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A Focus on Learning and Development Pathways Through the Certification and Credentialing Eco-System for Military Service Members and Veterans

Five Considerations for I-O Practitioners During Certification and Credentialing Working/Focus Groups with SMs and Veterans

Submitted by Margaret Breakiron, psychometrician/certifications specialist, and member of the SIOP Military and Veterans Inclusion Ad Hoc Committee, and Destinee Prete, PhD, director of Certification & Accreditation for the Open Compliance & Ethics Group, and chair of the SIOP Military and Veterans Inclusion Ad Hoc Committee, as part of a regular series of articles SIOP runs each November in recognition of Veterans’ Day in the United States. The first, second, and third articles ran earlier this month. Both Breakiron and Prete are actively involved and engaged in certification and credentialing eco-system design, development, and implementation and both have certificates from I.C.E. (Institute of Credentialing Excellence) as certification specialists.


Certified individuals in the workforce reduce risk and enhance consumer protection and public safety. In addition, these certifications allow employers and other stakeholders to identify individuals with the competencies needed to perform a role or task. – I.C.E, 2020

Certifications and other credentials are often required or preferred for civilian employment. In response, the federal government started initiatives to license and certify current military service members (SMs) and veterans (ETA, 2015). According to the Employment and Training Administration (ETA), SMs and veterans experienced three main barriers to obtaining certification and other formal credentials (ETA, 2015). These barriers were credentialing programs did not accept military documentation of training or experience, redundant training was needed to fully satisfy requirements, and policies and processes imposed artificial hurdles (ETA, 2015). With better support, military members and veterans can leverage civilian certifications and credentials to signal competency and identify equivalent job opportunities when transitioning out of the military (I.C.E, 2022).

SMs may experience challenges in adjusting from the military. The civilian workforce is often less structured than the military and roles and responsibilities are less well-defined. There is a disconnection between team members who are military connected and those who are not. Many organizational leaders do not understand or recognize the significance of the knowledge and experiences of their veteran employees. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) found that transitioning SMs and veterans were frustrated by having the necessary skills to perform a job but lacking the certification required to be hired in the civilian workforce (VA, 2013). Furthermore, transitioning from military to corporate culture created challenges of ambiguity and undefined roles (VA, 2013).

Credentialing signals competence and shows employers how valuable skills gained through military occupations can translate to private sector career opportunities (ICE, 2022). The VA (2013) identified that having training or degrees (i.e., certifications and other credentials) smoothed transition into civilian roles. As one initiative supporting the credentialing of SMs, the Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) program endorses certifications that can be paid for through Credentialing Assistance (CA) funding routes and lists them on the COOL website for easy access. Each branch of service (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard) and DoD civilians have their own COOL website and policies. COOL follows the Department of Defense (DoD) Credentialing Standards, which require accreditation, industry recognition, and adherence to additional legislative and accreditation criteria, such as the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) Standards (COOL, 2022). The NCCA Standards require relevant characteristics of the applicable population be represented in certification development and governance activities.

As stakeholders and potential candidates for certification, the military likely has distinctive characteristics that should be considered during the development and governance of credentials pertaining to relevant skill areas. Without military representation, the eligibility requirements, vernacular, or processes could inadvertently discriminate against them, leading to hurdles like those identified by the ETA. The American Legion (2022) supports this notion and found that public–private partnerships are necessary to ensure credentialing decisions include military perspectives and for SMs and veterans to obtain the credentials needed for civilian careers. Integrating SMs and veterans into focus and working groups may seem challenging. As industrial and organizational psychology (I-O) practitioners running certification development and maintenance workshops and analyses, we have an obligation to promote fairness and validity by including relevant samples of the population. To do this, we must integrate the military perspective across the certification life cycle. Focusing on lessons learned from our professional experiences, we have identified five considerations that can ease incorporating military and alternate perspectives during meetings or working groups:

  1. Use skill area descriptions for recruitment. 
    Potential participants may self-select out of participation because they do not identify with a title or see themselves as a subject matter expert in the field.
  2. Set expectations upfront.
    Provide participants a preview of what is happening, when, and what outcomes are needed to move to the next step.
  3. Use place cards and introductions.
    This simple exercise enables better facilitation and a greater understanding of one’s and others’ roles in working groups and meetings.
  4. Make connections to aligned skill areas.
    Create a visual blueprint or map to identify overlap to show how civilian skill areas map to military work roles.
  5. Embrace the discomfort.
    The first few iterations may feel uncomfortable for some or all parties. Embrace it. Working groups are designed to create dialogue. Strive to keep group discussions open and respectful while attendees work through miscommunications or misunderstandings.

If you are looking for more information on how to access these programs, consider reaching out to the SIOP Military & Veterans Inclusion (ad hoc) Committee.


American Legion (AL). (2022). The future of credentialing of servicemembers and veterans: Leveraging partners, policies and resources. https://www.legion.org/sites/legion.org/files/legion/publications/35VEE0221-The-Military-Credentialing-Advancement-Initiative-Report.pdf

Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL). (2022). Credential inclusion guidelines: Department of Defense (DOD) credentialing standards attestation. https://www.cool.osd.mil/docs/COOLCredentialInclusionGuidelines.pdf

Employment and Training Administration (ETA). (2015). Licensing and certification for veterans: State strategies for successfully removing barriers. https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/VETS/legacy/files/licensingcertfications.pdf

Institute of Credentialing Excellence (I.C.E). (2020). Value of certification statement 2020. https://www.credentialingexcellence.org/Portals/0/Value%20of%20Certification%20Statement%202020%20Final.pdf

Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE). (2022/11/11) Military and veterans toolkit: Facilitating credentialing of service members and veterans. https://www.credentialingexcellence.org/Resources/Military-and-Veterans

Veterans Affairs (VA). (2013). Veterans in the workplace: Recruitment and retention. https://www.va.gov/VETSINWORKPLACE/docs/Veterans_in_Workplace_Final_Report.pdf

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