In This Article
Military Spouse Employment Challenges
8 Top Jobs for a Military Spouse
How Does Outlier Support the Military?
If I had known I would become a military spouse, I may have planned my career differently.
Or, if I had known all the challenges military spouses face when it comes to employment, I might have chosen a different career—and a different degree to support it!
Instead, it took almost a decade of me being married to an active duty service member to comprehend the career challenges military spouses face.
When I married my service member, I had a college degree and a stable job I loved and had held for several years. I left it to move to his duty station, and I was immediately surprised at how challenging the job search was, even with prior work experience.
At one low point of desperation, I applied for work as a door-to-door vacuum salesperson. I was turned down for being “too educated.”
I eventually found full-time work through a temp agency, and was offered a new job where my salary was higher than my service member’s. I had clear advancement opportunities on a manager track. It was great…for one year. Then my husband received permanent change of station (PCS) orders, and we had to move to a new state.
The next military base was in a remote, rural location with few local job opportunities. We decided it was best for me to stay home with our young children while earning my master’s degree. I finished it in 3 years, and I was excited to begin my career at the next duty station.
That’s when we learned our family was being sent overseas to Spain. It was a beautiful location. But because the country struggled with unemployment issues, military spouses were not allowed to apply for most jobs, even on the military base. I worked part-time as a government contractor and self-published my first book.
Finally, after 7 years of unemployment, underemployment, and struggling to find childcare, I established my own company so I could work for myself as a freelance writer. There are numerous frustrations to being an entrepreneur as a military spouse. But it has given me flexibility to continue earning income even after moving 3 times in the past 5 years.
If you’re a military spouse starting your career path, you know military spouse employment is a major concern. You’ll want to know the best careers for military spouses that offer stability, flexibility, and work-from-home opportunities.
Keep reading to discover flexible career opportunities for military spouses that move with you whenever you go through a PCS.
Military Spouse Employment Challenges
The military spouse's struggle with employment is not a new issue. Traditionally, the military lifestyle itself is not conducive to the spouse maintaining steady career growth during the active duty member’s military service.
In the past, officer and higher-income military ranks expected the spouse to support the military community by remaining at home full-time, and even volunteering for positions to support families in the unit.
In recent years, as more American households need 2 incomes to survive, military spouses are increasingly seeking full-time meaningful employment.
Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. Several obstacles stand in the way of military spouse employment.
Military families move every 2 to 3 years on average. Finding new employment after frequent moves can create gaps in a military spouse resume and prevent promotion or career growth.
Careers requiring a license or certification require recertification every time the spouse moves to a new state. This affects teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, and counselors.
Overseas assignments come with local laws called SOFA (Status of Force Agreements), which can prohibit military spouses from working, even on base.
Some military bases are in remote locations or difficult time zones with limited job options in many career fields.
Childcare at military base facilities often has a long wait list and requires the spouse to find a job before joining the list. Off-base childcare is not affordable for military families in many locations.
Even if all those problems are avoided, the service member’s work in the military is unpredictable and not flexible. Deployments, TDY assignments, and unusual hours are challenging for a military spouse career, especially if they have a child.
Because of these challenges, military spouses have consistently faced a 22% unemployment rate, which is 2 to 4 times higher than most of the U.S. population. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, military spouses are one of the highest unemployed demographics.
Thankfully, there have been some improvements in recent years. In 2018, the National Defense Authorization Act allowed military spouses to receive up to $1,000 from the Department of Defense to reimburse re-licensure and certification costs after a military move.
In 2023, President Biden signed the Military Spouse Licensing Relief Act to make it easier for military spouses to transfer their professional license to a new state after a PCS move.
Since the pandemic, opportunities to work from home have expanded in numerous career fields, and it is now much easier to find remote work opportunities and flexible careers for military spouses. Many spouses who work remotely can continue on their career path throughout each PCS move.
Despite these steps forward, there is still a long way to go to improve military spouse employment opportunities. Spouses who understand the challenges and know the best careers for military spouses will be the most successful at maintaining consistent employment.
8 Top Jobs For A Military Spouse
These jobs represent flexible and high-paying career opportunities for military spouses. Salary ranges are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2022. The range represents the lowest 10% and the highest 10% of salaries from each category.
1. Human Resources
Human Resources professionals can work for almost any company in the world. HR positions are often remote, and the career is in demand everywhere, making it one of the best careers for military spouses after a PCS move.
To work in HR, military spouses should earn a B.S. in Human Resources or a master’s in Human Resource Management.
Salary Range: $39,000 - $116,000 annually
2. Government and Public Administration
Since military spouses typically live near a military base, government jobs can provide flexible careers for military spouses. Federal government roles provide stability and offer flexible scheduling, since public administration officials are the most likely to understand the unique demands of military life.
Career options are available in government and public administration. Positions like analyst will be more portable than being a manager or supervisor. Most careers will require a college degree.
Salary Range: $28,700 - $66,850 annually
3. Computer Support Specialist
Jobs in the IT (Information Technology) sector are in high demand because every company needs to ensure their computer systems continue to run smoothly for employees. Careers are often flexible, which is convenient for military spouses going through PCS moves.
Some computer specialist jobs must be on-site at an office, while many others provide at-home jobs for military spouses. Computer programmers, software developers, and database administrators typically require a college degree.
Salary Range: $42,440 - $115,200 annually
4. Health Care
This is a major industry that’s always in demand, especially as the U.S. population ages and needs more elderly care. Currently, 1 in 10 military spouses are employed in the healthcare field. Positions like nurse, doctor, dental hygienist, pharmacy tech, or home health aid are stable careers offering consistent military spouse employment.
ilitary spouses in the Army, Navy, or Air Force can apply to work at a military hospital or base medical treatment facility.
Most healthcare positions require a college or advanced degree, plus state certification. Spouses will need to practice consistently to maintain licenses.
Salary Range: $38,300 - $161,000 annually, depending on title
5. Educational Services
Teachers, educators, counselors, and administrators are in high demand throughout the U.S., making education a portable and flexible career for military spouses. The career path offers stability and includes remote work opportunities such as online teaching and tutoring.
Becoming an educator requires a bachelor’s degree in education or a master’s degree in a teaching-related specialty. Most states require certification for teaching jobs.
Salary Range: $46,400 - $101,000 annually, with a national average of $63,000
6. Customer Service
Jobs in retail and customer service are flexible and available nationwide: a winning combination for military spouse employment. While cashiers and salespersons work on-location, customer service is one of the most flexible at-home jobs for military spouses. Work is available during evening or weekend shifts, especially for large companies with an international presence.
Most customer service positions do not require a college degree for entry-level jobs.
Salary Range: $22,590 - $47,200 annually
Whether you choose to specialize in Marriage and Family Therapy—which has become increasingly popular for couples—or a speech or behavioral therapist, you’ll find therapy is a portable job in high demand throughout the U.S.
Therapists can work part-time or full-time. In-person and virtual appointments are popular for military families, who can get these services covered through Tricare health insurance. Most positions require a degree and a state certification.
Salary Range: $37,000 - $111,000 annually
8. Financial Services and Specialist
Including positions like accountant, bank teller, service representative, or financial advisor, the financial sector offers many opportunities for promotions and is a stable career path for military spouses. Jobs will be most common in urban areas, but some remote work is available.
Jobs in the financial services category offer competitive salaries and commission bonuses, but will also require a college degree. Some positions may require state-specific certification.
Salary Range: $42,750 - $134,480 annually
How Does Outlier Support the Military?
When you’re ready to earn a degree that gives you flexible career options as a military spouse, check out Outlier.org’s online courses and accredited degrees through Golden Gate University. Learners typically earn an associate degree in less than 2 years, plus a job-ready certificate from top companies like Google or IBM to level up their career.
The military-friendly Degrees+ program offers up to 12 college credits from military training programs and accepts G.I. Bill benefits for military spouses and dependents. With an average cost of $199 per credit, this is an affordable way for military spouses to earn a degree or certification toward stable employment.
Degrees+ accepts financial aid for military spouses and service members, including:
Up to $4,000 of tuition assistance with a MyCAA scholarship
Federal grants and loans with FAFSA application (a Pell Grant fully covers the average tuition!)
36 months of education benefits through the G.I. Bill
Chapter 35 Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance
With an online education through Outlier, military spouses are more prepared for a flexible career that moves with them whenever they PCS. With a degree and a career certification, military spouses using Degrees+ are 2 steps closer to finding a job.
Degrees+: Discover Online College Unlike Anything You’ve Experienced
Outlier (winner of TIME Best Inventions 2020) and Golden Gate University (#1 school for working professionals) have redesigned the experience of earning a college degree to minimize cost and maximize outcomes. Explore a revolutionary way to earn your college degree: