Tag Archives: education

Military Life, Work, Motherhood, and Grad School? Yes! You Can Do It All!

If you asked me to describe my graduate school journey and “life” a few weeks ago, I would say I was doing what anyone else would do: I work. I have two small children. My husband was active duty when I started grad school, and had three sets of deployment orders, then ended up going through a medical board and was granted honorable separation from the military. Did I mention I had our daughter during grad school, too?


I’ve held the titles of working professional, military spouse, mom, single parent, expecting mom, and graduate student. And for short periods of time during my three year pursuit to a Masters degree, I held all of those titles concurrently.

Parenting, work, and grad school is hard.

How did I do it?

First, rally the troops. By this I mean, let your work-life, family, and friends network know you are attending grad school (or whatever you’re pursuing). There will be days where you’ll need extra support and understanding after pulling an all-nighter with a fussy infant and finalizing a research report. You may appreciate the latte a co-worker picks up, or a freezer meal you stashed in your refrigerator for a gotta-feed-the-kids-but-I-can’t-keep-my-eyes-open-to-cook night.

Keep an eye out for child care. If you are working and going to school, you’ll need child care. In fact, you’ll probably need more than one child care option for your working hours and your school hours. I had multiple child care arrangements; I swapped play dates with friends when I had to have quiet, dedicated time to write and research without the distraction of kids; I utilized on-base resources, neighbors, local child care providers, my parents, and a series of teenage babysitters. Your college may even have child care resources available. Call a Military OneSource consultant, ask for child care resources through your college, and ask your nearest installation to help you access local child care resources. You may even quality for a fee assistance program.

Befriend an academic advisor. Set yourself up for success by exploring all of the resources your college provides. Even if you are attending school online, you should have a point of contact to help you navigate online and in-person resources, such as access to your library, career services, tutoring support, networking opportunities, and more. Instead of jumping into an academic program, explore the support services the college provides before you need them.

For example, I had a good relationship with my advisor and in my first semester realized full time graduate school with full time work and parenting wasn’t going to work for me. I was able to reduce my course load to a part-time schedule during times when my life was very busy. The flexibility to change my course load really helped me during those unpredictable life changes. It is important to understand the length of time you have to complete a degree program, the withdraw dates, and the downfalls for changing your academic plan or program completion pace. While I was able to keep up my course work and stay enrolled in school while I had our second child, I do know other classmates who decided to take a semester leave of absence. Life will happen while you are in school – plan for the unpredictable by befriending an academic advisor.

Be kind to yourself. As a military spouse, you are capable of juggling many competing priorities, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. Be kind to yourself. There may be some activities you have to give up while pursuing your academic program. I had to reduce my volunteer hours and social activities. I often missed weekend events because I was working on school work. I had to learn to say “no” and prioritize what must get done, and what could wait.

Keep your eye on the prize. Imagine what it feels like to complete your degree program. How will your new degree enhance your skills set or propel you into a new career? When life gets busy you may have to remind yourself why you are going to school. It’s not an easy task to balance being a military spouse, mom, working professional, AND student – but I know you can do it!

Have you had multiple things to juggle in your military life to finish school? Share your story with us in the comments!

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

What is STEM and Why Should Military Spouses Know About It?

I’m probably far from what one might imagine a military spouse to be. Despite being born a U.S. citizen, I was raised in Canada and ended up serving in the Canadian Army years after my parents divorced and re-settled on either side of the border. Having often served alongside U.S. military forces, when I eventually made my permanent home in the U.S. and was able to transition leadership experience and education to a promising career with the Department of Defense as a contractor.


I thought I was rather well-equipped to handle the ups and downs of military life until I married a fire fighter in 2013, who also happened to be a member of the Army National Guard, and whose unit was a one-way 5-hour drive from our home in another state.

Within weeks of our wedding, we received news that my husband would be deploying, and in just two months, he was off to occupational and work-up training in two other states. This subsequently meant he was away most of the period leading up to the actual deployment. Despite an amazing husband and my two decades of working in a military environment, I would be the one to have to adapt to her partner’s erratic schedule, instead of the other way around. Having left the Washington, D.C. area to settle in my husband’s hometown, where no one knew my name, I knew there would be some challenges.

Nothing helped me navigate those challenges more than my other loves: science and entrepreneurship. I began writing and publishing articles online about the relationship between science, technology, and society while developing the concept for my business, when I received news that I was accepted into the Biomedical Engineering PhD program at a research university near our home.

stem-field-military-spousesHaving already graduated from programs in the social and military sciences, I was fortunate to have been able to complete a flexible Master of Science degree in Biotechnology at Johns Hopkins University while still working full-time and traveling back-and-forth to see my then-fiancé. Even as a budding scientist, I discovered I could serve as a bridge between scientists, engineers, policy makers, and operators.

While a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) may not be for everyone, it offers many benefits that serve to meet the unique demands of any military household.

First, from a pragmatic perspective, a STEM foundation offers highly portable job and career opportunities. The foundational knowledge and experience one acquires in any of these areas can be applied across many different economic sectors, from health care to industrial design and mechanics to teaching, regardless of where you live. Practically speaking, it teaches you how to approach problem-solving, and can even enable you to perform basic household repairs – for instance, minor electrical or mechanical problems – rather than take on the expense of hiring a professional.

Most importantly, STEM offers military spouses the potential for independence and personal satisfaction. The skills one acquires in STEM are always in demand, putting the military spouse in the driver’s seat when it comes to their careers. These key services and skills allow military spouses to develop flexible careers with schedules that suit his or her needs.

For me, since making the decision to undertake full-time STEM research (like my colleague, whose husband is in the Navy), I get up every day excited to get to the lab. Knowing I have the chance to directly tackle a global biomedical challenge from start to finish, and to work with such an intelligent and diverse group of people, is hugely rewarding. Now that my husband is an Army Flight Medic, along with the EMT knowledge and experience he has as a Rescue Technician, we have even more to keep us connected during the times we are apart, and that’s the icing on the cake.

Have you ever considered a career in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics? Share your story with us!

Posted by Hollie Ryan, M.S., M.A., military spouse and NMFA scholarship recipient

I am More Than a Spouse…So are YOU!

I have a confession to make. The #MoreThanASpouse campaign is about me. Well, not just me. It’s about me, and my co-worker, and my best friend, and my next-door neighbor. It’s about all of us.


I’ve been a military spouse for 10 years. I am so proud of my husband and am honored to support him in his career. I am happy to follow him from one duty station to the next, because there isn’t any place I would rather be than with him. I am happy to support him as he studies for promotions, and volunteers his time, and leaves for TDYs and deployments. I am so proud of him.

His career is not mine though. It’s wonderful, and it’s something to be proud of, but it’s not me.

When we move to a new area, the most common first question I’m asked is, “What does your husband do?”

It’s rarely, “What do you do?”

Or even, “Tell me about yourself.”

It’s never really bothered me; it’s the nature of the beast. Military life means you move when they tell you, where they tell you. It means the mission comes first, and sometimes, that means there’s no one for you to rely on but yourself. It means leaving jobs, and being on call 100% of the time. It means doing what you must do rather than what you want to do.

The service member serves. The service member sacrifices. The service member follows orders. Sometimes it feels like the family only follows. But families serve, too; by keeping things quiet and stable at home, allowing the service member to do their job and focus on their mission. So many of us set aside our hopes and dreams to focus on the work at hand.

As we get older, and as the kids grow, I am realizing there is much more to me than just my role as a spouse.

I am so much more than a spouse.

There are things I want to do with my life: I want to be a leader. I want to make a difference. I want to change the world for the better. Yes, I want to support my spouse, but I want to do more. I can be more. These desires are not mutually exclusive.

pinterest-more-than-a-spouseFor the More Than a Spouse project, we sought out military spouses and asked them to tell their story. In recent years, there has been a lot of ugliness directed at military spouses. We’ve been called names, we’ve been reduced to stereotypes. Employers reject us. Communities fail to see our worth. We’ve been told, “You do nothing. You are not special. You do not serve.” (Yes, that was an actual comment we received this week on our Facebook page)

This project was not intended to claim we serve in the same way our spouses do. We know that’s not true. Our lives are deeply impacted by our spouse’s military service, but that isn’t what this video is about.

This project is intended to encourage military spouses to take a closer look at themselves. Forget what the world says. Forget what the “haters” say. What matters most is what you think, and what you want to make of yourself. What matters most is who you are, and who you want to be.

Recently, I sat down with some of the military spouses I admire most. These spouses are leaders in their communities, and wonderful mothers and fathers. They are supportive. They are doing amazing things at work, at home, and in their communities. I asked them two simple questions:

“What is special about you? What are you proud of?”

I handed them a marker and a piece of paper. They laughed nervously, shifted their weight in their seats, and sighed. They stared back at me, shaking their heads, and it broke my heart.

“I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what makes me special”

But we do. We see you.

We see you at home. We see you comforting children who just want to talk to Daddy while he’s in the field. We see you when you have the flu, but you’re up anyways, caring for your sick children because there’s no one to call for backup. We see you delivering babies alone while your husband is serving 3000 miles away. We see you attending parent-teacher conferences alone while your wife is downrange.

We see you in the community, volunteering with the booster club, or the FRG, or in the thrift store on base. We see you attending college, writing papers long into the night. We see you bringing meals to other spouses, being there when someone needs support, and helping wash the uniform just one more time as your spouse packs their go-bag.

We see the pride on your face when your spouse is promoted, and the hurt in your eyes when they hug you goodbye. We see your strength and your heartache.
We see your potential. We know you have hopes and dreams. We know it will be hard.

But we know you can do it. You’ve shown us that again and again. You can do anything you set your mind to. You are capable. You are valuable. You are important.

What makes you special? What do you want to be?

Share your “I am” pictures with us on social media using the hashtag #MoreThanASpouse, or email us at social@militaryfamily.org.

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill as a Military Spouse

Let’s be honest: the Post-9/11 GI Bill is a huge educational benefit for a service member. With that, comes the option for a service member to transfer all or some of the benefit to a spouse or child(ren). My husband decided to share his Post-9/11 GI bill benefit with me, and I am forever grateful.


How does it work?
An eligible service member (someone who has served the required number of years–generally 6–and agrees to serve for 4 more years) may apply to his or her service branch to transfer the benefit to a spouse. The request to “Transfer of Education Benefits (TEB)” must be completed while the service member is on active duty. A veteran or retiree cannot transfer an unused Post-9/11 GI benefit. Sorry, no exceptions to this rule. The TEB is a placeholder, if you will, and can be done in advance of the recipient attending school.

First, find your favorite college-football team, I mean school!

Next, select your school of choice with the education program of your choosing. You must work directly with the school admission’s office to apply and be accepted into the program. After you have been accepted, you’ll want to find the school’s Veteran Certifying Official or Veterans Certification Office. Program names may differ but essentially you’ll need to find the office or person who can answer your questions about how your school processes the Post-9/11 GI bill benefit.

Ready to use the benefit?
When you are ready to use the Post-9/11 GI bill to pay for school, you’ll need to send the completed TEB form to the VA. This can be done online via the eBenefits portal. This lets the VA know you have selected a school and are ready to use the benefit. You’ll probably need to register for classes and coordinate with the Veteran Certifying Official at your school, too. Generally, your school’s VA official will need to certify your enrollment with the VA before the start of each term.

What benefits will I receive as a spouse?
A spouse may start using a transferred benefit immediately, and may use the benefit while the service member is on active duty. Benefits include tuition, fees, a book stipend, and a monthly housing allowance. However, a spouse isn’t eligible for the monthly housing allowance if the service member is on active duty. A spouse using a transferred benefit is eligible for all tuition and fee payments for an in-state student. If you attend a private or foreign school, the annual tuition rate is capped. For the 2015 – 2016 school year, the maximum amount for a private or foreign school is $21, 084.89.

post-9-11-gi-bill-for-military-spousesWhat are some tips I should know?
Tuition and fee payments will be sent directly to your school. However, if there is an over-payment of tuition or fees, you’ll receive a notice from the VA asking you to repay the erroneous funds. Be prepared to talk to your school if you need to return money to the VA.

The book stipend and monthly housing allowance (if eligible) will be sent directly to you. If you are eligible for the housing allowance and attend school online, the rate is $783.00 a month. For in-person, full-time attendance, the housing allowance is an E-5 with dependent rate, based on the school’s zip code location.

If you are using the Post-9/11 GI bill as a spouse after your service member has left active duty, check to see if your school program participates in the Yellow Ribbon program. Schools can elect to participate in this program and provide additional funding for education. If you are attending a private school, the Yellow Ribbon program can help you cover the additional costs. Keep in mind this is a voluntary program and the school sets the number of available spots per program per school each academic year. For example, a school may elect to have an unlimited number of undergraduate Yellow Ribbon spots, but may limit graduate programs to a certain number of seats per program, such as 5 for law school or 3 for a masters program.

Are you a military spouse who used a transferred Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit? What other tips would you share?

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

The Trifecta: Find The Perfect Job for Your Military Life

When I have conversations with military spouse friends, it’s a good bet one of them is in search of a job at any given time during the year. They are trying to find a job in the field they studied in school, or trying to find anything in the little rural town they are now stationed at. Whatever the challenge is, we all know it can be a beast to make the same career work with a military lifestyle.



One thing that we all need to believe is that military spouses can, and should, tame these beasts!

During my work with NMFA, I have come across many spouses in all kinds of situations. With this firsthand knowledge, paired with a little research, I have figured out there’s a key to taming the beast…and it’s called the Trifecta.

When in the market for a job, or even when you are considering going back to school, the Trifecta should be at the forefront of your mind. Too often, military spouses pursue education or jobs that are lackluster, and definitely not Trifecta material. Whether these spouses chose convenience and cost, before considering stability and longevity, it’s important to know that the Trifecta will make those precious dollars spent on your education and career well worth it in the long run.

If you’re returning to school or applying for jobs, keep the Trifecta at the top of mind and you will be one step closer to a more lucrative and durable career to compliment your military life. Consider what could happen if you don’t take these questions seriously: What school should I go to? What degree? What certification? What job?

Remember: don’t settle. You can tame the education and career beast!

So, what’s the Trifecta, and why should it matter to me? A job will fall under the awesome Trifecta if it’s:

  1. In a high demand field: ‘High demand’ can be defined as urgent or pressing requirement. Jobs in high demand will have more opportunities and more availability for new positions. In nut shell – they will be hiring!
  2. Financially sound: Consider what the pay will be and what the pay potential can be. People who are getting paid to their satisfaction are more likely to be happy and more likely to stay in those positions. According to the Social Security Administration the national average wage index for 2013 (last reported) was $44,888.16.
  3. Portable: This is the elusive golden egg for military spouses who are moving around every few years. If the job or career is not portable, you may have to start from square one and get back in the job market all over again.

But what does a Trifecta job look like? Here are some careers that fit the bill:

After researching statistics with the Department of Labor, I have determined these jobs not only are in high demand, but they are financially sounds jobs, which could be portable. This certainly isn’t a complete list of all the Trifecta jobs out there, but these are options that should be highly considered.

Think your ready to go back to school, or find your new career, but not sure where to start? Join us tonight for a Facebook party, where NMFA will be giving away $5,000 in scholarships, and where you’ll have a chance to chat with panelist and other military spouses who’ve gone back to school, found Trifecta jobs, and who want you to know their secret to finding it! The fun starts at 9pm ET! Come join us in your PJ’s and network with other military spouses!

Believe in Yourself

Have you had any luck finding a job that fits the Trifecta? Tell us about it!

alliePosted by Allie Jones, Program Manager, Spouse Education + Professional Support

#MoreThanASpouse: How 85% of People Find Their Next Job

Like many military spouses, I got a late start on my career. Early on, my husband and I agreed that it made the most sense for me to stay home with our son until he was in school. Unfortunately, by the time our son was ready to head to school, we were stationed overseas for two back-to-back assignments, further delaying the start of any meaningful career.


When we moved back to Washington, D.C. from overseas, I was so excited about the prospect of finally putting my degrees to work. Our son was going to be in school full time, my husband was going to a desk job, our extended family lived close by in case we needed help, and we were finally moving back home! I remember being so optimistic; I had a Master’s degree and spoke three languages, surely I would have my choice of interesting jobs.

I was wrong.

The DC area ranks the highest in the nation for people with advanced degrees. It is also a very multi-cultural area, and most people are multi-lingual. My ‘competitive edge’ wasn’t going to be enough to make me stand out. I kept a binder full of all the jobs I applied for and the rejection letters I received. That binder was getting impressively thick when I realized I was going nowhere fast.

Thankfully, I had a wonderful mentor who encouraged me to start networking and meeting more people. My job search had been full of a few ‘ups’ and some more debilitating ‘downs,’ up to that point, and I was at the end of my wits. I was willing to try just about anything within reason to get my foot in the door, so why not start networking? I pushed outside of my comfort zone and got serious about expanding my networks. I began to see everyone as a potential connection.

While I was auditing a class on Congress and the Military, one of the speakers really resonated with me. When the session ended, I walked up to introduce myself, thanked her for everything she and her organization did on behalf of military families, and finished with an offer to volunteer if they ever needed the extra help. When I got home, I followed up with an email note sharing a little more about my background, reiterating my offer of assistance, and attached my resume.

I was mildly surprised when an email came back encouraging me to apply for a job that she thought would be a great fit for within their organization. Fast forward a few months, I did end up going to work for that organization, but more importantly, I learned a very important lesson: over 85% of people will find their next job through the ‘hidden job market’ (jobs that are not actually posted to the general public).

In order to access these jobs, you need to expand your networks. There are no shortcuts…you need to get out there and meet people! Platforms like LinkedIn have helped equalize the playing field for military spouses, to a certain extent, allowing us to start networking before we even move to the next installation. But nothing replaces that face to face interaction. You’re going to have to get out there and meet people. Be on the lookout for conferences to hone your skills, learn about the latest resources, and meet people within your industry. Make sure you have a networking card, attend events, and be diligent about your follow up. This is what’s going to make the difference in your job search.

Entrepreneurs, the advice is just as relevant for you: when you move, you’re going to need to find your niche, your community and your new potential clients/customers.

Getting started can be a bit daunting. As an introvert, I understand this well! If you’d like some more information about Networking 101, check out our easy tutorial. If you’re ready to put your networking skills to work and eager to learn more about building portable careers, we hope you’ll join us at our 5th Annual Military Spouse Career Summit to meet like minded military spouses.

Remember: the online community is great, but nothing beats that face to face interaction. Get out there and start networking!

Believe in Yourself

Ready to network? Get your pajamas, a glass of hot tea, and your laptop ready! Join NMFA and other military spouses – including myself – for a Facebook party tomorrow from 9pm-10pm EST as we chat, network, and share our education and career goals! If you’re ready to be #MoreThanASpouse: this is a virtual networking event you don’t want to miss!

sue-hoppin-headshotPosted by Sue Hoppin, military spouse, Founder and President of the National Military Spouse Network–a professional development and networking membership organization supporting the professional career and entrepreneurial goals of military spouses

Tips for Military Spouses: How to Land Your Dream Job!

I was hired by NMFA almost six months ago. When I was looking at this job, it was clear I had all the experience and expertise I needed to thrive. What I didn’t have was experience interviewing. I was so nervous! In the days leading up to my interview, I spent a good chunk of time on Pinterest looking for the internet’s best tips and tricks to help me land the job. They must have worked, because I am here to write this blog post for you today!

How to Land Your Dream Job

Fill in the Blanks

I have yet to meet a military spouse without an employment gap in their resume. Orders overseas, short orders to isolated locations and licencing transfer issues can all add up to a resume that resembles Swiss cheese.

However, many of us keep busy with unit booster clubs, spouses clubs, FRG’s, and other volunteer work. The time you spent as the events chair for the spouses club, and the year you spent volunteering with the PTA can go on your resume. Fill in those blanks!

Fancy that Resume

You want your resume to stand out from the crowd. This tip really comes down to what field you are applying for, but for me, with a job in the communications field, a fancy resume was a no-brainer. This job required design work and social media savvy, so I chose to go with a graphics heavy, colorful resume that linked directly to my social media accounts. It may not have been what landed me this job, but it did help me stand out from the crowd.

Even if you are applying for a more conservative field (those finance execs may not be impressed with your use of color) you can still get creative with your layout, white space and phrasing.

Leverage your  Connections

One perk of being a military spouse is that you probably know people all over the world. When I applied for this job, I phoned in a friend I met earlier this year at Hiring Our Heroes to look over my resume. She promised she would personally send it along to my (soon to be) boss, and I have no doubt her help ensured my resume would actually be read. If you know someone who knows someone, don’t be afraid to give them a call to put in a good word for you!

Dress for Success

When you do show up for your interview, first impressions count. You’ll want to make sure you are appropriately dressed. Do your research! Did you know different colors send different messages? Do you know when to bring out the colorful jewelry, and when to stick with stud earrings?

Speak Clearly and Stand Up Straight

Now that you are in the room, it’s time for the hard part! Never underestimate the power of eye contact, a firm handshake (and a friendly laugh!).

Answer (and Ask!) Hard Questions

Be prepared for your interview! Don’t forget to do your research about the company you are applying to. Be prepared with questions about the goals and mission. Show your excitement about the job. Ask your own questions, and be prepared to give details about the experiences you listed on your resume.

Don’t Get Caught Off Guard

I don’t have a Pinterest tip for this one, but I wish I had one before my interview! I was prepared to answer questions, but I was not prepared for a group interview, or, the hands-on test that followed our sit-down. In my interview, I met my entire department, answered questions from each person, and then was handed an assignment and was given an hour to complete it. I don’t think I have ever sweat so much in my life! The good news is, I really was qualified for the job, so completing the assignment wasn’t terrible… but I did go home and obsess over my answers for days.


Following up feels like the most awkward part of the entire process, but I do think it’s valuable. After the interview, make sure you contact the person you met with to thank them for their time. This is a great chance to ask for a timetable (if you didn’t remember to ask during the interview) so you have some idea of how long you’ll have to wait for a decision!

Believe in Yourself

Are you unsure of your career goals? NMFA has scholarships and resources to help you make a career change or get started on your degree. Make sure you join us at our #MoreThanASpouse Facebook Party this Thursday, August 20th, for scholarship information and an opportunity to network with spouses in your chosen field!Follow us on Pinterest for more tips!

What tips do you have for spouses hoping to land the job?

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager