United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP)

Military Apprentices kneeling on the beach.

 Charles Ommanney / Getty Images 

Military experience is an outstanding resume-builder if you know how to sell it, but everyone’s looking for that extra edge — something they can back up with certificates and credentials. One option for sailors and Marines (and the Coast Guard) is the United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP), a partnership between the US Department of Labor (DOL) and the military that lets service members use their on-duty experience to earn journeyman status in a trade.


Designed as an on-the-job training tool, USMAP is only for active-duty members of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard who already have a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) or rating, a high school diploma or GED, and enough time on their enlistment contract to finish an apprenticeship. Because they’re not employed full-time in a MOS, reservists, unfortunately, cannot participate in USMAP -- although they could still find civilian apprenticeships on their own (more on that later.)

Because USMAP is intended to give servicemembers a leg up using their actual military experience, you need to have a MOS/rating (or an official duty assignment outside your MOS) that corresponds to a journeyman trade. (In other words, an infantryman can’t enroll for a construction apprenticeship just because that’s the job he wants after the military — unless he’s assigned to official and regular duties, outside his MOS, working in construction.)

Here’s an example that could work: As a career planner in the Marine Corps, Joe was also assigned as the command’s local photographer for portraits and public relations shots. With some creative thinking and some off-duty education, Joe might have got himself an apprenticeship in photography normally only available to combat camera operators. The downside? Since USMAP only allows one apprenticeship at a time, he'd have gambled away his shot at a human resources certificate relevant to his actual MOS.

Eligible Occupations

USMAP’s Self-Service website offers a convenient list of eligible MOS and ratings that are not only staggering in size but surprising in some of the fields it covers. For the sake of brevity, here’s a count of the Navy and Marine occupational fields that aren’t covered by USMAP:

  • Musicians (MU/5500) and air traffic controllers (AC/7200) in either branch.
  • In the Navy, there are no USMAP apprenticeships for Interpretive Cryptologic Technicians (CTI) or Navy Divers (ND).
  • In the Marines, Infantry (0300), Training (0900), Tank and Amphibious Assault Vehicles Operators (1800), Linguists (2700), Chemical/Biological/Radioactive/Nuclear Technicians (5700), and Flight Crews (7300) have no journeyman equivalent.

A Few Surprises

While it seems USMAP excludes all direct-combat jobs like infantry -- for the presumed reason that they have no equivalent civilian trade -- I found a few interesting exceptions:

  • Special Warfare Operators (SO) -- aka Navy Seals -- are actually eligible, at grade E-7 and above, for an apprenticeship as a Master Homeland Security Specialist if they’re officially assigned the Navy Enlisted Classification Code (NEC) for Disaster Preparedness Operations and Training Specialist (9598) or Anti-Terrorism Training Supervisor Instructor (9501).
  • The Marine Corps’ artillery occupational field (0800) actually has a few journeyman equivalents: Cannoneers (0811) can apprentice as government service ordnance artificers, Fire Controllers (0844) as surveyor assistants, and Sensor Support Techs (0847) as weather observers.


USMAP claims that it “requires no off-duty hours,” but you do need to log 144 hours of formal training for every 2,000 hours (about a year) of apprenticeship work. Fortunately, formal military training for your job can knock a lot of that out in the beginning, and even relevant correspondence courses such as those offered by the Marine Corps Institute (which can also boost promotion potential) count toward the requirement.

The worst-case scenario is, of course, having to take off-duty courses using tuition assistance or the GI Bill. But a little education never hurt anyone.

Other Apprenticeship Programs

There’s a conspicuous lack of information out there regarding apprenticeship programs for the Army, although a program has popped up in the past few years to help soldiers in the Army Reserve and National Guard. 

Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, veterans may also be eligible for payments to support vocational, technical, and on-the-job training. However, these (with the exception of GAPI) are not military-sponsored programs and are not necessarily apprenticeships. To become a journeyman this way, you’d still have to seek out, apply for, and gain acceptance to an apprenticeship program sponsored by a civilian employer that incorporates vocational training approved for GI Bill payments. Unfortunately, working a civilian apprenticeship opens up the possibility of being paid less than minimum wage, not to mention working outside the uniquely supportive environment of the military.