Tag Archive for Military Spouse Careers

Can a Military Spouse Pursue a Professional Career? (Ask Molly)

Dear Molly,

My boyfriend is currently in an ROTC battalion. He won’t be commissioned until 2013. He has, in the past couple months, begun to talk about getting married. He’s 24 and I’m 20. We currently have a long distance relationship because we go to school about 3 hours apart. With all of my extracurriculers and his work/ROTC we’ve been seeing each other once, maybe twice, a month since we started dating last year. This has forced us to talk a lot more than most couples our age and he is my best friend without a doubt. I love him and agree with him that we will possibly be married in the future. The problem is, I can’t stand the uncertainty of the Army. We are waiting for him to get a waiver so he can go to basic this summer (too many traffic tickets). It’s been over a month since he went to MEPs and they still haven’t contacted him either way. There’s no telling where he will be in 4 years when I graduate from grad school. How do military wives deal with their own careers? After I’m married, I want to live with him. I want to be able to be with him as much as possible and I’m willing to live on base and raise my kids on base. But, are there generally job opportunities for spouses near bases? I plan on getting a Masters of Public Policy and be research oriented, but some of my friends said that the only jobs you could get would be minimum wage type jobs. Eventually, he is going to retire and I will be able to settle into a professorship at a university somewhere. I guess my main problem is the uncertainty the Army brings to MY dreams, plans, and goals. It seems to amplify the normal problem that almost engaged/engaged/newly married couples go through in synthesizing two lives into one. Do you have any advice, other than talking about it because we do, for us?

Thanks!

Dear Reader,

Uncertainty is a fact of military life.

A military spouse may have a career but it may require a certain degree of flexibility and creativity.

Some of the variables that will affect your job prospects are unknowable: where he is posted, at what point he is deployed, and how long it will be before you move again.

There are other considerations that are more under his and your control but may shift over time: what his career goals are in the military, what your short-term and long-term career goals are, and at what point you would like to start a family.

Every post is different. There are some where the job market is abysmal and there are others where there may be opportunities to someone in your field. When I was in Texas, there were many spouses who found various medical and administrative jobs at several nearby hospitals. You might even find a job with the military and will receive some preference in applying for federal jobs as a spouse.

I am not familiar with the types of institutions that hire people to do public policy research. I would imagine most “think tanks” are based out of Washington, DC, but there are probably national charities, public service institutions, school districts, and government offices near most posts. You might not find your ideal job at each location but you can probably find something that makes use of your skill set and education in many places.

Another option is a consulting or freelance position that enables you to telecommute. Although I was able to re-certify as a classroom teacher each time I moved, I decided it made more sense to consult and write curriculum. This way, I had continuity no matter when and where I moved and I had the perfect job for when we started our family. Plus, I maintained my qualifications in my career field and gained experience.

There are career fairs, virtual and face-to-face, online web portals, and state programs in many locations (Texas had a great one) dedicated to helping military spouses further their careers. So, there is help available. I am actually doing some research right now and plan to write a post about some of these resources.  In the meantime, here are some links that may be helpful for military spouses on the job hunt or assessing their career path:

You might also decide if you receive an assignment in an area that makes it difficult to pursue your career that it is a good time to try to publish your own papers, volunteer to keep up your credentials, and/or start your family. In other words, you can pursue a path parallel to your career goals, while fulfilling personal and family goals. Then, once you are in a better position personally and geographically, you are still more or less on-track.

Yes, you can continue to pursue a professional career. However, the path may have a few more twists.

Hope this helped!


“Ask Molly” represents only my opinion and the comments of readers represent their opinions. I draw upon my training as a Family Readiness Group leader, my own experience and that of those I know, and any research I found on the Internet. I am not a trained counselor. Have a question? Send questions to askmolly [at] armywiveslives [dot] com.