Military Spouses: Breaking Career Barriers

Military Spouses Breaking Career Barriers

Military spouses may finally be getting the attention they deserve. With the economy running at full employment and businesses complaining of a shortage of talented workers, a pool of over 600,000 highly educated workers is difficult to ignore.1

Military Spouses Unemployment Statistics

Traditionally, “married to the military” husbands and wives have sacrificed career goals and opportunities in support of active duty spouses and the nation. Unemployment and underemployment are significant problems. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the unemployment rate for military spouses is currently around 16 percent, quadruple the overall rate of unemployment in the U.S. Frequent and sometimes unpredictable relocations are certainly a career barrier for the group. For spouses with professional careers, complex licensing requirements that vary state by state present additional difficulties.

Military spouses were in focus at the 2018 Military Spouse Employment Summit, held June 28 in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by Hiring Our Heroes, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation initiative for transitioning service members, the half day event was intended to highlight the workforce value of military spouses and the continuing career difficulties they face. Headlined by prominent figures like Kellyanne Conway and Jill Biden, the event was the centerpiece for announcements of several government and private sector initiatives designed to increase opportunities for U.S. military spouse employment.

Government Initiatives: Changes to PPP-S

In early May 2017, reported on changes coming to the Defense department’s military spouse federal hiring preference. The Priority Placement Program for Spouses (PPP-S) is a longstanding, but historically problematic incentive for government agencies to provide jobs for military spouses after a permanent change-of-station (PCS) move.

airforce spouse

Under PPP-S provisions, military spouses have been required to register at each new duty station and then wait for preference-eligible positions to come open. Until 2017, the eligibility period was limited to 2 years after a PCS relocation. That provision was eliminated by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, but questions about retroactivity and general confusion among hiring managers have reduced the benefits of PPP-S preferences to spouses looking for federal jobs.

Changes to the PPP-S program would shift the application of preferences from local duty stations to USAJobs, the federal government’s online recruiting platform –theoretically opening up a wider selection military spouse employment opportunities. According to the report, no timeline was set for the Priority Placement Program for Spouses changes, but Pentagon officials indicated that base hiring managers would be trained on the new rule before changes take effect. 2

White House Support for Military Spouse Careers

On May 9, President Trump issued an executive order that reinforced the government’s commitment to military spouse employment. The order added structure to the previous announcement, re-establishing the PPP-S hiring authority and emphasizing the administration’s commitment to military spouses:

It shall be the policy of the United States to enhance employment support for military spouses. This policy will assist agencies in tapping into a pool of talented individuals and will promote the national interest of the United States and the well-being of our military families. It will also help retain members of the Armed Forces, enhance military readiness, recognize the tremendous sacrifices and service of the members of our Armed Forces and their families, and decrease the burden of regulations that can inhibit the entry of military spouses into the workforce. 3

The executive order instructed agencies to “actively advertise and promote the military spouse hiring authority and actively solicit applications from military spouses for posted and other agency positions (including through USAJobs).” Agencies are also required to begin reporting on their efforts as of FY 2019.

Hiring Path on USAJOBS for Military Spouses

Implementation of changes to the system may be gradual, but the military spouse icon is beginning to show up on USAJobs. As of the writing of this post, there were 51 positions listed with military spouse preferences. The eligibility requirements posted on the site are still somewhat complicated, and the two year PCS cap is currently still listed.

New DOL Website Tackles Licensing Issues

State licensing and certification requirements have been a persistent problem for military spouses in professional occupations. While many states have passed legislation to improve portability for teaching certificates, medical and healthcare licensing, and a variety of other professional certifications; military spouses continue to encounter obstacles with every move.

Information for Military Spouses on DOL Website

A new U.S Department of Labor website for military spouses provides information about license transfer options and a State Occupation License Finder that provides a search engine to identify state licensing agencies for almost any profession. The site also includes career information, assessments, and links to other informational and employment resources.

Hiring Our Heroes – Private Sector Commitment to Military Spouses

At the center of private sector efforts on behalf of military spouses is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program.  Launched in 2011, the goal of Hiring our Heroes is to help Veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities. At the June employment summit, the organization announced a 3-year private sector campaign to employ 100,000 military spouses.  Participating companies include Starbucks, Comcast NBC Universal, milItary contractor Booz, Allen Hamilton, and several other U.S. corporations..Hiring Our Heroes also sponsors a military spouse professional network, intended to provide participants with local and online networking opportunities and career development resources.

Military Spouse Resumes from CareerPro Global

New opportunities are opening for military spouses, but landing the right position still requires effort and preparation. That’s where CareerPro Global can help. We support active military families with career coaching and Military Spouse Resumes that target federal and private sector positions. If you’ve just completed a PCS move or if you’re a spouse looking to return to the workforce, we’re here to assist you with your efforts. Getting started is easy . . . just get in touch for a free career consultation.


1 Military Spouses in the Workplace, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, June 2017.

2 Bushatz, Amy, Overhaul Coming to DoD’s Spouse Employment Preference Program,, 5/7/18.

Executive Order Enhancing Noncompetitive Civil Service Appointments of Military Spouses,, 5/9/18.


5 Military Spouses Eligibility,, 8/11/18.

Hiring 100K Military Spouses,

Military Spouses in the Labor Market, The Council of Economic Advisers, May 2018.

Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons, U.S. Air Force

About the author:

Previous ArticleExecutive Career: Your Next Move Strategy and Tactics Next ArticleSES Candidate Development Program: Sharpening the Executive Core Qualifications