“Great” Jobs For Military Spouses?


What ARE “great” jobs for military spouses?? This week military spouses scorched an article that suggested the “great” jobs available to us included babysitting, preparing taxes (Turbo Tax, anyone?) or baking cupcakes.

Since we actually pay attention to our military spouse readers, we know that there is a large population of spouses either looking for a “great” job right now or they are thinking of going back to work sometime in the future. We know they are willing to make some compromises so that they can have both a career AND a life with the service member they love.  So we decided to start a SpouseBuzz List Of Great Jobs For Military Spouses. Can you help?

Take a look at our criteria for a “great” job. We want a mix of jobs that require a degree and those that don’t. Also, we are thinking:

  • The work has to bring in thousands a month, not a hundreds.
  • The field has to be experiencing notable growth or demand to overcome our lack of local connections.
  • The job has to be available outside a major city (so working in IT or as a chemical engineer is probably out).
  • Extra points would be awarded for jobs that related to military families because wherever we lived it was likely a bunch of other military folks would live there too.

Here are our first seven suggestions. Can you suggest other jobs (particularly those in business) that might work?

ABA Therapist. Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapists work with patients to overcome mental and social disabilities—especially kids on the autism spectrum. The Center for Disease Control indicates that 1 in 88 children in the United States have received a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. That figure applies to military kids, too. As the parent of a child on the spectrum, I know how hard it is to get these professionals– especially in more rural areas. ABA therapists can work full or part-time. The job requires formal education in psychology, behavior analysis or a related field of study.

Early Adopter. As Loretta Lynn said about breaking into country music, “You have to be the first or the best.” Which is easy for her cuz she was both. Same goes with anything you want to sell, manufacture or retail. You have to be the first or the best or there is little money to be made. When it comes to work, an early adopter is the kind of person who recognizes a trend way before anyone else. If you are the kind of person who was first with Angry Birds, iPad, or Viagra, sales might actually work for you as a military spouse. You might be able to identify the next Silpada. And then move on before everyone else climbs on.

Healthcare —Especially Concerning The Elderly. The need for registered nurses and Healthcare employment is expected to grow. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, there is also opportunity in healthcare on the business side of the house. We are thinking that if you specialize in providing services to the growing population of older Americans you will have the kind of skills that are rare in nearly every community. What kind of educational requirements would that take? Suggestions?

Richard Scarry character. Remember those Richard Scarry books from Kindergarten? Those were the books with the cats and pigs and worms dressed up as carpenters and welders and electricians. The Society for Human Resource Management says that skilled trades like these will be experiencing great demand in the next few years. If you are a person who works with their hands, or you were already trained as a welder in, say, the Navy, this looks like opportunity. Shoot, if you can dance, you can learn to weld. See Flashdance for confirmation.

Special Education Teacher or Aide.  Your original plan to be a teacher had you imagining yourself in front of a group of charming fourth graders all working on their reports about Jamestown and Williamsburg. According to our readers, getting those jobs often requires that you spend a few years in the school system—which is hard to do when you move every other year. What if you break out of that crayon box and imagine yourself as a Special Ed teacher or a classroom assistant instead? The National Education Association says there is a greater need for special education teachers than for any other type of teacher. This requires some specialized training and the drive to make a difference in the world.

Marriage and Family Therapist. The Bureau of Labor projects that the need for marriage and family therapists will rise 29.8 percent in the coming years. The divorce rate is not climbing that fast; it is just that it is becoming more and more common for people to seek help from a therapist when their marriage gets rocky. This shortage is particularly great when it comes to military families living in less urban settings. A master’s degree is usually necessary for this job.

Pharmacist and Pharmacy technicians. There is a Rite Aid on every corner. A CVS in every strip mall. The opportunity for employment is there. Although it takes about six years to become a pharmacist (salary over $100K), most of the training a pharmacy tech (salary $30K) gets is on the job. Demand for pharmacy techs is expected to increase with the elderly population. Pharmacies are also expected to look to cut costs by shifting responsibilities from pharmacists to pharmacy techs.  Can you retool other work/school/volunteer experience to make yourself more attractive to employers?

Social Worker With Military Credential.  The National Association of Social Workers announced this week that they are launching a new credential for established social workers.  Although social workers have to be certified and certification does not necessarily translate from state to state, this may be an area of expertise you could capitalize upon.  In an interview, Executive Director Betsy Clark said that a social work who is also a military spouse who earns this credential would be ahead of the game and “in a position to be in a supervisory position over other social workers.”  Something to think about….

This is just the beginning of our list, please make suggestions especially if you are a military spouse in a job that meets our criteria. At SpouseBuzz we believe that the best information comes from those people who walk the walk. No one knows better than you.

About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom. Find her at JaceyEckhart.net.
  • JCA

    Funny how everyone had a million comments bashing the care.com article, and now nobody has any comments for suggestions….

  • Tara

    I will say one thing–the marriage and family therapist profession is tough due to the licensure issue! I actually feel like I would have a job right now if I was licensed, but am NOT licensed due to the fact that I have to keep moving, and I have “lost” my hours in each state. I know there is a lot of push to help military spouses with their licensing issues, but so far have not seen it in my counseling field. Hopefully will see more of that in the future so that I can get my license, as I have the hours now for it twice over!

    • jacey_eckhart

      The MFT licensing issue is definitely something we need to push for–especially since the need for therapists who understand military life is so great. What kind of requirements have you run into?

    • Kristina

      I share your concern, I am a licensed mental health counselor in the state of WA but we have moved to NC. They won’t recognize my hours because they are not under a NC board certified counselor so I can not get a job here. The amount of rejection letters I get is depressing- I either get you are over qualified for the admin assistant position or sorry we need you to be licensed in the state you currently reside in. How am I ever supposed to pay off my student loans if I can’t get a job.

    • Tara C


  • Charity

    Environmental Technician and/or Environmental Geologist/Engineer, also Civil Engineer. Technicians make about $10-15/hr to start, measuring wells and collecting samples for geologists and engineers.
    With a BS Environmental Geologists can make $30-4K/yr to start collecting samples, running pilot studies, consulting for cities and military bases and performing geospatial analysis (GIS). Engineers make slightly more to start (usually). After obtaining Professional Geologist or Professional Engineer certification, salary increases, because PG/PE are Project Managers in most companies and handle high level correspondence with the EPA, Department of Health and/or Environment, City Planning, etc.

    MS degrees in these fields start out at higher salaries (depending on location) and are often fast-tracked for certification and management positions.

    You wouldn’t probably think that there are a lot of openings around military bases, but every branch has an in-house environmental team (like NAVFAC, US Army Corp of Engineers) and they hire external contractors (often women and minority companies who provide great pay, flexible hours, and ridiculously awesome benefits). In addition, almost every city has a group that evaluates planning decisions for environmental compliance and state governments hire people to make sure that all development is in compliance with environmental regulations and oversees environmental clean-up.

    When you work either for NAVFAC or the like or as a contractor for the base, you get the extra bonus of knowing that you are making the environment cleaner for your service member and all of the families on the base.

    • Charity

      30-40K, not 4K…oops

      • Charity

        And here is the stats on geologist jobs: 21% growth over the next decade (all geology positions, including gov’t scientists); current median salary for all geologists is $82.5K/yr (as of 5/2010).

  • Military Bride

    I’m studying to be a cosmetologist!!! Everyone needs their hair cut and its a high turn over job.

  • frustrated milspouse

    I am a new graduate nurse and the job market is really tight without experience. Plus I am finding that being military is a liability. Hospitals are wanting a two to three year commitment after the training period. I can tell them until I am blue in the face that I will be there at least that long if not longer but….. so far I have not been hired.

    • gypsyjen08

      That’s awful. I’m very, very worried that I will face the same challenge. I am currently going to school to become a veterinarian (still have a long way to go) but all I can think about is how no one will want to hire someone who can’t guarantee how long they can stay. Maybe I could work for the base clinic?? but who knows if they’ll have openings… Anyways, that’s the challenge with working in medicine: they want people who’ll last and military spouses unfortunately get discriminated against because our spouses are likely to get stationed somewhere else… Like I said, I spend hours a day worrying about it!! lol

    • HR Advice

      Are you offering up the information that you are a military spouse? If so, stop. They can’t legally ask you what your husband does.

      “So Sally, what brings you to Goodville, USA?”

      “My husband received a new job opportunity, so here we are! So far this seems like a great place, I really love the restaurant on Main St. I really can’t wait to settle in and call it home. Thanks for inviting me here to talk to you today. I’d love to answer any questions you have about my skills!”

  • Tashun Jackson

    I have a bachelor’s degree in business administration/health care management and cannot find a job anywhere. We recently moved to SA & the market is tough. I also have 36 out of 39 graduate credits and still can’t find anything. I know health care is a good field only if you have experience as with any job. It is frustrating being a spouse helping support your husband’s career while yours is non-existing. My boys are all teenagers so I’m ready to get back to work. I’ve even started to apply at Target & Walmart. Any ideas?

    • Hey Tashun

      Have you tried USAA? I know it could be broadly view has health care management, but they are a insurance provider who does have specialists over and above call center and other opportunities.

      For those who don’t know, USAA has a 200 acre ‘campus’ just outside of San Antonio…with their own child care center. I am not trying to do a commercial, but just want to bring awareness to everyone.

    • Emily

      Things like occupational therapy assistant, physical therapy assistant, dental assistant, medical assistant, may be a better fit for the time being? I know how you feel. I am a certified teacher. However, due to moving so much I haven’t been able to get a job. I just recently went to a job fair and one of the navy wives told me your career does not exist until his is over. After the last few years, I am starting to believe that. I am about to apply to Walmart and Home Depot. For any teaching friends I agree with the article when it says add special ed. to your degree. Subbing and classroom aide has been my employment thus far. :( I would also look into visual impairment as another route for teaching friends.

    • Julie Woodson

      I have been a stay at home mom for twelve years Tashun and also have a Bachelor in Health Care Administration and cannot find a job because I have no experience, not even as a receptionist. I am frustrated because I feel like I am discriminated against for having stayed home so long even though I went to school online while I moved around every two to four years. Now I’m almost 40 and it seems impossible to get a job even at a pharmacy starting as a technician. I’m frustrated and I don’t know If I am doing something wrong on my resume or just because I have not worked in a long time.

  • Liza

    Speech pathologist. Great job with a great salary! There are openings all over the world and you can work with a variety of people in a variety of locations.

    • Emily

      Speech Path requires a masters and it’s not something that is transferable if you already have a degree in something else. You would have to start all over. It is a great salary but in order to do this one you have to start out in it. I wish I had known about this career when I was in college and my husband just started his career. This career is also intense as far as the college classes go. You have got to be willing to devote all of your time to it. It is also a VERY portable career and easy to find employment.

  • Edward

    I’m going to agree with Amanda that IT can be a great choice, particularly if you can link up with the right company that uses remote employees. I’m a software developer that’s been with the same company for the 12 years my wife has been in the Air Force, from Ohio to Montana to Japan to California. I always call my job the perfect military spouse job: work at home, flexible schedule, high 5 to 6-figure income, and in my case, no more than 20% travel and most years, under 10%. Admittedly, it requires a bachelors or masters in most cases and the starting salary is usually lower (but still in the thousands per month), but if you can link up with a company locally for two or three years and then get them to keep you on when you move, it can be a great opportunity.

    • Edward

      Computer science or some variant that leads into software development as opposed to operations for the type of position I have. For Amanda, she is in project management (and I don’t know her background other than that), so you might even be looking at a management degree with a software emphasis.

      • Outlier

        Hi Edward. I know this is an old post, but I’d still like to get in contact. I’m wrapping up my MS in a computer related field and currently have a programming/software job. But we may be moving soon and would love to have a fellow comrade to have an ear with.

  • Michelle Torres

    What about Makeup Artists? Thats a great field! You can work in film, tv, commercial advertising, politics, government, cosmetic manufacturing, retail, bridal, salons, spas and have your own mobile business as an entrepreneur anywhere in the world! As a former Marine Corps wife I know the frustration of wanting to get non-conventional career training. Although I appreciate medical billing clerks, physical therapy, etc I wanted a career that would meet my interests as a creative, artistic person. I have worked in film, tv, and commercial advertising for years as a Makeup Artist /Stylist and found that it was not easy continue my training when we moved overseas. Now that we have detached I have decided to give back to military spouses who share the same interests a chance to earn a professional certificate that is recognized by the State Council of Higher Education and offer professional Makeup Artist certification in Makeup Artistry, Airbrush, Eyelash Extensions, Bridal Henna, Wardrobe and Prop styling for production, Threading and more. On behalf of my company, Makeup Artist Studio, we are proud to accept the MYCAA and GI Bill program for those serving in the military and we continue to expand our program every year. We now offer online makeup artist courses for those who are living abroad and want to continue their training. I would love to hear from you, please feel free to comment and let me know if you share the same interests? Dont limit yourselves to the conventional, step out of the ordinary to live an exciting, fulfilling, and rewarding career…and have a great life!

  • Financial Guru

    Financial and Healthcare industry! I have been gainfully employed in the financial industry for more than ten years (experiencing 3 PCS’s during this time). There are banks in every town, city, district, community we will ever PCS to. Don’t be “above” being a teller. (tellers can earn anywhere from 15k -30k/annual plus overtime and other company perks – 401k, profit sharing, PTO). I work with tellers who earn $500-$1000/quarter in incentives on top of their annual wages. Start out as a teller and work your way up. Even if it’s not with the same bank, having banking experience sets you worlds apart from the other person who doesn’t have bank experience.

    Healthcare Industry: Medical Transcription and Encoding! This license can cross state borders allowing you to work from home or in an office environment. Generally takes about 6-12 months to complete but once you’re licensed you can be your own boss as a consultant to hospitals/healthcare companies. They hire you via contract or you can work for a company. Often minimum hourly wages are $25 – $30 / hour.

  • Financial Guru

    I’d also add that in the financial industry there are many positions within the banking industry that do and don’t require degrees. Personal Bankers, Loan Officers, Customer Service and Sales Representatives, Insurance Agents, Tellers, Teller Managers, Fraud & Loss Prevention Specialists, Financial Advisors, Auditors, Operations Consultants.

  • Retail and Retail management. Wide corporate footprint, continuation of benefits/seniority, and typically flex schedules for those who need it. Excellent pathway into other opps at larger national firms that more and more are moving to telework type arrangements. Mix of degreed and non-degreed positions. “Self Serving”, AT&T fits this bill.

    • If-Only SM

      As a Retail Manager with over 4 years experience, I spent 5 months interviewing to land a job that I could only stay at for 8 months- the multi-national company loved me, but we were relocated to an area where the nearest large city is over an hour away, and Store Manager hours plus the commute would mean 12-14 hour days and “days off” you’re still on call. Even in such a high turnover market as retail with “opportunities to move within the company”, employers want that level of position to have staying power to create money-making powerhouses, not to have to interview continuously.

  • wordsmithjess

    I’m an English teacher, special education teacher and soon-to-be military spouse who is leaving my position to go where my Navy Chief fiance’s duty has called him. I fully recognize that I will most likely not be able to get a teaching job in the base community, even in the high-need area of special education, as I will not have a valid certificate in that state, and due to the small likelihood of a district wishing to hire a teacher who runs a probability of being gone in 1-2 years once my husband’s orders are up.

    The article states that “Your original plan to be a teacher had you imagining yourself in front of a group of charming fourth graders all working on their reports about Jamestown and Williamsburg. According to our readers, getting those jobs often requires that you spend a few years in the school system—which is hard to do when you move every other year. What if you break out of that crayon box and imagine yourself as a Special Ed teacher or a classroom assistant instead?”

    The problem with that is that becoming a special ed teacher requires the SAME training and certification as that of regular ed (I know, I am both), and typically MORE. You can’t just break into it because it’s somehow easier to get into than teaching typically developing fourth graders. You still have to have the training and certification every other teacher does. And getting those jobs would ALSO require that you spend a few years in the school system…special education students in particular require stability and consistency, and teachers that pop in and out midyear do a disservice to them. I anticipate that it will be VERY difficult to snag a teaching post in a place where I might only be living a year or two, and I understand why. The best I can probably hope for is a regular subbing gig, or hope that there is a school that won’t mind hiring a certified and experienced classroom teacher as a special ed para, but I know from experience that teachers don’t always cotton to other teachers acting in para roles.

    I would also assert, as a person with a background in ABA, that a short-term placement would make a person a not entirely appropriate candidate for an ABA therapist position, due to similar issues…ABA is by nature a science ruled by consistency in approach, and a therapist who can’t be in it for the long haul and may leave at a moment’s notice isn’t going to be the best person for a job of that nature.

    My fiance understands that the transient nature of our life with the Navy means that my career will come second, and may be nonexistent for stretches. I just have to think about how I’M going to come to terms with that. I tell myself I can be happy with volunteering on base, etc., but I’ve had a lot of my identity tied up, by choice in the work I do for so long, switching gears is going to be an adjustment.

  • Lindsey

    Anyone thought about being a TRAVEL AGENT? This is my first PCS as a dependent, and boy does it suck. I gave up a successful local business that I owned and don’t have the heart to put in the hard work to rebuild it knowing we’ll be moving again in three years. Just like the rest of you who wander across this site, I’m looking for a career path that I can invest in myself, my training, education, and job knowledge and NOT have to start from scratch every few years. I don’t even want to get rich! I just want to feel like I’m not wasting my time and that there are possibilities for professional development.

    I remember once in my Active Duty days, making airline and hotel reservations for a TDY trip. The military was required to book through a specific travel agency (which I don’t believe I’m allowed to mention by name in this post, but isn’t too difficult to figure out. ) While chattering with the travel agent about the weather, somehow he mentioned that he worked from home. This conversation came back to me in my recent career search, and I’ve come to discover that there are MANY opportunities for independent contractors as Travel Agents, that work from home. AND, many of them are affiliated with Host Agencies (like the one the military uses for all corporate travel) so in a sense, some business comes directly to them (for at least a portion of their commission.)

    I’m still researching this idea, but from what I’ve discovered so far is that there are many specialties available such as certain destinations, cruises only, corporate travel only, etc. There is a certain amount of training and certification required to become a legitimate travel agent, and to navigate necessary systems and legally sell air and hotel, etc. You won’t get rich over night. And, like anything else, hard work and job knowledge is what will create success. There are also certain incentives and discounts that travel agents receive on their own travel, which I count as a bonus.

    Like I said, I’m still researching this option. I figure, that at the very least, if I can become established with a Host Agency and work from home, well, I can continue to work from home in the next place as well- with out having to quite my job. I cannot imagine another field where frequent relocation and travel could be beneficial, but the more places you’ve been too can only help you to be a well rounded agent. I’m interested if anyone else has experience in this field or can comment knowledgeably?

  • K9zero

    anyone know if its difficult to be a police officer when your spouse is active?