By Teresa Duncan, Ph.D., CSM(R), Director of Military Programs at eCornell
Transitioning from active duty to civilian life can lead to a profound sense of fulfillment and significant challenges. Many veterans are equipped with industry-specific service experience, but complex job markets still often present obstacles to employment.
Online certificate programs offer veterans opportunities to acquire new skills and knowledge, demonstrate commitment to particular career fields and build networks of like-minded leaders – all essential factors in securing professional roles. However, selecting the right program is key. Here are four questions veterans should consider when determining which online education programs would be most valuable for their future.
Does the program align with my background and goals?
Leveraging current skills can be advantageous in the effort to bridge the gap between military experience and civilian job requirements. For example, if a veteran has experience in logistics, a program in supply chain management or project leadership might be a natural fit.
It is important to understand the options. In evaluating course content, prerequisites and outcomes, a veteran may find unexpected alignment with goals that diverge from their background and sync with their transferable skills. A former Army civil affairs specialist might excel in a PR strategy certificate program that covers crisis communication planning or discover new ways to lead through an international public and NGO management program.
To choose the best path, it is valuable to first complete a self-assessment of strengths and areas for growth, then list short- and long-term career objectives. The program a veteran selects should align with the needs and goals they identify.
Is the program flexible enough to fit my schedule and lifestyle?
Online learning makes professional development more accessible than ever. The most popular types of online learning models include:
100% Asynchronous – This on-demand style of learning is the most flexible. Learners can complete assignments at any time, and there is no direct interaction with faculty, industry specialists or peers to discuss ideas or answer questions. Without additional structure, some learners find it difficult to complete the courses or apply what they learn without support.
Asynchronous and interactive – This model permits students to log in and learn at their convenience while connecting learners to professionals and peers. There may be requirements to complete assignments through discussion boards with classmates. Plus, instructors are on hand to give feedback and help students stay on track to apply what they learn to their current or future jobs.
Synchronous – This style is the least flexible and most interactive. Courses are delivered live by instructors, and learners must attend at specific times to participate.
It can be helpful for veterans to explore programs with self-paced options or accommodations for irregular schedules. The selected program should also match their individual learning style and offer a multitude of instructional approaches, including video lectures, downloadable guides, discussion forums and peer collaboration.
Will I receive academic support to complete the program?
Resource access is a significant consideration for any educational venture. Students should be able to reach advisors or facilitators in the virtual learning environment as easily as they could by visiting their physical offices. When searching for the right-fit online certificate, veterans should ensure there are clear methods for learners to contact staff who can offer guidance on the course materials, answer questions or address technical issues.
Veterans may also take their team-oriented experience into account and select programs that offer cohort-based learning, study groups or symposiums. Peer interactions can provide camaraderie and motivation to complete complex assignments and offer an expanded network that learners can tap into throughout their careers.
It is also necessary to assess financial resources. Programs that accept veteran benefits or offer payment plans are better for budgets and vital to maintaining other economic aspects of the transition to a civilian lifestyle.
How will the program advance my career or improve my prospects for the future?
As technology continues to transform business and hiring practices, it is more important to stand out in the pool of candidates with advanced education or training from reputable institutions. The most beneficial online certificate programs for veterans will deliver content developed by distinguished faculty and industry experts, course tools that can be used on the job and credits toward professional certifications. These advantages empower vets to tie their military service to current specialized skills that employers need.
Ultimately, a certificate is a valued addition to a resume. Completing an online learning program is also a gateway to building the confidence, connections, and qualifications that shape lives beyond the workplace.
Would an asynchronous and interactive online certificate program align with your goals? If so, Cornell University provides more than 130 online certificate programs that can help you upskill as you serve or prepare to transition. Cornell was recently named the #1 Best College for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report, and its online programs are directly authored by Cornell faculty and guided by professional industry facilitators. Small cohorts enable students to develop valuable connections that position them for success in a variety of fields. You can get started today with Credentialing Assistance or VA education benefits. Learn more at ecornell.cornell.edu.