so common, there are many online and offline study programs for the exams. Free and paid versions of practice exams are available online and will help tremendously. CompTIA recommends that individuals have 500 or more hours of practical IT experience prior to attempting certification. Pay special attention to the “Exam Objectives” available from CompTIA while preparing for your exam.
Network Systems Administrator
25N Nodal Network Systems Operator-Maintainer
The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Routing and Switching certification is given to specialists in installing, configuring and administering Internet and data networks using routers and switches.
Cisco is a leader in the industry, and its CCNA certifications are used to designate experts at using its software. Microsoft has similar certifications for its proprietary networking software called the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA), and the software that a hiring company uses will determine which certification is required for the job. Cisco’s CCNA Routing and Switching certification has no required prerequisites to take, and while it is described as an “entry-level” certification, Cisco also recommends one to three years of experience prior to taking the exam. There are two options for taking the exam—a larger, more comprehensive examination, and a two-part series with the same information broken into parts.
The “composite” examination designated the 200-120 CCNAX is more difficult to complete, but is the same length as each one of the two-part exams. Each of the three exams takes 90 minutes for 50–60 questions. The exams are computer-based, with multiple-choice questions and practical simulations requiring extensive subnet knowledge. If you take the two-part series, the exams are broken into topics based on network size, with Part 1 covering a small “branch office network,” and Part 2 covering a “small-to-medium-sized enterprise branch network.” All three exams cover topics that include operation of Internet Protocol (IP) data networks; local area network (LAN) switching technologies; IP addressing (IPv4 and IPv6); IP routing technologies; IP services (DHCP, NAT, ACLs); network device security; and basic troubleshooting for all technologies.
While the composite exam is shorter and cheaper than taking the other two individual exams, it is more demanding and is generally recommended only for experienced users, as it crams considerably more topics into the testing materials, making it harder to prepare for.
Network Design Engineer
255N Network Management Technician
The Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) certification designates design engineers, technicians and support engineers capable of crafting plans and overseeing the building of data networks for small-to-medium-sized buildings, campuses, data centers and other networks based on borderless network architecture. The CCDA exam includes testing on LAN, WAN, wireless and broadband networks and is valid for three years. Passing any higher-level certification during those three years will extend the valid time.
While still considered an entry-level associate certification, the CCDA does require a previous networking certification as a prerequisite, including the CCNA Routing and Switching or any Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) certifications. The CCDA assessment is one computer-based exam, consisting of multiple-choice questions and scenario-based simulations. Training for the exam is available through many third-party education centers and online training sites, including some free options on YouTube and elsewhere on the Internet. Certification as a design associate will make you highly competitive as an in-demand IT professional, with many high-paying jobs available. Combined with the high salaries available for experienced network designers, the fact that nearly every medium-to-large-sized corporation requires networking professionals on staff makes this career path a highly attractive option for those capable of completing the certification.
The exam costs $150 and is taken through PearsonVUE.com. The exam takes about 75 minutes and consists of 50–60 computer-based questions.
Because this certification is more advanced, there are fewer free training options, but there are plenty of paid options available, along with practice exams and training materials directly from Cisco.
Microsoft Office Specialist
42A Human Resources Specialist
One of the easiest ways to break into the IT world is by becoming a Microsoft (MS) Office specialist. The examinations are quick and easy compared to many of the higher-level certifications, and because MS Office is so widely used by large corporations, the certifications will be useful for many different entry-level jobs at medium to large businesses.
Microsoft offers certification in each of its Office products, including Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook. Receiving any one certification qualifies you as a Microsoft Certified Professional, or MCP. Because the MS Office certifications are easier than many other IT qualifications, they won’t be looked at quite as highly by hiring managers as other advanced certifications, but they will certainly separate you from the herd of unqualified applicants, and prove that you have at least the basic knowledge of one of the most widely used office products in the world. MS Office Specialist certification holders are often eligible for technical support or IT associate jobs at medium-to-large-sized corporations, along with numerous entry-level office jobs like executive assistant or office manager.
The exams normally require two to three hours to complete, and consist of a mix of around 50 or more questions. Multiple-choice questions are common, along with drag-and-drop simulation-based questions requiring simple problem-solving skills.
Because of the entry-level nature of the MS Office certifications, many free options exist for training, including military online education programs.
There aren’t many career fields more secure than the energy industry. The production, management and distribution of power will be needed for the foreseeable future, and will grow as new energy sources continue to be identified and developed. The huge variety of jobs in this industry also makes it a great choice for workers interested in both high- and low-tech jobs.
- Energy is the third-largest industry in the United States, according to SelectUSA.
- Based in part on the growth in new onshore oil production techniques gathering oil from shale, the International Energy Agency said recently that the United States should surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer by 2015.
- According to the Center for Energy Workforce Development’s December 2013 Energy Workforce Demand report, the median annual 2012 earnings for workers in the energy industry was $65,275, including the broad category of “Engineers,” with median annual earnings of $93,050.
- While still a small portion of the industry as a whole, renewable energy has become one of its fastest-growing sectors. The Department of Energy has stated that wind power could be providing as much as half of our nation’s energy by 2030. Also, the latest report from the American Wind Energy Association estimated that 85,000 Americans are employed in the wind energy and related industries.
Quality Assurance Manager
Commissioned Officer; Senior NCO
The gold standard for certification in the quality assurance (QA) world is a Six Sigma QA certification. Six Sigma is a system of techniques for improving processes in any industry. Several organizations offer certification in Six Sigma principles, including the American Society for Quality (ASQ), an organization dedicated to researching and standardizing quality control practices around the world.
Six Sigma was originally developed in 1986 by Motorola, and later made a central component of the business strategy of General Electric in 1995. Today, while certain pieces of Six Sigma methodology can be proprietary to certain companies, the process as a whole is widely recognized by businesses in a variety of industries as the standard for developing quality control. Quality control refers to the effort to make sure all parts of a business are working how they’re supposed to work, with as few errors or mistakes as possible. The energy industry utilizes QA managers in plants and utility stations that produce or route energy around the country. The ASQ is one of the most well-respected QA organizations, and so are their Six Sigma certifications. There are several levels of certification offered, from the entry-level Yellow Belt to the senior-level Black Belt. The Yellow Belt certification requires one year of experience in one or more areas of quality assurance addressed by the topics assessed for the certification. Paid internship and volunteer work is not credited to the required time, and waivers are not granted for school, so in order to apply, you must have spent at least one full year in a paid position in quality assurance.
Examinations take two hours, and consist of 75 multiple-choice questions. They’re given twice a year (in March and October) by local ASQ chapters.
Because Six Sigma is so widely used in the industry, there are multiple options for preparing for the certification exam, including free options through military training sources like the Army’s e-Learning Program. Examinations are open-book, so the focus should be on knowing the reference material backward and forward.
31B Military Police
Along with a criminal justice degree, the primary certification for security professionals is ASIS International’s Physical Security Professional. ASIS International used to be known as the American Society for Industrial Security, but changed its name to refer to its international nature.
Many security jobs will not require certification, and because of this, physical security is one career field within the energy industry that is available to applicants without specific training. That makes this career a good way to break into the business sector. Despite specific education not being necessary, certification will set you apart from less-qualified job applicants. In addition, military training is highly regarded, making prior military service coveted. In addition to certification, because of the heightened element of national security involved in energy security, maintenance of a current government security clearance will be very highly regarded by hiring managers.
The test consists of 125 multiple-choice questions in three areas: Physical Security Assessment; Application, Design and Integration of Physical Security Systems; and Implementation of Physical Security Measures. For ASIS members, the exam costs $300; for nonmembers, it’s $450.
Your Guard background will give you a huge leg up on your competition when it comes to the job search, but the certification itself is based on specific information that ASIS International puts out, so success on the exam will require studying ASIS’ materials.
Solar Energy Technician
The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) offers a certification in the installation and maintenance of solar energy equipment called the PV (photovoltaic) Installation Professional.
Many solar technicians, most of whom have prior experience as electricians, receive on-the-job training. This makes the career one that is easy to get into without prior energy industry experience. As with all entry-level jobs, though, holding a certification shows a hiring manager that you have the tools needed to be successful. To receive the certification, an applicant must have 58 hours of specific education, along with documentation proving experience in at least three installations where the applicant served in the role of contractor, lead installer, foreman, supervisor or journeyman.
Applying for certification eligibility costs $125. Once you’re determined to be eligible, you can take the exam for $375. Certification renewal costs $50 per year.
The best way to study for the exam is to study the NABCEP’s own study materials, available through their website.
The manufacturing industry has been a backbone of the American economy for years. From Henry Ford’s renovations in mass production to the development of new technologies and efficient production models during the tech boom of the ’80s and ’90s, Americans have always excelled in the art of making things—making them well, and making lots of them. Today this continues, with huge opportunities for motivated workers to enter the industry quickly, often with little specialized education or investment required.
- The manufacturing industry contains a higher number of unions than many sectors of U.S. business. In 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 11 percent of manufacturing workers were represented by unions. While membership in unions generally requires paying dues, it can potentially lead to assistance in job placement.
- Citing a U.S. Bureau of Labor study, the National Association of Manufacturers says the industry employed more than 12 million Americans in 2014.
- The National Association of Manufacturers also cites a Bureau of Economic Analysis study that says the average worker in the manufacturing industry made $77,506 in 2013 including pay and benefits.
- Manufacturing was one of the top three employers in 25 different states in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
91E Allied Trades Specialist
While many companies certify welders on specific techniques that they use, the industry standard for those who aren’t currently in the business is the Entry-Level Welding Certification from the American Welding Society (AWS). It’s a simple practical exam given by any certified AWS-accredited test facility. Applicants are given a task requiring a weld and the code of standards used to certify the task, and are then assessed on their ability to complete the weld. The certification is good indefinitely as long as the certificate holder submits maintenance forms signed by an employer every six months, along with a re-certification fee.
The welding industry is a huge employer of Americans, with many opportunities for stable jobs. Because a majority of welding jobs do not require a specific certification prior to hiring (many companies will provide certification after hiring), having one will set you above other less-qualified candidates, often leading to increased pay and responsibilities. One benefit to a welding career is the wide variety of industries that employ welders, with jobs in nearly every city, big and small, in America. As welders advance in experience, they often are assigned management and supervisory roles. Jobs are located in factories, on construction sites, on city infrastructure projects and in thousands of manufacturing companies across the country.
The examination, which only takes an hour or two to complete, costs $35. Certificate holders must pay $15 every six months to re-certify. It takes between four and six weeks to receive your certification card after taking the exam.
While military welders don’t currently receive certifications through their job training, they learn all the skills required to pass the exam. Anyone interested in a career in welding should pursue this affordable way to set themselves apart from other job applicants.
Sheet Metal Worker
15G Aircraft Structural Repairer
The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA), the largest organization involved in credentialing sheet metal workers, offers the Precision Sheet Metal Operator certification.
Like many skills-based trade jobs, many sheet metal workers receive on-the-job training and apprenticeships. This makes entry into the vocation easier, and also gives an opportunity for new sheet metal specialists to stand out when applying to jobs by receiving a certification. Experienced sheet metal workers can find jobs with construction companies, manufacturers in many different business sectors, and plants and factories across the country. The blue-collar industry is one of many in the United States where the proper credentials, combined with a healthy work ethic, can ensure success at landing and keeping a job. Along with the FMA, many technical colleges across the U.S. offer training in sheet metal operations.
The exam costs $245 for an FMA member and $345 for a nonmember. The Web-based knowledge exam requires no practical exercise. There are 100 multiple-choice questions, and examinees are given two hours to complete the test.
The FMA sells study materials through its website. There are numerous books and online training opportunities, but training materials put out by the credentialing agency are most reliable, as they will use the same terms and techniques covered in the exam.
Supply Chain Management
920A Property Book Officer; 92Y Unit Supply Specialist
Supply chain management is a large industry, with a few different credentialing organizations. One of the most widely known and respected is the Association for Operations Management, which goes by the name APICS. APICS offers two entry-level certifications, the lesser one being the Certification in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM).
Supply chain management, which refers to the acquisition, storage and shipment of materials used by a business, is an integral part of the manufacturing process. This broad category of jobs is found at every manufacturer in the world. The CPIM certification doesn’t require experience to receive, but APICS does suggest two years of field experience prior to taking the exam. And unlike the more senior Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP), the CPIM does not require a college degree.
Exams are given through Pearson VUE, and are made up of a series of five subexams, each costing $165 for APICS members and $250 for nonmembers. That makes the total cost for all five exams $825 and $1,250, respectively. Candidates have 10 years from the time they take the first exam to pass all five, which each have either 75 or 105 questions. Each exam allows a maximum of three hours to complete.
While many military occupations will be eligible for the CPIM certification, like all third-party certifications, some exam-specific preparation will be needed. Study programs can be found on APICS’ website, along with other third-party online training sites.
Plant/Warehouse Safety Officer
There are many safety certifications to choose from, but one of the most widely accepted is the Board of Certified Safety Professionals’ (BCSP) Certified Safety Professional (CSP). The BCSP has been around since 1969, and is affiliated with the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA), the federal agency that oversees safety in the workplace.
Safety officers develop, implement and manage safety programs for large companies and manufacturers. Every plant and factory of a certain size is required by OSHA to have a certified safety officer, making certification a valuable commodity in the manufacturing job market. While some companies will hire an uncertified safety officer with the intent of training them, having the certification in advance means you’ll save the hiring company potentially thousands of dollars in training costs, making you much more attractive to them than your uncertified peers, and potentially leading to a higher starting salary. The safety certification is applicable to more than just manufacturing as well, with many other industries like aviation, transportation and even large retail organizations using the same safety program criteria. All of the BCSP’s certifications have a prerequisite of being in a safety-related position, but many military members, including commissioned officers, will qualify automatically. The BCSP also requires college education, so you’ll have to provide a copy of your college transcript to satisfy this requirement.
The first step in certification is applying for eligibility to take the exam. This involves creating a profile online and proving you have the required experience and education. The application costs $160. When you’re confirmed eligible to take the exam, you pay another $350 fee to take the exam, which is managed by Pearson VUE with testing centers found around the country. Test takers are given 5.5 hours for the thorough exam, which tests dozens of safety-related topics like risk management, qualitative analysis of risk factors, change management and even knowledge of specific safety hazards like radiological or hazardous waste management.
The CSP exam is not a walk in the park, requiring specific knowledge of testable content. Fortunately, certification is included in some military safety schools, like the Army’s Aviation Safety Officer Course at Fort Rucker, AL. For those individuals who are not receiving their certification directly from the military, it’s recommended that you use training programs with the specific information included in the examination.