Navigating the IT Certification Landscape: The Ultimate Guide for Military Personnel
The path to a rewarding IT career isn't always paved with a four-year college degree. Industry certifications provide an alternative roadmap to education through accelerated curriculum programs that teach students the skills modern employers want (SHRM).
For military personnel, whose time and resources may be constrained, these certifications can be especially valuable. Particularly for military employees seeking to transition toward civilian life - and civilian careers - the right IT certification can serve as a springboard toward a high-earning IT position.
For active-duty servicemen and servicewomen looking to enter the professional civilian workforce, the military offers help through credentialing assistance, funding, and even promotion points for select military occupational specialities (MOS).
At QuickStart, we have specific military offerings to help you refine your technological capabilities and decrease your barrier to entry - no matter how much IT experience you've had before and during military life.
As you read through this guide, embrace the intensive, experiential approach to IT certification training. This guide is more than a roadmap; it's a bridge connecting your military expertise to the vast opportunities available through the achievement of IT certifications.
Benefits of Essential IT Certifications for Military Personnel
Your experience in the military is immediately valuable as a member of the armed services, and those same experiences can also be invaluable in a variety of civilian IT fields with the right IT certification.
IT certifications - think CompTIA, Cisco, EC-Council, Microsoft, PMI, and ISC2 - serve as gatekeepers and guides who set the standards, administer exams, and ultimately, award the credentials that can propel careers forward. Military personnel with a certification from one or more of these certification bodies can have the opportunity to improve their earning power, reputation, and career mobility.
Furthermore, IT certifications are more than an educational achievement; they are a strategic investment in your career. Unlike a medal, which finds its way onto your shelf, IT certifications serve as a testament to your technical skills. This testament can help increase your employability and unlock career advancement opportunities.
Working professionals with a certification earn between 5% and 20% more than employees who are not certified (Fortune). This increase in salary is directly tied to their specialized skillset and qualification to solve a wider range of IT challenges. Job security is another significant advantage of the right IT certification (LinkedIn).
While not an inclusive list, the following certifications cover a range of IT disciplines, from basic computer skills to advanced networking, security, and cloud computing. Military personnel can choose certifications based on their interests, career goals, and the specific IT roles they aim to pursue.
The above IT certification examples provide assistance for many active-duty personnel looking to bridge the gap between a military and a private professional career.
Military Job Codes and Careers within the IT Space
With the right IT certifications complementing your military background, a seamless shift into tech roles - such as networking, cybersecurity, or systems administration - is well within your reach.
The military has structured pathways to help you pivot to these civilian careers. Army COOL (Credentialing Opportunities On-Line) and the Air Force's AFVEC (Air Force Virtual Education Center) are both resources dedicated to helping you align your military skills with civilian credentials.
Below is an example of only the US Army and not a complete list of all the MOS' and opportunities that are tied to certifications. Please check your related occupational series via your branch's COOL website for credential eligibility per your MOS.
How to Choose the IT Certifications for Your Career Goals
As you can see, the skills and experiences you had in uniform are immensely valuable. Your technical acumen, adept problem-solving, and disciplined approach to work are all ideal foundations for a successful career in IT.
When choosing an appropriate IT certification, make sure to cater to the demands of your unique roles and responsibilities. Here are key factors and strategies to help you make well-informed decisions about your IT certification path as a military professional.
- Assess Career Goals and Find Aligned Certifications
Start with a clear vision of your IT career goals and research certifications that match your career path. Maybe it's the intricate world of networking, the critical defense role that cybersecurity plays in corporate data protection, the vast skies of cloud computing, or the creative realm of programming.
- Research In-Demand Skills and Consult IT Professionals
Research needed skills in your chosen IT field and connect with professionals for guidance on prioritizing certifications. Many certifications are designed with specific roles in mind. For example, our cloud computing bootcamp program is designed for aspiring cloud architects, engineers, and specialists. Other certification programs are more general in nature.
- Choose Vendor-Neutral vs. Vendor-Specific Certifications
Vendor-neutral certifications cover principles and practices applicable to any technology environment, making them a versatile choice for utilizing broad IT fundamentals. Conversely, vendor-specific certifications explore the intricacies of a single vendor's products and are valuable if you want to specialize in solutions from companies like Microsoft, Cisco, or Amazon.
- Evaluate Experience Level and Requirements
Understand your skills and experience as well as the investment you'll need to make into a certification program (i.e. a 12-week vs. a 24-week IT bootcamp course.) There are certifications designed to cater entry-level to expert, so align your choice in certifications to match that level of experience.
- Consider Finances and Continuous Learning
Budget for certification costs and choose programs emphasizing continuous learning and renewal. This ensures that your knowledge remains relevant and your professional profile stays competitive in the ever-changing tech landscape.
- Set Realistic Timelines for Completion
Balance your study schedule with your workload - whether you're a service member with an office-like duty assignment or heading to the field and dealing with a high OPTEMPO - to prevent burnout and make your certification journey sustainable and effective.
Resources and Support for Military Personnel Pursuing Certifications
When pursuing an IT certification while in the military, you have a number of resources at your disposal. After you've mapped out your experience level, considered other commitments, and settled on a timeline, it's time to take advantage of these resources.
Dedicated Military Support Programs, like that of QuickStart's Military Programs, provide military members with specialized support programs. These programs provide special resources, guidance, and financial assistance specifically designed to help connect you with the certifications you want.
Online Learning Platforms and Certification Bootcamps
Online learning programs deliver concentrated training over a shorter period of time. They're ideal for people who thrive in immersive learning environments and want to rapidly develop a deep understanding of IT. These platforms typically include features like video tutorials, practice tests, and interactive modules designed to test your skills.
These military-specific platforms also place a wide variety of test preparation tools at your disposal. These might include practice exams, study guides, and simulation tools that familiarize you with the exam's layout, length, and question type.
QuickStart is one of several high-quality organizations providing online learning opportunities for current military members. Our online curriculums accelerate your education process and familiarize you with the skills you'll need to transform the IT workforce.
Financial Assistance, Tuition Benefits, and Government-Sponsored Programs
Another significant advantage to military certification programs is the availability of financial assistance. Various assistance programs can cover costs associated with exams and study materials, easing the financial strain that comes with professional development.
Tuition assistance benefits are another substantial resource, offsetting the costs of pursuing further education and certifications. These benefits can drastically reduce out-of-pocket expenses, making it financially feasible to achieve your certification goals.
Government-sponsored programs often work in tandem with respected training providers to offer discounted or complimentary certifications to those who have served in the military. These initiatives are tailored to promote skill enhancement and ensure a seamless transition into the civilian workforce.
Military Resources and Support for Transitioning to IT Careers
Transitioning from a military career to the IT industry involves a set of specialized resources and support systems designed to ease the process. Staffed by experts well versed in the challenges service members face, military transition centers serve as invaluable hubs, offering career counseling, resume assistance, and guidance on selecting the right certifications.
Additionally, mentorship programs pair military personnel with seasoned professionals who provide practical advice and encouragement drawn from their own experiences.
Online communities, forums, and professional IT networks further enhance support. These platforms foster collaboration among service members pursuing IT careers, facilitating the exchange of ideas and study tips. Moreover, joining IT networks and associations connects you with industry leaders and potential employers, thereby opening doors to new opportunities in the tech field.
Career Counseling Services
Career counseling services are a vital resource for military personnel seeking IT certifications. These services offer personalized, one-on-one sessions with experienced counselors who can help you navigate the complex landscape of certifications. They'll work with you to pinpoint the certifications that align with your unique skills, interests, and professional ambitions, ensuring that your efforts are targeted and effective.
That's why we offer Career Services support alongside each of our IT certification programs for military members: to assist in making informed decisions that pave the way for a rewarding IT career.
Completing Your IT Certifications
IT certifications are not just pieces of paper; they are keys to unlock doors to diverse, rewarding careers.
The skills acquired during military service – discipline, problem-solving, leadership – are invaluable assets. Now, it's about translating these skills into the language of the IT industry.
The above information can be a lot to process. However, it should only serve as a guide without timelines. It's your responsibility to add dates and deliverables to this guide on whatever timeline works best for you.
Connect with a QuickStart expert to take your first steps toward IT certification, through preparatory programs that give members of the military everything you'll need to ace your exam.
With this robust network of assistance available during each stage of your certification journey military personnel like yourself can step forward with confidence into a waiting IT career.