Military spouses are fighting a unique battle at home here in the United States. Although many of them have higher education or a college degree, and almost all are eager to work, they often have trouble finding a job, or earning enough to support their families. As First Lady Michelle Obama stated, “they’ve got the right skills, they’ve worked in their fields for years, but so often that doesn’t matter.”
Research has shown that 84% of military spouses have higher education, and 25% – 1 in 4 – have a bachelor’s degree. However, the unemployment average among these spouses is 38% – higher than the unemployment average of all military professionals, which is 25%. Additionally, 85% of those unemployed state that they want or need to work.
Among military spouses, “underemployment” is also a serious problem. Some are only able to find jobs that are below their skill set, or do not take advantage of their years of training or extensive knowledge. Even those with higher education suffer from this problem. In fact, 25% of military spouses earn less than their civilian counterparts due to underemployment, or potential discrimination by employers.
Fortunately, there is help for military spouses – something you may not have been aware of. If you are a military spouse considering attending college, there are scholarships available. In fact, over $300 million is available in military or veteran related scholarships each year. Much of this goes unclaimed, however, because information about them is not widespread.
Four examples of military spouse scholarships or aids available are MSEP (Military Spouse Employment Partnership), SDEA (Survivors & Dependents Education Assistance), the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and MyCAA (Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts). All four of these opportunities can provide either financial or educational assistance to spouses. SDEA offers educational benefits for those whose spouse died or was injured in combat, while MyCAA provides financial assistance to spouses regardless of their partner’s condition.
Despite the hardships and difficulties often presented to military spouses, there are some wonderful examples of determination and success among them. One example, as presented in our infographic, is the Military Spouses Choir. This 37 member choir appeared on America’s Got Talent, and were semifinalists in the 2013 competition. Their spouses ranged in rank from corporal to 2-star general.
Military spouses, as we have explained, are fighting a difficult battle despite not being engaged in combat. However, by utilizing the opportunities presented by the government, they are able to pursue degrees and additional education, giving them a chance to gain better employment and provide for their families.