Finding a job is hard enough as a military spouse. What makes it worse? When every new PCS leads to a maze of regulatory hurdles you have to clear before you can begin to look for work.
It's something to factor into your decision if you're thinking about a career change. Is the job regulated at the state or local level? Is professional licensing common, or do only a few states require it? What are the policies in the jurisdictions where you're most likely to end up?
Sure, the DOD will pony up for relicensure and certification costs, but that doesn't account for lost wages or the pain-in-the-neck factor. Wouldn't it be nice if you had some kind of Fast Pass to get you through the process more quickly? Depending on your career choices, there might very well be.
Let's talk about national healthcare certifications that can help smooth the way.
Benefits of a National Healthcare Certification
In the context of military life, national medical certifications don’t just make your resume competitive – they can also help you streamline your relocation process through faster professional licensing. Not all "national" healthcare certificate programs will accomplish this, and there's no guarantee that a certain certification will satisfy regulatory requirements in every jurisdiction.
It's important to do some research on how widely a particular certificate is accepted, who does and doesn't recognize the credential, and the program's reputation. Despite all the pretenders to the throne, there are national healthcare certifications that states accept widely as part of the licensing or registration process.
You may still need to wait on paperwork and a background check, but in some cases, your certification can be used as a substitute for more time-intensive credentialing requirements.
A bonus? Many of these credentials are quick certifications that pay well, qualify you for work in a growing field, and are considered "portable" by the DOD. That last part is important because it means you qualify for financial assistance towards your coursework and exam fees. Many national certifications (including those named in this article) are eligible for Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) funds.
Pharmacy Technician: CPhT Certification
Median Salary (2021): $33,950/yr or $16.32/hr (check your state) Projected Growth by 2029: Average (4%)
Source: BLS job profile For pharmacy technicians, national certification is useful in 24 different states. Louisiana and North Dakota have the most rigorous requirements. In some places, certificate programs serve as a requirement to be registered or licensed at all, while in others they're necessary for authorization to perform certain tasks.
One of the best investments you can make as a pharmacy tech is the Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination (PTCE), which is administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).
To prepare, you can take the pharmacy tech certificate program online using MyCAA. Once you pass this exam, you become a PTCB-Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT). All 50 states recognize the CPhT credential, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico. In states with registration or licensing requirements (including Louisiana and North Dakota), this typically means you can submit your certification along with proof of prior experience to qualify for state credentials. No fuss, no muss.
Dental Assistant: CDA Certification
Median Salary (2021): $40,080/yr or $19.27/hr (check your state)
Projected Growth by 2029: Faster than Average (7%)
Source: BLS job profile Most states allow entry-level dental assistants to operate without a license, but many have regulatory requirements to perform certain procedures. That means if you want to use your experience, expand your job options, and earn better money, you need to jump through the hoops. Your best bet is earning certification through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). DANB certifications are recognized or required by 39 states, as well as Washington, DC, the U.S. Air Force, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Specifically, becoming a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) with DANB requires passing three component exams: General Chairside Assistance (GC), Radiation Health and Safety (RHS), and Infection Control (ICE). Our online MyCAA-eligible dental assistant coursework prepares you for all three.
If you've passed all three component exams, some states like New York and Delaware will let you skip their state-specific exam. In Texas, you can substitute a CDA for most of the mandatory training to become a Registered Dental Assistant, though you'll still need to complete the Texas jurisprudence exam.
Other jurisdictions recognize your CDA but may require a state-specific exam or coursework for particular extended functions. Florida may be your sticking point – it has requirements that you can't circumvent with national certification. However, these only kick in if you want to qualify for expanded functions.
Phlebotomist: CPT Certification
Median Salary (2021): $35,510/yr or $17.07/hr (check your state)
Projected Growth by 2029: Much Faster than Average (17%)
Source: BLS job profile There are four states that require phlebotomists to become licensed before they can practice: California, Louisiana, Nevada, and Washington. The National Healthcare Association (NHA) administers a Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) exam that can help with three out of those four states. California, shockingly, walks to the beat of its own drum and won't accept out-of-state licensure.
CPT credentials are also a great resume-builder for states without licensing requirements. Certified phlebotomists usually get hiring preferences. It's an easy certification program and our MyCAA-qualified CPT courses will get you ready to ace the exam.
Optician: ABO-NOCE and CLRE Certifications
Median Salary (2021): $37,840/yr or $18.19/hr (check your state)
Projected Growth by 2029: Average (4%)
Source: BLS job profile Opticians are required to have a license in 22 states. In states like New Jersey, there are no circumventing state-specific requirements. However, many states do accept two particular national certifications. Our online optician coursework prepares you for both and includes a voucher for one exam fee. For spectacles or general practice, it's the National Opticianry Competency Exam (NOCE), administered by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). This test often gets referred to as the "ABO."
For contacts, you need the Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE) administered by the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). It's referred to by either acronym. In most jurisdictions that require licenses, passing the ABO will help you get started.
If you want to dispense contacts, the CLRE is a helpful addition. Be aware that the particulars from state to state are messy. Some states require the ABO only, some require both certifications, and others accept a national certification but make you take state-specific or practical exams as well.
Other National Medical Certifications
In some cases, state licensing isn't an issue – you just need to make your resume stand out. A well-respected medical certificate program can still ease your relocation by helping you get hired. Many NHA certifications are good for this.
Medical assistants, for example, don't require a license in most places. But for resume purposes, you might consider becoming a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) if you want hands-on clinical tasks. Earning a CPT can also come in handy, as can becoming a Certified EKG Technician (CET).
To this end, we have a package that prepares you for all three. If you're more comfortable in the front office, you might think about studying for a Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) credential instead. You can boost your skillset by becoming a Certified Electronic Health Records Specialist (CEHRS) as well. If you work in healthcare, it's worth doing research on what national certificate programs might increase your value to prospective employers.
The right professional certification can ease a few of the headaches you cope with as a military spouse. Just be aware that not all "national" certifications are as useful as they sound. Check the quality of the credential. You should also vet the training provider you use to prepare for the exam.
We've been offering online vocational training to military spouses for decades, and we're a MyCAA-approved school so it might not cost you a dime. Want to know more? Contact us today!