5 Career Struggles of Military Spouses

Posted on February 2, 2017

This is a guest blog post written by Britni Miltner of milspouseresource.com.

A military spouse is flexible, strong, and independent. The relocations, the deployments, being away from family – those are some among the many regular challenges that come with being a military spouse. Maintaining a successful career is not impossible, but it might as well be, as is a difficult and overwhelmingly common military spouse challenge. This may not be a regularly recognized issue by individuals and businesses unfamiliar with military life, simply because they are unaware that it is even a problem.

Military spouse blogger Bailey of Becoming Bailey explains, “I honestly believe becoming a military spouse has absolutely ruined my career. Before, I was on-track to become an HR Specialist at my previous employer, and now I had to settle for a part-time, minimum-wage Office Assistant position because they were the only ones willing to hire me”.

In April 2016, Blue Star Families revealed the results of a survey regarding military spouse employment (or rather, unemployment). The results of this study have been circulating the social media outlets since its release. In her report on US News and World Report, Lolita Baldor explains that “up to 42 percent of military spouses — or as many as 95,000 — are jobless, compared to about 25 percent of a comparable civilian spouse population. In addition, it estimated that military spouses with a bachelor’s degree earn 40 percent less than their civilian counterparts.” This survey provides an excellent study of the causes of several different career challenges that military spouses experience.

 

Here are just five of the numerous career struggles that military spouses face:

  • Childcare- Oh, the childcare issue. This isn’t a matter that is only reserved for military families. Non-military families can relate to this problem as well. It’s no secret that childcare is expensive. The cost doesn’t make it worth working in many cases, where most of check on payday would go to paying for childcare. Wait lists also add to the stress of searching for childcare. In places with limited options, affordable childcare centers have long wait lists – several months to a year.
  • Location of Military Base- Many military bases are in remote locations which offer little or no job opportunities for local residents, let alone transient military spouses. Telecommuting jobs may be available, but positions are difficult to come by, have unrealistic requirements, or the positions simply don’t pay well. Sometimes we may apply for a job just to try to continue employment to close resume gaps, and are not selected because we are overqualified for the position.
  • Employment Challenges and Resume Gaps- We are often instructed as military spouses to withhold our military spouse status from a prospective employer as it could hinder chances for employment. Employers aren’t interested in hiring an employee knowing that they will be leaving in a few years. Many times, we don’t even get a chance to interview once an employer learns that we are married to a service member. Military spouses may have significant resume gaps, with years in between jobs due to these constant relocations and lack of job offers, which could be a reason for an employer to not consider.
  • Relocation- Military families relocate an average of every 2 to 3 years. A recent case study conducted by Institute of Veterans and Military Families interviewed 8 military spouses currently employed by corporate companies. Deborah Bradbard, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate, stated that “Military spouses often have to disrupt their careers because they frequently relocate, often live in remote locations, have limited childcare options and more.” Additionally, there is a challenge of transferring licenses from state to state, as several states have their own requirements. These inconsistencies are costly, time consuming, and redundant.
  • Household Expenses & Earning Less- These days, a dual income for a typical family is almost a necessity. The case study conducted by Institute of Veterans and Military Families previously mentioned, reveals that “much like their civilian counterparts, military families typically require two incomes to meet household expenses, yet unemployment rates for military spouses are nearly three times greater than their civilian peers. In addition, active duty military spouses earn 38 percent less than their civilian peers, even though the majority are well-educated.”

For being referred to as “dependents”, military spouses continually prove to be successfully independent. We must learn to adapt quickly to run a household, take on the role as both mother and father, and remain strong for the family. Many of us give birth, move our family across country (or the world!) and back again, buy and sell real estate, and manage toddlers, tweens, teenagers, and everything in between – alone. In addition, we are often burdened with the worry of a deployed service member spouse, and distance can often increase stress and anxiety.

It is our goal as a military spouse community, to do what we can to perpetuate change until military spouses are not punished for being married to a service member, and offered the same opportunities as non-military spouses. Remote positions, internal transfers to different offices, certification continuity, and flexible schedules, could all be potential solutions to this issue.

Until then, we will continue the movement of awareness and create change together, and remain military spouse strong.