Transitioning out of the military

Transitioning out of the military


Transitioning Out of the Military: Getting Licenses and Certifications Prior to Separation

Certain Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) prepare you for a civilian career better than others. Aviation Mechanic, for example, has an excellent equivalency to civilian employment. Infantry, on the other hand, not so much. That’s why choosing your MOS carefully when you join is so important.

Now that you’re preparing to transition from the military back to civilian life, however, there are some equally important steps that you should take in order to prepare you for your next career.

DoD Skillbridge Program

Interning and apprenticing are great ways to get on-the-job training and experience in a civilian career before you leave the military. You know that the military has an acronym for everything, and this is no different. The Department of Defense calls it JTEST-AI, or Job Training, Employment Skills Training, Apprenticeships, and Internships. The authority for the program comes from DoDI 1322.29 which you can find here and also in the References section below.

JTEST-AI, or DoD Skillbridge as it’s commonly known, is a program that offers transitioning service members up to 180 days of permissive TDY (temporary duty) to intern or apprentice with an approved employer. Before you sign up for the DoD Skillbridge program, there are some important things that you should know:

  1. Approval is from the first field grade officer with UCMJ authority in your chain of command.
  2. Application for the program is self-initiated. This means that it’s on you to sign up, nobody will do it for you.
  3. Because you will still be on active duty status, you are not allowed to receive payment for any training you receive. You will still receive all of your regular military pay.
  4. You must be discharged or released from active duty within 180 of beginning the program, which means you should begin the process of applying well before you begin your transition.

It’s important to remember that the JTEST-AI program is only available for authorized Skillbridge organizations. You can’t intern at your buddy’s repair shop back home. Here is a complete list of authorized Skillbridge organizations.


When I was in the Army, it was a running joke that everybody wished they had joined the Air Force. I can now admit that that’s not just a tongue-in-cheek joke, the Air Force really is cool. They have cool jobs, nice food, great housing, and they support their Airmen. Two examples of the latter point are the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) and Air Force Credentialing Opportunities Online (AFCOOL). CCAF is a program that automatically enrolls Airmen into college upon completion of basic training. The training they receive in basic is applied toward college credit, and the remaining classes are free of charge. A CCAF degree is required for advancement to the two highest enlisted ranks, so if you plan on staying in it’s a great advantage.

But not everybody makes the military a career. For those Airmen who choose to go back to civilian life, the Air Force has AFCOOL to get them the credentials to help them land lucrative jobs on the outside. AFCOOL provides up to $4,500 of lifetime benefit toward licensure and certifications. That includes licenses and fees and up to $500 for books. Airmen can only pursue a certification in a field within their AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code), which is like an MOS. Senior NCOs, however, may also pursue leadership certifications such as Project Management Professional, Sigma Six, and Certified Manager.

There are a few things to remember about AFCOOL. It’s self-initiated, so it’s up to the individual Airman to go out and get their certifications. It also requires supervisor approval. Finally, if the Airman should fail the certification test, they are required to pay for any AFCOOL expenses that were incurred. If that happens, however, that amount is not applied toward their $4,500 lifetime benefit and they can always try again.

Here is a fact sheet on AFCOOL, and you can reach the official AFCOOL website here.

Aviation Certifications

At the beginning of this article we talked about Aviation Mechanic, and how well it prepares you for a civilian career. That’s because many of the skills you learn in your training carry over to help you in a civilian job in the aviation field. There are also a number of certifications that aviation professionals can get to help them land a job when they transition from the military. Here is a rundown of some of the best certifications to seek. In many cases you can get these certifications prior to your military separation.

A&P Certificate

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation mechanic certification has two ratings, Airframe (A) and Powerplant (P). When you seek to certify in both ratings together, it’s commonly referred to as “A&P Certification”.

The FAA has several requirements before you can test for your certification, but most aviation mechanics in the military will qualify. You can read more about the requirements here.

GROL Certification

Many smaller and mid-sized aviation businesses cannot afford to hire a technician for each certification they need, so they save money by hiring technicians with multiple certifications. If you’re an A&P mechanic, you can make your resume stand out by obtaining your General Radio Operator’s License (GROL). The GROL certification allows you to maintain FCC radio communication equipment, and is a highly sought-after certification to civilian aviation employers.

Here is the FCC GROL website for more information, and here is where you can take the exam.


NCATT is the National Center for Aviation Technician Training. One of their most popular certifications is the Aviation Electronics Technician (AET) certification. Aircraft have some of the most complicated electronics systems found, and having an AET certification lets employers know that they can trust your training.

Getting your AET certification prior to leaving active duty will open up a whole world of civilian aviation jobs to you. This is one that you shouldn’t pass up. Click here to take the test.


DoDI 1322.29 JTEST-AI

DoD Skillbridge Organizations

Community College of the Air Force

AFCOOL Factsheet

AFCOOL Website

FAA Aircraft Mechanic Certification

FCC GROL Website

GROL Exam Website

AET Certification Test

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