Professional development

Army Credentialing Assistance program: Your complete guide

Patrick Mallory
June 15, 2021 by
Patrick Mallory

If you are in the United States Army, the Army National Guard or the Army Reserve, or are considering a career in one of these services, you have a great opportunity to enhance your professional skills for use during your military career and beyond.

The Army Credentialing Assistance Program, or Army Credentialing Opportunities On-line (Army COOL), is designed to pay for a soldier’s off-duty courses, training programs and exams, as well as related fees that help you achieve industry certifications or even bachelor’s or graduate-level coursework. This Army Credentialing Program can be put toward training in information technology, cybersecurity, project management and much more, enhancing the Army’s overall readiness, helping you advance your career progression and transition more smoothly into the civilian workforce.

So what does the Army Credentialing Program entail and how does one take advantage of the opportunity? This article will provide an overview of the program and lay out the next steps.

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Army Credentialing Assistance Program overview

The Army COOL program, which is completely voluntary, provides a way for enlisted soldiers, warrant officers, officers and other eligible members to map their skills, career goals and career paths to one of hundreds of professional and industry certifications and private licenses available. The soldier can then sign-up for and take the credential on their own time, paid for by the U.S. Army. 

The purpose of the CA program is to, according to the Army, “directly contribute to supporting soldiers’ professional development, retaining quality soldiers and preparing soldiers for meaningful employment upon transition from military service.” The CA program is also a supplement to existing Army training as well as Federal Tuition Assistance programs.

For enlisted members and warrant officers, the Army COOL program created a Navigator tool that can be used to find related certifications based on their Military Occupation Specialty (MOS), Additional Skill Identifiers (ASIs), or select an apprenticeship, career or common core credentialing path. For officers, they can search by their Advanced Operations Course (AOC), Army Career, or Common Core or Manager Credentials. Any participant can also choose to use the Army Decision Support Tool (DST) to get assistance in picking a credential based on an interest inventory.

Once an education program is selected and approved, the Army covers all costs related to the learning experience, including study aids, training or tuition fees, licensing fees, exam fees and study preparation costs. However, funding is not to exceed a maximum of $4,000 per soldier per fiscal year. Additionally, the Army vetts and approves all vendors that are eligible to receive funding and deliver courses or certification exams to soldiers.

Finally, for soldiers within 180 days of separation from Active Duty or retirement, these members have to pay for their credential costs on their own, and then they will be reimbursed by the Army COOL program once they can prove that they have completed their learning experience. On the other hand, if the individual fails to provide proof of completion of their training within 120 days of the end date, the Army COOL program will initiate the process to recoup the money.

What do Army Credentialing Assistance Program participants have to do?

If you are interested in participating in the Army COOL program, there are four key steps you need to take, based on the official Army’s  COOL program website. These steps include:

1. Identify an Army COOL credential

To begin, the member should create an Army IgnitED profile and identify a certification from one of the approved courses listed within the Army COOL program’s Navigator tool. This search function organizes credentials based on a soldier’s MOS, AOC, ASI or other interests.

Each credential listed will have certain criteria, or a “snapshot, that should be met by the participant and discussed with their supervisor.” These include:

  • Credential description
  • Agency contact information
  • Eligibility requirements
  • Exam requirements
  • Exam preparation resources
  • Recertification information
  • Additional considerations
  • Related military occupations

The participant should remember that the Army COOL program does not cover payments for continuing or professional education units (CEU/PEU), failed exam retakes, conference attendance, hotel expenses, per diem and travel costs. Therefore, it is important that the soldier contact the course program directly to confirm eligibility and the total cost of the course.

2. Begin a Credentialing Assistance (CA) funding request

Once a credential is selected,, the participant will need to complete a CA request within their ArmyIgnitED account. There needs to be a separate CA request for each credential, course and/or exam required. Additionally, the request needs to be submitted at least 30 days before the start of the course or exam start date.

According to the Army’s COOL program website, the following are the basic steps: 

  1. Log into ArmyIgnitED
  2. Select the “MOS/ASI” option, if you wish to pursue a credential aligned with your MOS/AOC/ASI, or the “Other” option if you wish to pursue a credential NOT aligned to your MOS/AOC/ASI
  3. Select the credential path you wish to pursue and submit
  4. Once you have created a credential path, request CA funding
  5. Select a vendor from the list that appears for your path
  6. Select the course/exam and hit “Submit”

The CA request will route to Army Credentialing and Continuing Education Services for Soldiers (ACCESS), ArmyU who will review the request. 

3. Official program office funding approval

Once approved, the participant will be notified via email. According to the program’s guidance, most requests are processed “no later than three days prior to your start date.” All books and course materials that are approved for funding will be directly sent to the participant.

Similarly, if an exam was requested, ACCESS, ArmyU will provide the instructions to schedule the exam.

4. Study and complete the program exam

After the participant completes the exam, and passes, the participant should provide a copy of the test results, or the certificate of completion, to the Army COOL program office. The training vendor may also be required “to upload the completion certificate, grade report, transcript or other official memorandum within ten business days upon completion” to the participant’s ArmyIgnitED account.

If the results are not provided, the participant will be required to reimburse the Army COOL program. 

What types of programs are available within the Army Credentialing Assistance Program?

According to the U.S. Army guidance, there are currently 1,600 credentialing programs approved for participant funding. 

Examples of IT and security training options from the Army Credentialing Assistance Program list include:

CompTIA certifications

ISC2 certifications

ISACA certifications

IAPP certifications

Other certifications

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Bringing it all together

In this article, we set out to provide you with an overview of the purpose, steps and opportunities available within the Army Credentialing Assistance Program. There are a number of great programs, certifications and training opportunities that those eligible for Army Credentialing Assistance Program funding can participate in, which are sure to enhance not only their career in the military, but set them apart in the private sector once they transition out of active duty. 

If you are looking for comprehensive, lab-based training opportunities that cover the skills you need in many of the technology and cybersecurity field’s most sought-after jobs, we welcome you to see what the Infosec Skills platform can do for you. With 100s of courses taught by some of the industry’s best instructors, you can feel confident in knowing that you are guaranteed to get certified on your first attempt.

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Army COOL, United States Army

Army’s COOL Program, United States Army

ArmyIgnitED, United States Army

Patrick Mallory
Patrick Mallory

Patrick’s background includes cyber risk services consulting experience with Deloitte Consulting and time as an Assistant IT Director for the City of Raleigh. Patrick also has earned the OSCP, CISSP, CISM, and Security+ certifications, holds Master's Degrees in Information Security and Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University, and assists with graduate level teaching in an information security program.

Patrick enjoys staying on top of the latest in IT and cybersecurity news and sharing these updates to help others reach their business and public service goals.