How to Develop a Career That Travels Well

If you’re a military spouse who works outside the home, career “portability” can make it a lot easier to find a job after a relocation. While jobs in teaching or nursing are widespread and may be readily available throughout the country or the world, positions in smaller, more specialized career fields may be much tougher to find. To find fulfilling work, build on your skills and experience, and supplement the family income in spite of frequent moves, use this information to help you make informed career choices.

The Military Spouse Employment Partnership

The Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) helps connect military spouses with employers worldwide who are interested in providing long-term, meaningful employment opportunities in a variety of fields. Call 1-877-940-6737 or visit the MSEPJobs portal.


Many military spouses enjoy careers as teachers through all their military moves. Just keep in mind that in teaching, just as in other professions, frequent moves can make it difficult to earn the professional seniority that often brings better pay and benefits. Nontransferable licensing and certification can also be an issue, so you’ll also want to invest some time to make sure you understand licensing and certification requirements that may vary from place to place.

If you’re on the teaching track, you might want to consider these employment options:

  • Department of Defense Dependent School System (DoDDS). Many military installations worldwide are home to Department of Defense Dependent Schools. If you want to teach, this may be a good option for you.
  • Substitute teaching. Many spouses choose substitute teaching as a career or as an adjunct to a teaching career. Substitute teaching requirements are not as strict as those for full-time teaching. Also, substitute teaching can help keep your skills sharp while still leaving you time to take care of the household or kids or while your licensing and certification are being processed.
  • Licensing and certification. Some states have licensing and certification "reciprocity" arrangements, meaning that one state accepts the licensing requirements of another state. Many states also recognize a national teacher certification, although they may require additional coursework. For information on your state, visit the Teachers Support Network website. Teachers working in DoD schools overseas may be able to teach with a license from any U.S. state.

It's up to you to do the research and find out the requirements for practicing your chosen profession at each duty station. These requirements may include transcripts, other formal documents, or fees.

Nursing and other health care professions

Many military spouses have careers as nurses or other health care professionals, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, and dental hygienists. A strong desire to help people and a positive attitude are important.

Military spouses in nursing or other health care positions face many of the same challenges as teachers. Each time you move, it's important that you investigate the licensing and certification requirements for your new location. Some states offer licensing and certification reciprocity, but most do not. Many will require you to submit transcripts, documentation of previous licensing, and fees.

When considering these kinds of job opportunities, it may be helpful to focus your search on companies that support the TRICARE health network. Also, the American Community College Association, in coordination with other key organizations, has established the Virtual Career Network website for health care professions that shows jobs, licenses, credentials, and sources of training and education.

If you’re pursuing a career in the health care field, you might find these resources and the accompanying information helpful:

  • Nursing. If you're thinking about becoming a nurse, the American Nurses Association website is a great source of information. Keep in mind that nursing offers you the flexibility of either becoming a registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN), nurse practitioner, or certified nursing assistant (CNA). Since portability is important to your nursing career, you’ll want to access state boards of nursing to investigate the requirements of your location.
  • Physical and occupational therapist. Some military spouses have found careers in physical or occupational therapy to be portable and satisfying. To practice physical or occupational therapy you must meet state requirements. Keep the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy site in mind for information about examinations, licensing authorities, and professional standards. Physical therapy websites often contain information about occupational therapy as well. As with teaching and nursing, be sure you know the licensing and certification requirements for each location you move to.
  • Dental hygienist. Many spouses enjoy careers as dental hygienists. These positions “travel well” as long as you consider local standards for licensing and certification at each duty station. The American Dental Hygiene Association website provides current information about the profession and links to state associations.

To work in a health care field at an installation clinic, you’ll probably have to fulfill all state requirements first. If you’re living overseas, you may find that jobs in general, including nursing, are limited by availability and regulations.

Technical/service careers

If you have specialized skills, you might be able to turn them into a career that you can "pack up" and take with you when you move.

Your skills may help you pursue a career as a

  • computer technologist, Microsoft Office Specialist, or transcriptionist
  • technical, creative, or marketing writer
  • child care provider
  • adult educator, trainer
  • interior designer, painter, artist
  • plumber, carpenter
  • tax preparer
  • pet care provider
  • physical trainer, aerobics instructor, or massage therapist
  • hair stylist, nail technician


Would you like to work for yourself and be your own boss? Some military spouses have turned that dream into a profitable career. The Small Business Administration website provides information and reasonably priced seminars about setting up and running a business. Here are some other considerations for entrepreneurial military spouses:

  • Sales and marketing. These businesses often provide guidance, training, and marketing supplies for you.
  • Licensing, certification, taxes, zoning. It's important for you to learn everything you can about licensing, certification, taxes, zoning, and installation regulations if you plan to start your own business.


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