Spouse Employment and the License Problem

The Defense Department announced yesterday that 16 states have either adopted laws or are close to doing so that will ease professional licensing restrictions for out of state military spouses.

Spouses who relocate as part of a military move often find that their state certified professional licenses for everything from cosmetology to teaching to nursing don’t meet the requirements of their new state. And getting a new license for the new state can be a lengthy, expensive process, significantly delaying their ability to even apply for jobs that are often hard to come by anyway.

The effort to get states to change their licensing rules for military spouses is the job of the DoD’s State Liaison and Educational Opportunity office. Open in 2004, that office also pushes for other military exemptions, such as an effort to allow military children to transfer their out of state school course work. Thirty-nine states have jumped on that bandwagon since 2008.

The big announcement was that 16 states have enacted or are in the processing of enacting the licensing change. Sixteen. Now, I was homeschooled and all  — but I am smart enough to know that there are a lot more than 16 states out there. Why have only 16 – 16! — made this concession? And why has it taken the DoD office seven years to convince only that many to do it? Does that strike anyone else as ridiculous?

One hesitancy, this story points out, could be that the states don’t want to give military spouses (who, after all, aren’t really serving in the military, right? Gag) a special in. But as the head of the education liaison office says, it’s about leveling the playing field – not giving preference.

From the story:

“We’re not looking to make the military community have a preferred status in states,” Beauregard said. “We’re looking at those things that impede people because of their military life. In all cases, we’re just looking to level the playing field.”

The office has lobbied states for two types of licensing changes. The first asks states to endorse another’s’ professional accreditation as legit. The second gives spouses a temporary license from the new state so that they can get a job while working on the new requirements.

Of those 16 states that have been so kind as to make any change at all, only seven — Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, New York and Texas — are willing to endorse an out of state license. Seven more — Alaska, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee – have taken the temp license route. Utah flat out accepts out of state licenses (no endorsement process needed) and Virginia takes a whole new approach, allowing spouses to put a hold on any license they get in the state and just reuse it when they come back (no renewal needed).

I am sure this issue is much more complicated than just the “have you hugged a MilSpouse today?” sentiment I think everyone should have as a matter of course. But it nonetheless seems ridiculous to me that something so simple sounding is so difficult to accomplish. Thank God no one makes me get a license to blog and report or I’d probably just give it all up.

Edit: Thanks to reader Damsel for pointing us to this Facebook discussion board hosted by Military Community and Family Policy page. You can go there to share your thoughts on this license issue with DoD.

You can find some spouse employment options and information on Military.com here.

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on CNN.com, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.
  • Lorraine

    When this first came into law, last November I think, I after 20 years of being a military spouse and having to change my license more than 8 times, ran to my hubby’s home state from which he has maintained residency. I was told that I am not allowed because I do not have a PA state address.
    My hubby signed up for the military after he graduated from PA. He hasn’t lived there for more than 20 years. I had a license in PA and worked there 20 years ago. And since that time, have held numerous states licenses. (because everytime you move, you hafta change your license) After all this time, a promise of hot air and nothing. This law hasn’t benefited me or from what I hear, other spouses. No one enforces it. And who seriously lives in the same house, same address from when they entered into the military? How can I have a home in PA when I am with my hubby stationed in another state? AND, being in stationed in MD, these people still think that my hubby is driving illegally because his license is from a different state. Idiots!

  • Val

    Washington makes it next to impossible for teachers’ licenses and I notice they’re not on the list…. You even have to be certified to sub here! I think they miss out on some fantastic professionals by not relaxing the hoops that need to be jumped through for reasonable circumstances.

    • Cathy

      PA has the same requirement for subs also…..I’m qualified to sub in DoDEA schools with my current undergrad and masters degree, but can only be an ’emergency’ sub in PA where we are heading for the next year. I’m glad for my kids who will get qualified subs…..but it is frustrating for me when I decide to look for a job for our PCS this year to PA.

  • I got stuck in this licensing rut when we PCS’d last August 2010 — was not issued the same teaching license that I have in Virginia, told I needed 15 credit hours additional in order to get my license in NJ … it has been the worst experience I have had being a Navy Spouse, especially, since I became a teacher in 2008, so that I would have a more transitional career …. now I am looking into having my license in VA put on hold while I am here, did not know that….

  • Farah

    If only this included lawyer licenses, I would be happier. As a (unemployed b/c I’m not licensed in my current state because of the fees to be) lawyer, I am so tired of paying student loans while watching my law degree become more and more useless. We can never seem to relocate to a state that has reciprocity with the FIVE states in which I’ve already passed the Bar Exam. And, I’ve had zero luck getting into the government system so far. I hope this legislation works out better for teachers, nurses, and others, though! My fingers are crossed for ya’ll!

  • Trish

    Well, I can certainly see positives and negatives in these situations. My husband and I are Florida residents, but haven’t lived there since he entered the AF. We have been stationed in Nebraska, Maryland and now Georgia. I graduated from dental hygiene school 3 years ago in the state of Georgia. My biggest fear is that we will be relocated to a state where I cannot practice. We have been trying to get back to Florida for years now, but I now hesitate putting in on our dream sheet because I am not licensed to practice there. When testing to become a hygienist you test in two parts: one part written exam, the other part is clinical. The clinical portion is the worst because you have to find your own patient, they have to meet certain criteria and you have to depend on them to show up! Then pass the exam!

  • Trish

    (CONTINUED) That is a big hurddle to jump every time you PCS into a state where you have to redo this whole process…however, it isn’t just going to resolve itself. The biggest problem is that each state has it’s own government and regulations. Testing is different in every state. The laws are different in each state. Some states you can practice on your own, no dentist required. Some state you can practice with a dentist in the practice, some without supervision. Some states you are required to perform anesthesia, other states do not allow it. Alabama doesn’t even require you to attend college for dental hygiene (the ONLY state that is crazy to NOT require and education). I guess what I am trying to say is that until education standards are the same to a certain degree, things are not going to fly…and to be honest…I would not want to live in Georgia, have a “hygienist” come in from Alabama, not have the proper license…and them clean my teeth. Just a thought.

  • billy

    if all these problem are real problems, stay where your at in your state…. whinner

  • Amy

    This article states that South Carolina has taken the temporary license route, yet I have contacted the South Carolina State Board of Cosmetology, and they have never heard of that. How do I get them to give me the opportunity for a temp license if they never heard of it? I already forwarded this article to them, but they still aren’t able to help me.

  • Over seas schools should ease the process. I am in Korea and they are bring teachers from the states because they have “license”. Why can’t Dodea follow suit and ease their hiring standards

  • C Abbott

    What is asinine, is that the states feel the need to have requirements that potentially differ state to state.. what really changes?? does blood flow differently?? why does one state require continuing ed and others do not?? all, should. Frankly the requirements should be mandated federally, reinventing the wheel is what makes things inefficient increasing all types of costs. Education and Health Care are two examples of gross problems. You can give special treatment to Military spouses but it doesn’t solve the inherent problem. Other spouses are required to move and are no less qualified. Fix the real problem, the bandaid isn’t working anyway. 16 signed on… grrrrrrr

  • kenny

    My wife has her cosmetology license in CO and we are pcs’d in CA. She has to retake her boards and pay 175 dollar application fee just to take the test which has a four month waiting period. The DOD NEEDS to create a relief act for military spouses to give them temp permits to work out of state while on orders. THis is Bull!

  • Brenda

    I have a cosmetology license from the state of CA. It is rediculous what you have to do & what you have to pay every 2 years due to PCS moves. The biggest problem is having to transfer your license to another state that has less required hours for licensing than your original state. Then your next move is to a state that requires more hours than the state you had to transfer your license to in order to work. It’s a scam! It would be nice to be able to use my California Cosmetology license in any state for up to 2 years without having to go through all this. It’s discouraging and time consuming and costly for no apparent reason.

  • Nate

    I was with you until you so offhandedly denigrated homeschooling. My daughter is homeschooled and is at the college level at age 15.

    How can any group school compete with personal attention from two educated teachers (a nurse and an engineer) with a vested interest in pursuing the best, most well-rounded education possible?