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The Military Spouse Employment Gap: Tips on How to Close It!

There’s a problem in this country that I’m passionate about solving.

Most of us recognize the sacrifices our service men and women in the military make for us, but few of us are aware of the struggles their spouses face. Being married to a military service member often poses significant problems for a spouse’s employment prospects.

Why Is The Unemployment Rate so High for a Military Spouse?

Look at the facts. Right now, there’s a military spouse unemployment rate of 26%! That’s more than three-times the overall national unemployment rate. It’s no secret that the job market and overall economy have been poor for a long time, but when the unemployment rate is so much higher among military spouses, you can tell there’s something else going on.

Pediatric Dental Assistant School Spaceman sadness

Military families move frequently

One key factor is that many service members are moved around often. On average, they will relocate between 8 and 12 times during a 20 year career with the military – sometimes overseas. The implications of this are troubling for a military service member’s spouse and her career.

With frequent moving means a prospective employer might look at her resume, and see the frequent job change and wonder if she’s unreliable. Employers want to know that the person they hire will stick be able to stick around for the long term.

Another issue is the fact that there’s never enough time in any one location for a spouse to accumulate valuable experience and job skills. It takes time to advance in a career, but starting from scratch after each move can derail the success of a military spouse.

So, How Do We Bridge This Gap?

We should be doing what we can to help close the gap in employment for the spouses of our military service members. One thing that can help lower the unemployment rate is awareness about new programs, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s, Hiring Our Heroes program.

These types of programs provide resources to help military spouses build a resume, connect with other military spouses, attend hiring fairs, and more.

Job Options for Military Spouses

Perhaps the best way to stay employable is to proactively choose a field or career that’s easier to maintain as a military spouse. One way to approach this is with jobs that don’t require lengthy or costly training, such as:

  • Health-Care Support Worker. Health-care is one of those famously recession-proof fields. Sadly, illness and injury are inevitabilities. If there’s a silver lining to be found there, it’s that we’ll always need healers and people to support them.
  • Cosmetology. One of the perks of cosmetology is that success is generally determined by the talent of the cosmetologist. So if you have a talent for it, you can do very well.
  • Massage Therapist. See cosmetology – a talented masseuse or masseur can write their own ticket.
  • Dental Assistant. Of course I have a preference for this one, but dental assistants get a decent wage; it’s stable work; doesn’t require a lengthy training period; and is inexpensive, particularly in comparison to a traditional college education.
  • Personal Trainer. If you’re a gym rat or fitness fanatic, why pay for a gym membership, when you can get paid in one?

Jobs where you can get up to speed quickly are likely a better fit for you if you expect to move within a year or two.

Another fantastic choice for military spouses is to consider working freelance, in a telecommuting capacity. If you’re good with language, consider freelance writing or editing. If you are tech-savvy, look into developing a freelance web design career. Other options include:

  • Graphic Design
  • Virtual Assistance
  • Tutoring
  • Social Media
  • Consulting

With so many skills that you can offer through the Internet, phone, or video conferencing, it’s possible to avoid the frustration associated with frequent moving altogether. Any clients you work with will simply stay with you when you move.

There is Hope, I Can Help!

If you are a military spouse looking for a career that you can take with you no matter how many times you’re relocated, dental assistant may be a great fit for you!

~ Dr. Rhea Haugseth