As a military spouse, you take the benefits where they come. The DOD recognizes that a military lifestyle is rough on the education and career prospects for immediate family. The frequent moves, the confusion over residency, and the remote nature of installations all challenge your ability to earn a second income. And since that impacts retention, they've realized it's in their best interest to provide career counseling and education benefits. We've gathered a list of 11 programs that can help you advance your education and career, plus 5 others you should know about.
Education Benefits for Military Spouses
Military Spouse Career Advancement Account
Known as MyCAA for short, this is a scholarship program from the DoD that provides for military spouses. You can get up to $4,000 to get trained in a portable career that will be in demand at your next installation, too. It can be used toward associate degrees, professional certifications, and occupational licenses from approved institutions in certain fields. Spouses are eligible if their servicemembers are paygrade E-1 to E-5, W-1 to W-2, or O1 to O2. The training can be online, for your convenience. In fact, several work-from-home career paths are eligible. MyCAA use has a proven track record linked to higher employment and higher earnings in the spouses who complete the program.
Post-9/11 GI Bill
If your spouse doesn't plan to use their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits (or only uses a portion), they can transfer them to you, your children, or both. That's up to 36 months of college tuition. Eligibility and timing is a little complicated (aren't it always?), but you can learn more about transfer eligibility here.
Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program
MySECO (as it's called for short) has career counseling services six days a week. The consultations are with master's level subject matter experts, so you know you'll be in great hands. In addition to counseling, they also provide access to online resources that will help you research education and career options. You can also take assessments to determine the right career fit for you, based on your personality, interests, and skills.
Installation Education Centers
Installation education centers employ experienced counselors who can help you select a school, streamline your application, find scholarships and deal with military assistance programs. They can help you figure out whether the MyCAA scholarship is right for you. Some schools also offer classes right there on the installation. And most centers offer a variety of standardized tests, from GED to CLEP.
Survivor's and Dependents' Educational Assistance
DEA, as it's abbreviated, offers up to 45 months of education benefits for dependents of veterans who died or became disabled on active duty or as a result of a service-related condition. The assistance can go toward degree and certificate programs, apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and correspondence courses. You can ask for special approval if you need remedial, deficiency, or refresher courses.
Tuition Discounts and Other Scholarships & Grants
Some colleges offer discounts for military spouses. Start by checking their website, then contact them if you're not sure. Make sure you understand the conditions and limitations—some schools put restrictions or vary the amount of the discount by degree program and other factors. Each branch of the military also has its own spouse tuition assistance program, so find yours. And look for third-party/civilian grants and scholarships for military spouses that might apply to your program.
Career and Job Benefits for Military Spouses
In addition to MySECO, which provides support for existing careers in addition to education. There are a number of resources to help you find work.
Military Spouse Employment Partnership
MSEP can help you find job openings with over 390 partner organizations. They'll also help you perfect your resume and prep for job interviews.
Military Spouse eMentor Program
Hiring Our Heroes has a support program just for military spouses. They'll connect you to a mentor online who can share what they've learned, connect you to other people in their network, and help you define your goals or navigate important career decisions.
Military Spouse Preference Program
You can get preferential placement into DOD civilian positions with the MSP Program. You still need to be qualified, but it gives you priority over similarly qualified applicants. USAJobs also has a special hiring process for military spouses that can give you a leg up with other federal agencies.
The SBA Express Loan Program
If you're looking to start your own business as a military spouse—or expand an existing business—then you may be able to get help with your business loan. While the "Patriot Express" loan program expired in 2013, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) still supports loans of up to $350,000 for veterans and spouses under the name SBA Express. Basically, the SBA guarantees half to three-quarters of your loan as a reassurance to lenders. This reduces their risk so that they offer better loans. You can find a great plain-language summary of the program here. It also lists additional resources for military entrepreneurs.
Local Hiring Fairs
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation sponsors hiring fairs for military spouses. Some of them are even held on military installations overseas. Check out the calendar of upcoming job fairs, get your resume together, and go network!
Other Benefits for Working Military Spouses
Child Care Benefits
If you're working, somebody's got to watch your kids, right? You probably know that most military bases have child care centers whose cost is based on your family's total income. You probably also know that their waitlists can be downright painful. Luckily, the DOD has a few programs to help you find and afford off-base child care.
Military Spouse Residency Relief Act
The MSRRA was recently expanded to all military spouses and simplified for easier use. It can be useful for lowering your state income tax, but it will simplify your life regardless by giving you an unchanging state of residency. Do your homework on the details and possible pitfalls.
Family Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Program
Your service member is covered by Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) but you are also eligible for life insurance coverage up to $100,000 through the Family Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (FSGLI). You'll need to enroll and pay a reduced premium. This is especially important if you're contributing to your family's income. Life insurance can safeguard their financial stability, should something happen to you.
Military OneSource is the hub that hosts many of the programs we've talked about today, but also much, much more.
If you're interested in a portable career in healthcare, business administration, the legal field, and more, we have MyCAA-approved online coursework to get you started. We've helped thousands of military spouses get career certification with a 93% student satisfaction rate. Contact us at (866) 991-3921 if you'd like to learn more!