While the job market's tough all over, being a military spouse introduces…let's call them "special complications." You move a lot. You have no control over where or when, and often, you're sent to remote places with limited job opportunities. Worse: you're the sole caretaker of kids or dependents for most of the year, and all chores and errands are squarely on your shoulders.
Despite these challenges, you can't forego a second income, because (let's face it), your spouse's income probably doesn't cut it. If you're struggling and ready for a change, there's a military spouse scholarship that's perfect for you. It focuses on practical, portable skills training and certifications that are directly applicable to PCS-friendly jobs. It's called MyCAA.
What is MyCAA?
MyCAA is just the acronym (naturally). It stands for the Military Spouse Career Advancement Account. The MyCAA scholarship program provides eligible military spouses with tuition assistance for licenses, certifications, or associate degrees that lead to portable careers. You have a cap of $2,000 per year for a maximum of two years.
Who's eligible to apply for the MyCAA Scholarship?
The MyCAA application is open to spouses of low-ranking and active-duty, National Guard, or Reserve servicemembers under Title 10 orders from the DOD. You can find eligible pay grades and exceptions on Military OneSource.
You also need to have a high school diploma or GED before you apply. Note, that's who's eligible for the MyCAA application. If you already have an approved Education and Training Plan in place, you'll remain eligible for funds even if your service member gets a promotion, active-duty date of separation, or release from Title 10 orders.
What Does MyCAA Pay For?
The MyCAA military spouse scholarship can only be applied toward:
- tuition (not books, fees, or anything else)
- MyCAA approved schools or programs
- courses or examinations on your approved Education and Training Plan
To ensure these rules are followed, reimbursements are not allowed – MyCAA only pays out directly to your school.
What is an Education and Training Plan?
An Education and Training Plan (ETP) is a detailed summary of the courses, certifications, and/or exams you need to move toward your career goals. You'll develop your ETP with a career coach from the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program. You need an approved ETP before you're eligible for MyCAA funds.
Will MyCAA Cover Tuition in Any Subject?
No. Only certain careers are eligible for the MyCAA program, though the list is quite extensive. To be honest, these restrictions are to your benefit. We blogged recently about how college degrees are not always the best bet, and you could be better off choosing a growing job you can enter quickly.
This is basically what MyCAA grants are created for, with one extra consideration: the career has to be "portable" (ie, likely to be in demand wherever you PCS or capable of being done remotely). The emphasis is on building skills and earning certifications that will make you eligible for a job, rather than helping you get a degree.
The goal is to get you credentialed quickly for a job that fits a military spouse lifestyle.
Can you use MyCAA twice?
In most cases, no. If you use the full $4,000 the first time, you're out of luck. However, if you didn't use all of the funds for your first career change, talk to your career coach about whether you can apply the balance to a new Education and Training Plan.
How do you make the most of MyCAA?
When the DOD commissioned a report card of the program, they discovered that MyCAA graduates had a higher rate of employment and higher earnings than their peers. Yet only 9% of military spouses had applied for the program.
In other words, there's money being left on the table that can help you find financial stability. How do you make the most of it?
Tip #1: Choose Your MyCAA Program Wisely
Since you might only get one free career change from the program, make your selection carefully. Consider the eligible options and look at the job listings for your current (and/or likely future) area. Talk to someone already working that job – ask the good and the bad.
Consider whether the work is interesting and how well it pays, but also how it will affect your lifestyle. What are the hours? Does the work play to your strengths?
Tip #2: Make Full Use of SECO
Your career coach through SECO can help you with some of that job research, including interest and skill inventories, portable career statistics, and earnings potential metrics. Once you're done with your training, you should use them to assist aspects of your job search, like resume preparation and interview skills.
Tip #3: Apply for Additional Financial Aid
There's a long list of things MyCAA will and won't cover. Notably, it won't cover books, fees, supplies, or any electronics or equipment you might need.
Don't settle for paying this stuff out of pocket. There are other sources of financial assistance that can help. Use SECO as a resource here, as well.
Tip #4: Make Sure You Enroll in a MyCAA Approved School & Program
MyCAA will only pay out to an approved program (course of study) through an approved school, so make sure to check the Military OneSource / SECO website before you commit to a provider. Luckily, there are plenty to choose from.
Tip #5: Focus on In-Demand Skills and Certifications
Although the program already directs you towards skills training and practical certifications, it never hurts to make sure you're getting the best bang for their buck. Once you've chosen a career path, consider the skills and certifications that will make you an outstanding job candidate.
Look at real job listings for entry-level positions and see what they have in common. Then make sure the MyCAA school you choose will help you earn all those credentials during your course of study.
Tip #5: Consider Online Schools First
Not only is online training COVID-friendly, but it's also flexible, affordable, and practically tailor-made for military spouses. Got a PCS coming up? Online schooling can go with you, no matter where that might be.
You can schedule your study around your current responsibilities and learn at your own pace. Plus, tuitions are more likely to be within the MyCAA limits, and you'll save on commuting expenses.
You can search for online-only MyCAA schools by changing the "Teaching Method" dropdown on SECO's school search.
Tip #:6 Study Hard
MyCAA won't cover tuition for repeated classes, so if you fail a course, you'll have to retake out of pocket. In fact, if you fail, withdraw, or receive an incomplete for a course, you may not be able to get future MyCAA funding.
They may waive the first offense, but after that, you'll definitely lose your grant money. So commit to your course of study, and apply yourself well.
Tip #7: Cross Those T's
Make sure your MyCAA school posts your grades in a timely fashion. There are required deadlines they're supposed to meet, but you're the one responsible for ensuring the school meets them on time.
Tip #8: Finish on Time
You have your own MyCAA deadline to meet. You need to complete your ETP within 3 years. The clock starts ticking on the start date of the first course MyCAA pays for. You forfeit any funds you don't use before the deadline.
Study with Us Using MyCAA
We've been a MyCAA school for over 25 years, with dozens of MyCAA programs to choose from. We offer something for everyone, from medical and healthcare career training, legal career training, fitness certification programs, creative arts skills, and more.
Some of them involve externships for practical experience, and all of them focus on the skills and certifications that employers want. Check out the possibilities and contact us today!