As a military wife, the most precious title I could be called is a colleague. The concept of holding a job, continuing education, and having a career is sometimes a fantasy, especially if you have children, and a spouse that moves every 12-18 months, like me.
Recently, I realized a career might be possible, but I would have to create a plan. My children were old enough to go to school and take care of their basic needs. My husband and I saved enough to spend a little on myself. After days of researching the internet about possible careers and my soul, I applied to get my Master’s Degree.
I kept thinking about my children, “How will they fair if I go back to school?”
I worried about my husband, “What about his career?”
After all, my husband and I sacrificed so much for his military career! Do we just dump everything we strived for just so I could have a job? To be hired in my field might have the same the probability of me weighing as much as I did when I was 19–it might never happen!
But I realized I needed to have confidence in myself that I am capable of making a decision that benefits me. To ensure maximum success, I started small. I wrote a list of my strengths. At first, my list looked like the line from “The Help,”
Fari, you is kind, you is smart, you is important.
Feeling anxious and depressed from my little list of strengths, I decided to take all sorts of personality quizzes, including the one where it asked me what household appliance best fits my personality. The answer: a lampshade (because I said I liked hats). I still wonder if a lampshade is considered an appliance?
After researching my personality and strengths, I found I best fit the description of a physical education teacher/coach (…but I hate sports), an elementary school teacher (…but I hate kids), real estate agent (…maybe?), and a social worker (…what?).
So what’s the next step after taking all those random quizzes and asking career advisors for their input?
If you’re in the same boat I am, try this:
Browse through job-search engines for employment in cities you live in, will live in, or where you’d like to retire. Understand what the job requires regarding education, licensure, and years of experience. Research if the career can be studied online.
Some degrees are difficult to do online, like a doctorate in law or medicine, but you can earn an accredited degree in nursing, paralegal studies, and social work.
Research whether the university where you’d like to apply has been sued for lying about their achievements, accreditation, or for scamming potential students from their money in hopes of a receiving a valid certificate.
Research the requirements needed to be [insert career]. Call or email admission officers about their accreditation. Does the university have experience working with military spouses? It is important to tell the university about your unique situation. For example, you are moving to Timbuktu in 18 months and want to know if you can continue your education in the middle of Mali, with restricted internet connection, and if you are allowed to perform your practicum there.
I learned that many universities will fine students for taking breaks in-between semesters, and many schools refuse a student to take online courses while overseas.
Budget and consult your spouse. After all, you will need your spouse’s help when it comes to everything that makes up your family. Group effort and support for the win!
The National Military Family Association offers scholarships! Apply! And not just for standard university and college courses, but scholarships can help pay for licensure fees, certification exams, and books. Check out their available scholarships and all the partner schools who offer awesome discounts and funding on top of NMFA’s scholarships!
Don’t be afraid to dip your toes in the pool, no need to take that huge plunge! By taking one to two classes every semester, you will recognize your time management skills, personal budget, and capability of obtaining the information. Eventually, your efforts will add up without breaking the bank, your sanity, and family time.
For a while, I thought going back to school to earn a career was selfish. I antagonized over whether I had enough money, time, energy, ability, and capability. Every step I took, I questioned if I am smart enough and worthy of going back to school. The answer at every step I took was yes, I am worth it. And so are you. It is truly unfair how many of us have to fight and restructure our goals as a way to achieve small victories. Just like our spouses that go on deployments and perform missions, we have the right to receive an education and join the workforce. Now go get it!
What tips would you give a military spouse who wants to pursue a career or an education?
Posted by Fari Bearman, NMFA Volunteer and military spouse