License Reciprocity for Military Spouses
One of the most difficult things about being the spouse of an active duty service member is holding your career. Frequent moves make it difficult to keep a steady job, and if your particular profession requires licensure or state-mandated courses, then you may find yourself weighing the options of getting re-certified in your new (and short-lived) state or not working at all.
Military spouses around the globe have discussed the difficulty of continuing their careers while following their active duty spouses. If you are a teacher, a nurse, a doctor, a lawyer, or any other profession that requires a state certified license, you have undoubtedly come across the difficulty of restarting your career. You may have to take classes, pass exams, pay fees, and/or take undue time to get re-certified. And with everything else we have going on when we move to a new duty station — unpacking, finding new doctors, moving schools, and finding your way around town — the last thing we want to do every.three.years. is to get a piece of paper that says we can continue doing the job we were doing in our previous duty station!
There are some military spouses and politicians that recognize that license reciprocity for military spouses is an issue that needs to be addressed in order to better support military families. Dr. Jill Biden was a huge proponent of license reciprocity for military spouses through her campaign “Joining Forces” with Michelle Obama during the Obama Administration. But since President Trump’s inauguration, the “Joining Forces” initiative has all but disappeared.
Luckily, there are other organizations that have started the fight for military spouse professionals to get license reciprocity across the United States. The Defense State Liaison Office (DSLO) works closely with state representatives to bring about important state-regulated issues for military families. Established in 2004, the DSLO is made up of 11 professionals who take the most important issues — like license reciprocity for professional military spouses — and work to create laws and bills, and pass legislation.
In terms of licensure reciprocity, the DSLO has continued to work with all 50 states through the Department of Defense to make it easier for military spouses to transfer their licenses when relocating due to a PCS or military orders. Only a few states have begun to recognize or create compacts to make it easier to transfer licensure, but even with that each state’s requirements for transferring licensure may be different.
In addition to organizations like DSLO, there are groups of military spouses who are also working on our behalf to make it easier for us to transfer our professional licenses. The Military Spouse JD Network is a group of military spouse lawyers who are constantly working with state representatives and state bar boards so professional military spouse lawyers can continue their work no matter where their active duty spouse is stationed. Currently, there are 23 states that either waive or reduce fees, or waive exams. They also sponsor professional development seminars like Homefront Rising in Washington, D.C., which gives military spouses who are interested in working in politics an opportunity to network and learn.
Military spouses are resilient, strong and smart. We know that living the military lifestyle takes sacrifice from every person in the family. Many times military spouses feel this sacrifice when it comes to their careers. For those of us with professional state-regulated licenses, we find that there are new laws, new rules, new exams, new fees and/or new classes to consider all while trying to get our family settled in their new (albeit temporary) home. But the work of organizations like DLSO and MSJDN shows that there are military spouses around the world trying to make it easier for us to continue our careers while we follow our active duty service member.