AF COOL program: Your complete guide
One of the more unique programs offered by the U.S. Air Force is known as the Air Force Credentialing Opportunities On-Line, or AF COOL. The Air Force COOL program provides the means and the pathway for enlisted members of the Air & Space Forces to achieve industry-recognized professional certifications and licenses. In return, those that complete the military COOL program can apply their skills in their home specialties.
So what does the Air Force COOL program entail and how does one take advantage of the opportunity?
AF COOL program overview
The AF COOL program provides a pathway for enlisted members to map any one of 642 professional and industry certifications and private licenses to the 190 Air Force specialty codes (AFSC). Once an education program is selected and approved, the Air Force 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 $4,500 per Airman or Space Professional throughout their career.
The goal of the program is, according to the Air Force, “to professionalize the enlisted force by providing up-to-date industry-recognized credentials in an Airman or Space Professional’s job.” The program also “provides a way for airmen to prepare for civilian life by ensuring that they are ready for work in the civilian sector.” The courses are a supplement to the Space Professional Development program.
How does AF COOL work?
According to Air Force Instruction 36-2670, the AF COOL program is designed so Airmen and Space Professionals can use the funding toward training related to each of the following:
- Their primary Air Force specialty code
- An awarded academic degree
- A credential unrelated to their primary AFSC
- A leadership and management credential for E-7s and above
Airmen and Space professionals also need to be on active duty orders, known as Title 10 or Title 32.502(f) orders, during the complete process. This includes enlisted members of the regular Air Force, Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard in an active capacity.
For Airmen and Space Professionals 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 AF 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 Air Force COOL program will initiate the process to recoup the money.
Other eligibility criteria include:
- Possession of a 5-skill level in their Primary Air Force Specialty Code
- Do not have an UIF, are not on a control roster, and are current on their most recent fitness test at the time of application
- Have a profile in AFVEC with an approved credentialing goal
- Must obtain supervisor approval and complete the entire credential while on active duty status
AFCOOL participants also can only complete one credential at a time; however, the AF COOL program has been recently updated to allow for one non-AFSC-related credential and one completed degree-associated credential at the bachelor’s or high level.
What do AF COOL participants have to do?
If you are interested in participating in the AF COOL program, there are several key steps you need to take, based on the official Air Force Virtual Education’s COOL program website. These steps include:
1. Identify an AF COOL credential
To begin, the member should create an AFVEC profile and identify a certification from one of the approved lists of AF COOL programs.
Each credential listed will have certain criteria that should be met by the participant and discussed with their supervisor. These include:
- Related occupations
The participant should remember that the AF 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.
2. Obtain an eligibility letter
Once a participant has selected a program that they are eligible for, they should then fill out the Credentialing Eligibility Letter, which can be found on the AFVEC program page.
3. Create an educational goal and upload documentation
Next, the participant creates an educational goal based on the selected credential and discusses their participation with their supervisor. Upon getting approval from their supervisor, they should then upload supporting documents, such as the itemized price quote and AF COOL Credentialing Agency Approval document under their educational goal in AFVEC.
4. Begin a funding request
With all the prior steps completed, next, within the AFVEC account, select “Apply for Funding” within your AF COOL program goal. Clicking this button will provide the prompts to complete the funding request.
The following types of information will be needed and selected:
- Exam center: This should be provided by the credentialing agency’s website, such as Pearson VUE.
- Cost for the exam: The cost plus any administration fees.
- The testing window: Based on the program website, AF COOL has recently changed its testing window from 30 to 120 days.
Once these steps are complete, the participant’s supervisor will approve or reject your funding request.
5. Official program office funding approval
With supervisor approval, the funding request is then sent to the AF COOL program office. This office will make a payment on behalf of the participant.
6. 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 AF COOL program office at their email address: CCAF.DEAO.AFCOOL@US.AF.MIL.
If the results are not provided, the participant will be required to reimburse the AF COOL program.
What types of programs are available within the AF COOL program?
According to Air Force University, there are currently 1,650 credentialing programs approved for participant funding.
Examples of options from the AF COOL program list include:
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- Information Systems Security Architecture Professional (ISSAP)
- Information Systems Security Engineering Professional (ISSEP)
- Information Systems Security Management Professional (ISSMP)
- Certified Authorization Professional (CAP)
- Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)
- Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP)
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
- Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
- Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT)
- Certified Data Privacy Solutions Engineer (CDPSE)
- Certified Information Privacy Professional/United States (CIPP/US)
- Certified Information Privacy Manager (CIPM)
- Certified Information Privacy Technologist (CIPT)
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
- EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- ITIL Foundations
- Microsoft Azure
- PMI Project Management Professional (PMP)
- Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA)
Pursuing the AF COOL program
In this article, we set out to provide you with an overview of the purpose, steps and opportunities available within the AF COOL program. There are several great programs, certifications, and training opportunities that those eligible for AF COOL 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 hundreds of courses and live boot camps 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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- Air Force Virtual Education Program, United States Air Force
- Air Force University, United States Air Force