Removing Barriers to Work: Updates on Military Spouse Licensing and Entrepreneurship
A common hurdle for military spouses across the globe is obtaining access to meaningful careers and employment while supporting a military lifestyle. In response to these challenges, a renewed interest in holistic military spouse support has grown tremendously over the last decade.
Although current governing systems are far from perfect, strides to alleviate expensive and redundant professional licensing fees and efforts to encourage reciprocity among the states are moving forward. So are the opportunities for military spouses to build portable and sustainable business that thrive throughout the challenges of a military career.
For personal insight, read, What About Me? Coping with Military Spouse Career Challenges.
Many, many organizations and individuals have pushed relentlessly to change how the U.S government as a whole, the Department of Defense, and civilian entities value and view military spouse work life.
These are a few of the well-known policy change maker advocates: Blue Star Families, National Military Family Association, Hiring Our Heroes, Military Officers of America, Military Spouse JD Network, and Military Family Advisory Network. Start with any one of these to find more information about how they serve military spouse education and careers.
Department of Labor’s Military Spouse Interstate License Recognition Options
At first glance, military spouse credentials and licensing don’t appear to be major obstacles to overcome. But for many, the financial burdens and extensive proof needed to re-establish certifications truly inhibit the transition after each PCS.
In some cases, the red tape is so extensive that re-filing for credentials takes longer than the length of the 2-3 year duty station, leaving overqualified spouses underemployed. This holds true not just for the traditionally thought of professionals such as doctors and lawyers, but for those in fields such as cosmetology, education, and dentistry.
Military spouses can now apply to transfer their credentials and/or be reimbursed for their licensing fees if their spouse’s PCS has caused the need for new applications, exams, or fees. If you are a spouse searching for guidance on any of these career transfer related topics, one of your first stops should be the Department of Labor’s Military Spouse Interstate License Recognition Options.
The site's interactive map details each state’s policy on licensing procedures and recognition options with direct access to the language of the law. See example below:
Image from the U.S. Dept of Labor
For example, choosing the State of Virginia, a short description reads: “State agencies shall expedite the issuance of licenses to military spouses and shall issue temporary licenses.”
In Texas, another state with a dense military population, their version reads: “Military spouses with licenses from other jurisdictions are permitted to practice their occupation for up to three years without obtaining a Texas license, so long as the spouse complies with registration requirements and is licensed in good standing by another jurisdiction with substantially equivalent requirements.”
Arizona turns upside down the idea that state borders negate a license holder’s education and previous fees paid. Arizona further explains, “State agencies shall issue licenses to all applicants from other states who have been licensed for at least one year, including but not limited to military spouses.”
Some professions already have interstate reciprocity agreements. Military spouses who are licensed attorneys, EMS personnel, nurses, physical therapists, and doctors have specific language written for their transfer. Most of these professions have advocate groups that strive to maintain the momentum for military spouse licensing issues. For example, the Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN) has been integral in paving the way for attorneys to legally practice state to state.
For more information about work opportunities, check out the Ultimate Guide for Military Spouse Employment.
Military Spouse Licensing Reimbursement Program
It's been a long, hard haul, and dozens of military spouse-centric organizations have worked tirelessly to achieve today’s progress. Military spouses can finally seek financial relief from The Military Spouse Licensing Reimbursement Program. The program was created as part of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.
The act provides the direction for each branch to reimburse military spouses up to $500 for licensure and certification fees if a PCS was mandated. Active duty and Reserve spouses are eligible while their spouse is serving active duty. If proven successful, this program could allow up to $1,000 of reimbursement in the future.
The Department of Defense offers a few tips for spouses, such as searching for reciprocity, before starting the reimbursement process. The DOD ultimately suggests working through Military OneSource to find branch specific details for application, but here are a few frequently asked questions from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy.
An extra shot of good news comes from retroactive reimbursement. If PCS orders were received on or after December 12, 2017, the day the law was signed, spouses may apply.
Entrepreneurial and Transitional Resources for Military Spouses
Military spouses are unmatched as inventors of portable businesses. Through necessity and an entrepreneurial spirit, many have found tremendous success both financially and personally by starting a small business. Or two. Or three! But, no one spouse can work entirely alone, forever. In order to grow their business, seek support, and simply swap best practice advice, milspouse business owners need to find like minded groups and individuals to stay sharp and improve their business.
Now, it could be argued, more than ever before, military spouse advocacy is at its best, especially through the lens of entrepreneurship. Not just during active duty time, but for life thereafter. The high quality of resources available are ground breaking, and likely will only continue to thrive as younger spouses demand satisfying work that is conducive to a military lifestyle.
From mentorship and accelerators to Entrepreneurship 101 and beyond, military spouse led organizations in conjunction with for profit and non-profit groups have pioneered and created business programs straight from personal frustrations, with the goal to pass on everything they’ve experienced to the next round of spouses eager to learn what it's like to be a military spouse owner of a thriving business.
Take a look at some of the organizations serving military spouse entrepreneurs.
Located across the country from California to Virginia, Rosie Chapters are serving military spouse business owners by providing the tools necessary to begin the entrepreneurship journey and strengthening milspouse businesses through a version of their award winning Service2CEO training program. Spouses who apply to join a cohort have access to twice a month meetings led by subject matter experts, one-on-one mentorship with professionals, and behind the scenes support and networking.
Since 2012, PBC has been leading the way for military spouse and veteran entrepreneurs. Innovation is the driving force behind the 3-Day Boot Camp program which provides access to tailored entrepreneurial programming in the tech sector, access to a vast collection of experts, and follow up conferences with a robust alumni network.
“We help veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs find the quickest route to a successful business.” Simply stated, yet powerful. Bunker Labs has dozens of locations throughout the U.S. dedicated to helping veterans and their spouses find the network, tools, and resources needed to launch their own business. From ideation to growth and maintenance, Bunker Labs has a program to suit each step of the business cycle.
Squads of all kinds are popping up and the military spouse community is no exception. Created by the USO and Veterati, military spouse business owners have direct access to professionals who have volunteered to mentor spouses of all ages looking to improve their entrepreneurship game. Mentors list the talents they are ready to share and after a brief question intake, mentees are matched with mentors who meet their criteria. Whether it's mentorship, networking, or sound professional advice, military spouses who are just starting out or in transition will be able to find an expert in their desired field of business.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) created an entrepreneurial training program for transitioning veterans and military spouses at any point of a military career. The course offers instruction on business ownership fundamentals and the option to proceed into the B2B Revenue Readiness course. The SBA works with powerful networks such as the Women’s Business Centers and Small Business Development Centers.
For those spouses looking to update their skills, learn how to start a business, search for remote work, or just catch up with Google technology, Google is offering free education in the form of mini-courses to take advantage of their Primer app. Primer specifics include business and marketing skills for budding entrepreneurs. Google has also partnered with the Institute for Veteran and Military Families to offer grants to spouses who are looking for IT training.
Partnered with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program (SECO), LinkedIn is offering premium account access for military spouses for one year. This feature provides access to LinkedIn’s library of more than 12,000 learning courses, some of which include guidance on how to work in a freelance or remote capacity.
Looking to the Future in Military Spouse Careers
Today, military spouses have a greater opportunity for finding their desired career paths.There is help for licensing reimbursement and transfer, as well as for pursuing dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. Staying aware of the opportunities and taking advantage of the dedicated programs is crucial. For example, the reimbursement of licensing fees is technically a pilot program due to end in 2022. If the need doesn't present itself, government funding goes away. Spouses must make their needs known!
It's also up to the spouse to stay connected with their local and state laws. Some of the licensing issues may have been addressed and corrected, leaving little to stand in the way of credential transfer. As states look at the need for addressing the challenges of military moves and the effects of professional transfers, more and more state governments will take action. The vast majority of previous policy changes have had bipartisan support and moved quickly through the legislative process.