My experience getting a college degree is the exact kind of experience that makes military spouses hesitant to get degrees. I went to three different schools, in three different states. I wrote papers surrounded by moving boxes, and I took finals in the midst of deployment chaos.
The trouble doesn’t end there; after school, every military spouse faces the daunting task of convincing an employer they’re a worthwhile investment, even though the employment will inevitably be short term. A study from a few years ago found that (at the time) 90% of military wives, were under-employed or completely unemployed.
But, I would argue that my experience actually serves as a clear indicator that military spouses are equipped and capable, even when the military hurls its trademark chaos at them. They often have specific, hard-won traits that make them uniquely equipped to tackle certain professions.
Understanding Even in Adversity
Here’s the thing about understanding on an effective level: in some areas, some levels of understanding are out of reach for those whose experiences don’t intersect. For example, an individual may know a lot of things about marriage and children before they are married or have children, but there are no books that measure up to the level of clarity that the actual experiences of marriage and children bring.
Similarly, unless you’ve personally experienced the results of repeated deployments to war zones, it’s hard to grasp the weight of their impact. Military dependents are privy to seeing the consequences. They know from personal experience how well the brochures and briefs and pamphlets help, or don’t.
Thus going to school and becoming a counselor or social worker who specializes in the military, or other areas that you are acquainted with or passionate about, is a worthwhile use of one’s understanding.
Navigating military life and remaining financially free takes some strategizing. Military life and peculiar financial situations simply go hand-in-hand. For example, moving from an area like Johnstown, Pennsylvania where an E6 with dependents gets $894 for Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) to an area like Brooklyn, New York’s Fort Hamilton, where an E6’s BAH is $4,128 would require some serious, thoughtful shifts in the family budget.
There are a lot of things that can add to the difficulty factor. Situations like OCONUS moves, special pay, buying and selling houses in different states, etc., can all create unique challenges for the military spouse.
Those types of challenges are the very same that can equip you to take on a field like a financial advisor or even an accountant; in that capacity, you can not only learn a lot for your own family, but can also help others wherever you go.
Flexible Under Pressure
If you’ve been married to the military for any length of time at all, you know that the key to success in the military setting is staying flexible so you don’t get bent out of shape. It’s a matter of recognizing that seeing things as set in jello and not set in stone, will serve to prevent your expectations from shattering.
There are few lifestyles where the same amount of constant flexibility is required, and while it can be frustrating, it isn’t without it’s good use. The skills that you gain during those high-pressure moments when you have to move to an overseas base or when you have to help your spouse pack their bags at the very last minute, can be applied to a job you love.
If you pursue a career in a field such as a nurse practitioner, you’ll certainly have moments where you’re doing vital things in a time sensitive manner, and as a military spouse you’ll likely be totally prepared to do it well.
See Your Own Potential
If you’re thinking about going back to school for your career, but also caught up in the reasons not to commit, the reasons will quickly pile up and tower over everything else; they are certainly there.
But, most military spouses also have a wealth of experience and wisdom that proves they are ready and capable to meet the challenges that the job market presents. With a slight shift in perspective on even the things we consider to be obstacles within the lifestyle, we can begin to see their potential to prepare and equip us to do great things.
Are you deciding whether you should go back to school? What factors do you consider in making that decision?
Posted by Chloe Moore, Navy spouse, writer, and parent