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Veterans leaving the military should always prepare as much as possible for the civilian job market. No matter how long they’ve served, military members should get every bit of education and training benefit they can for their chosen career while on active duty. It just makes sense; after separating, a lot of benefits are no longer available.

Some of those benefits include industry certifications in areas like project management, Amazon Web Services, wealth management and more — so many more. But even after leaving the military, there are many, many organizations that want to help, and some will even help you find a job when those certifications are complete.

Should you take every certification class available? Absolutely not. But you should be prepared with the certifications necessary for your chosen career. Here are a few places to get them for free.

1. Military COOL

This is not a snarky clapback; “COOL” stands for Credentialing Opportunities On-Line, and it’s available for members of every branch to learn about the civilian qualifications, apprenticeships and licensing requirements necessary to do their military job (or actually, any job) in the civilian world. Once they know what certifications they need, military members can apply for vouchers to pay for eligible credentialing exams, recertification fees and maintenance fees.

COOL is open to officers and enlisted alike at the DoD COOL portal.

2. United Services Military Apprenticeship Program

Many skilled trade careers in America come with civilian apprenticeship requirements. This program, called USMAP for short, allows active-duty service members to complete the requirements for their chosen career field while still serving in the military. Once completed, certificates are provided through the Department of Labor.

Check out eligible trades and requirements at the USMAP portal.

3. American College of Financial Services

Many sectors and industries require certifications, and the wealth management industry is one of them. For those with an interest in becoming a wealth management, financial services or retirement income certified professional, the ACFS has you covered. It also has programs for education and underwriting. Find out more by reaching out to ACFS’ Center for Military and Veterans Affairs.

4. Act Now Education’s “3 CERT”

Transitioning military members, veterans, spouses and dependents can get a well-rounded jump on civilian life with the 3 CERT Program, which offers eight weeks of job preparation training, a tailored business suit, headshots, resume writing assistance, an employment workshop, mock interviews and job placement assistance. It also provides industry certification training, preparation and exam vouchers for CompTIA Security+ or Splunk, Professional Scrum Master, PMI Project Management or CompTIA Project+.

5. Act Now Education “CERT2SUCCESS”

Similar to Act Now’s 3 CERT program, this option is slightly more streamlined and offers different certification programs. The CERT2SUCCESS certification also works similarly with training and prep courses, capped with an exam voucher. Candidates can study ISC Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), CYBERAB Certified Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification Professional (CPP), Professional Scrum Master, PMI Project Management Professional, or a cloud or cybersecurity-related certification.

Act Now Education also offers military-connected persons free access to Coursera, which has more than 7,000 online courses, including certifications in IBM and Google Cloud development. Learn how to get free Coursera access here.

6. NPower

NPower’s mission is to help military veterans and underserved communities launch digital careers. Vets can master the fundamentals of the information technology world through its certifications in IT, cloud computing and cybersecurity. NPower also offers a SkillBridge association for veterans still on active duty and includes 16 weeks of instructor-led training, opportunities for internships and certifications, mentoring and job placement assistance.

7. Onward to Opportunity

It should come as no surprise that the private sector is looking for the veteran work ethic. In teaming with Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), corporations help veterans transition and find career pathways through the IVMF Onward to Opportunity program. Veterans start by taking a career development course and then can move into training and certification programs in CISSP, CompTIA Security+, CompTIA Project+, CCNA, PMP and more.

8. Purdue University Northwest

This program is actually open to all American citizens and permanent residents and offers some cybersecurity certifications in emerging fields, including artificial intelligence and digital forensics, as well as tried-and-true fields like system administration CompTIA A+, CompTIA Linux+, CompTIA Security+ and more.

Click here to learn more about applying.

9. Agile for Patriots

Veterans and military spouses can get no-cost certifications and training through Dallas-based nonprofit Agile for Patriots. “Agile” doesn’t mean the nonprofit is quick-moving (though it might be). Agile refers to the project management technique and its certification requirements. Learn to become a certified Agile Scrum Master by starting on the Agile for Patriots website.

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