Going Back to School as a Military Spouse

Military spouses learn together

You’ve made the rewarding choice to go back to school. By pursuing your education goals, you can expand your job opportunities and boost your earning power. But where should you start? And what military spouse scholarships are out there to help?

Start with Spouse Education and Career Opportunities — SECO

The SECO program can provide you with the resources you need to get back in the education game.

Free Courses for Spouses

Military spouses, advance in your career with free access to the Udemy online learning platform through June 29, 2022.

  • The MySECO website, designed exclusively for military spouses, ensures you have 24/7 online access to information for a successful return to school.
  • Visit the MySECO Pursue Your Education section to identify your education path, plan for your education and compare colleges.
  • You can also connect with a SECO career coach who can help you decide on an education path and how to pay for it.

Choosing the right education and training

Got a career in mind? The career you choose will determine the type of program you’ll need. Take a look at the differences between each program and decide what’s best for you.

Educational ProgramsLengthOverview
Certificate programsWeeks, months or yearsTypically focus on specific skills and are offered by community colleges or technical schools
Associate degree2 yearsOffered by community colleges, an associate degree focuses on entry-level specialization within a field
Bachelor’s degree4 yearsFour-year colleges or universities award a bachelor’s degree in the arts or sciences
Advanced degree2-4 yearsDegrees beyond the bachelor’s degree can include master’s, specialist, professional and doctoral degrees

Options for a mobile military life

Don’t let a move stop you from going back to school. Consider online education or satellite campuses. You can discover and compare schools based on location, learning format, the ability to transfer credits and more with the College Scorecard on MySECO.

Scholarships for military spouses

Wondering how much is this going to cost you? There’s help out there.

  • Check MySECO for financial assistance resources and career development opportunities offered specifically to military spouses and family members.
  • The My Career Advancement Account Scholarship is a workforce development program that provides eligible military spouses with up to $4,000 in financial assistance for the pursuit or maintenance, including continuing education courses, of a license, certification or associate degree necessary to gain employment in an occupation or career field.
  • Military spouses can sometimes take advantage of their spouse’s GI Bill® benefits. See our veterans benefits section for more.
  • The Department of Education provides billions of dollars of educational loans and grants for qualifying students each year. In order to be considered for financial aid, you’ll need to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Visit MySECO today and begin your journey to learn, advance and succeed.

Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Department of Defense Service Regulations and Orders

Military programs are governed by federal law, Department of Defense policy and additional policies specific to the branches of service. Below are service-specific policies that govern the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program in the military.


Army Regulation 215-3, “Nonappropriated Funds Personnel Policy,” August 29, 2019 This regulation provides uniform policies governing personnel management and administration for nonappropriated fund instrumentalities’ employees of the Army. Paragraph 2-11 specifically addresses the rules and restrictions associated with the Spouse Employment Program for nonappropriated fund positions.

Army Regulation 608-1, “Army Community Service,” 19 October 2017 Chapter 4, Section IV, “Employment Readiness,” provides policies for Army spouse employment assistance including services that must be made available to spouses.

Marine Corps

SECNAVINST 1754.1B, “Department of the Navy Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) Program,” 5 November 2007 This instruction provides policy and assigns responsibilities for the implementation of Navy and Marine Corps family support programs and key functions and ensures that employment assistance for family members is delivered by the family support program units.

MCO P12000.11A, “Marine Corps Nonappropriated Fund Personnel Policy Manual,” 27 December 2011 This order provides detailed personnel administrative procedures and provides the primary reference for the overall administration and utilization of employees of Marine Corps NAFIs. Paragraph 2106 of the order specifically addresses military spouse preference for employment in Marine Corps NAFIs.


OPNAVINST 1754.1B, “Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) Program,” 5 November 2007 This instruction provides policy and assigns responsibilities for the implementation of Navy and Marine Corps family support programs and key functions and ensures that employment assistance for family members is delivered by the family support program units.

SECNAVINST 1754.6A, “Relocation Assistance Program for Department of the Navy Personnel,” 8 November 2005 This instruction provides policy for the Department of the Navy Relocation Assistance Program. Information concerning spouse employment opportunities is a required component of the predeparture information provided by the Relocation Assistance Program.

Air Force

Air Force Manual 36-203, “Staffing Civilian Positions,” 30 July 2019 Chapter 4 of this manual implements DOD Instruction 1404.12 and provides Air Force policy and procedures for military spouse preference employment in appropriated fund positions.

Coast Guard

Commandant Instruction 1900.2A, “Transition Assistance Program,” 17 April 2003 This instruction provides policy and procedures for the Transition Assistance Program in the Coast Guard, including employment assistance for separating personnel.

Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Department of Defense Policies

These resources include DOD directives, instructions and guidance for spouse employment issues.

DOD Directive 1332.35, “Transition Assistance for Military Personnel,” September 26, 2019 This directive authorizes the branches of service to prepare separating service members and their families with the skills, tools and self-confidence necessary to ensure successful re-entry into the civilian workforce. Required transition services include employment assistance for both separating service members and their spouses.

DOD Directive 1342.22, “Military Family Readiness,” August 5, 2021 This directive establishes policies, assigns responsibilities and prescribes procedures on family policy for DOD personnel. The extent and exact nature of the system of family programs and services is based on installation-specific requirements and needs. The directive specifically cites “private and public sector employment assistance” when listing programs and services included in the family support system.

DOD Instruction 1400.25, Volume 1800, “DOD Civilian Personnel Management System: DoD Priority Placement Program,” 1 April 2009 This manual implements policy, delegates authority and assigns specific overall responsibilities for the DOD Priority Placement Program for civilian employees.

Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Department of Defense Legislation

Military programs are governed by federal law, Department of Defense policy and additional policies specific to the branches of service. Below are excerpts from federal laws that govern the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program in the military.

Public Law 107-107, “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002,” §571, “Improved Financial and Other Assistance to Military Spouses for Job Training and Education,” 28 December 2001 This legislation directs the DoD to examine the current military spouse employment assistance programs and evaluate whether direct financial assistance to military spouses for employment training would be beneficial for the retention of military service members. It also directs the DoD to review current military spouse employment policies and states that the DoD shall seek partnerships with other federal agencies, private sector employers and defense contractors to seek ways to incorporate hiring preferences for qualified spouses of members of the armed forces.

Title 10 United States Code (USC) §1056, “Relocation Assistance Programs,” 3 January 2012 This legislation directs the secretaries of the military departments to provide relocation information, preparation and acclimation services to military service members and their families receiving permanent change of station orders. It further states that the relocation services will be provided with an emphasis on information regarding spouse employment opportunities.

Title 10 USC §1144, “Employment Assistance, Job Training Assistance, and Other Transitional Services,” 3 January 2012 This legislation directs the secretary of labor, in conjunction with the secretaries of defense, transportation and Veterans Affairs, to establish and maintain a program to furnish counseling, assist in identifying employment, provide training opportunities and provide other related information and services to members of the armed forces who are being separated from active duty and the spouses of such members.

Title 10 USC §1784, “Employment Opportunities for Military Spouses,” 3 January 2012 This legislation authorizes the secretary of defense to provide employment opportunities for military spouses in the same geographic area as their sponsors’ permanent duty station (Military Spouse Preference Program).

Coronavirus Support Update – Spouse Education and Career Opportunities

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Current as of Sept. 28, 2020

Just like most organizations, Military OneSource is adapting in response to the coronavirus disease outbreak. See below for up-to-date information about the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program services and resources.

What Remains the Same

Career Exploration – The Essentials

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Military OneSource provides practical guidance to military spouses exploring new careers – offering strategies on seeking federal employment, telecommuting work and other portable careers. You’ll also find comprehensive education career support through the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program and other resources. Check out useful tips and tools that will help you research and define your career path.

Start exploring a career with these steps:

Do your homework.

The Department of Defense and the military service branches offer a full range of career exploration programs that can be accessed online, by phone or in person. The Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program offers military spouses comprehensive education and career support, including counselors who can help you identify skills, interests and aptitudes.

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Develop a portable career.

Military spouses are on the move and therefore require portable careers. Military OneSource offers tips on developing skills that transfer across various positions and occupations like management, technology and communication. Learn how to secure the right training, licenses, degrees and certifications that will help make you marketable for a variety of portable careers – and how to get up to $1,000 in relicensing reimbursement when you PCS.

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Consider federal service employment.

As a military spouse, federal civil service employment may be more accessible than you think. Understanding the benefits and rules of the federal civil service hiring system can help you decide if federal employment is right for you and which jobs to pursue. Consult USAJOBS.gov to explore federal opportunities:

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Volunteering can be a perfect step into the working world. It allows you to learn new skills and build on existing ones, obtain valuable experience in difference fields, network with potential employers or references, and get access to formal training and attend conferences.

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Career Coaching – The Essentials

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The Department of Defense Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program provides comprehensive coaching services free of charge to all eligible military spouses. Employment readiness specialists are also available at most installations to assist military spouses with many different employment-related issues, such as education, training and licensing, employment readiness, career connections and referrals to other services.

Explore these three options:


Spouse Education and Career Opportunities career coaches are ready to assist you in all areas of career exploration; education, training and licensing; career readiness; and career connections. They can help you identify skills, interests and aptitudes; coach you on networking; and direct you to training and education opportunities.

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Military Spouse Employment Partnership

The MSEP, which is a SECO initiative, connects employers with educated, trained and qualified people like you. Its 390-plus partner employers have hired more than 131,000 military spouses.

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Installation employment readiness specialists

Employment readiness specialists are available at most installations. They can help you with a wide range of employment-related areas through workshops, classes, small group instruction and one-on-one support. Each service has its own employment readiness program.

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Career Connections – The Essentials

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Military OneSource teaches military spouses how to build and sustain key relationships that lead to jobs, and directs them to programs such as the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, which includes more than 340 employer partners who have hired over 100,000 military spouses.

Start networking with these groups and events:

Career fairs

Career fairs provide a great opportunity for job seekers to meet with people from several companies in one location. Employers may be recruiting for specific job openings or giving information on future job opportunities. Look for job fairs exclusively for military spouses and watch out for college career and networking events for alumni and students that typically take place on campus.

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Chamber of commerce groups

Chamber of commerce groups hold regional events like mixers, workshops and fundraisers. For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation leads the Hiring Our Heroes initiative, which helps veterans and military spouses find work.

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Community service groups

Community service groups allow volunteers to staff fundraisers, where you might interact with hiring authorities. Don’t be afraid to work for free. Volunteering and interning are great ways to get your foot in the door, and it can be a great learning experience. The same is true for meetings, workshops and conferences for professional and trade associations.

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Connect With Employers Through the MSEP Job Search on MySECO

The Military Spouse Employment Partnership can connect you with employers worldwide who are interested in providing you with long-term meaningful employment opportunities.

Top 10 Questions About Military OneSource Specialty Consultations

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Life can throw you a curveball sometimes, whether it’s taking care of your wounded warrior, finding a caring assisted living community for your mom or getting your fitness training back on track. Specialty consultations give you the chance to talk with a trained professional to help solve your problem.

Get the answers

Here are the top 10 questions you may have about Military OneSource specialty consultations:

  1. What is a specialty consultation? It’s a session where you can talk with a specialist online or over the phone.
  2. What can I talk about during my consultation? You can discuss wounded warriors, special needs, adult and elder care, peer-to-peer, education, adoption, and health and wellness.
  3. How can I set up a consultation? Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to schedule an appointment.
  4. As a spouse, how can a specialty consultation help me with moving or transitioning? Spouse relocation and transition specialty consultants can help create an individualized action plan and identify resources that may include information on housing, child care, education, employment, health and wellness coaching, non-medical counseling services and more. The consultation allows the spouse to have an ongoing relationship with a specific consultant, with regular touch-bases and follow-ups scheduled.
  5. How can Military OneSource help me if I’m a wounded warrior or caring for a wounded warrior? Wounded warriors or the family of a wounded warrior can get immediate help with issues related to health care, facilities or benefits. Specialty consultants work with the services’ wounded warrior programs and the Department of Veterans Affairs to make sure you get what you need quickly.
  6. What kind of help can I get for special needs and adult and elder care? A specially-trained consultant will assess your family’s needs and answer your questions about education, finances, support groups, effects on other family members and more. Whether you’re concerned about the special education cycle or finding adult day care for an older loved one, Military OneSource consultants can help.
  7. What can I expect from a peer-to-peer specialty consultation? Peer consultants can connect with you on a personal level through their shared experience as a service member or military spouse. You can have a relaxed conversation about the challenges of military life, such as deployments or frequent relocation.
  8. What help can I get with education? Education consultants can help with college admissions, financial aid applications, tutoring and more. Spouse Education and Career Opportunities also provides high-quality education and career services, resources, guidance and consultations for military spouses.
  9. How can a specialty consultation help me with adoption? Adoption consultants are trained and experienced in handling adoption-related issues and can help you resolve all your questions and concerns about the adoption process.
  10. How can a specialty consultation help me with health and wellness? Military OneSource’s free health and wellness coaching can help you improve your health and overall well-being. You can work with a coach to focus on weight management, fitness and nutrition, stress management, life transitions and more.
Find out what counseling options are available to you and your family.

Spouse Education and Employment – The Essentials

Woman smiles, while others work in the background

As a military spouse, you have access to numerous resources that can help you achieve your education and career goals, whether they be finishing an undergraduate degree, pursuing a training certificate or landing a new job. Here are some of the essential tools and programs that can assist you in pursuing your degree and succeeding at work:

Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program

The Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program, or SECO, from the Department of Defense, was created specifically for military spouses — to connect you with tools, including education and training help, career counseling and exploration, and much more. You’ll find practical tools to help you advance in your career no matter what stage you’re in.

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Military Spouse Employment Partnership

If you’re looking for a job, check out the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, or MSEP. It’s a part of SECO and offers the robust MSEP Job Search on MySECO that connects employers with educated, trained and qualified people like you. This tool has thousands of job listings and features hot jobs and participating partners.

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Military OneSource Education Consultations

Military OneSource education consultants can answer all your education-related questions, as well as provide referrals to essential services. This includes guidance on financial aid, scholarships, tutoring and other education information.

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Military Spouse eMentor Community

The Military Spouse eMentor Community is an online community connecting military spouses with career mentors for guidance and support. You can also connect with representatives of military spouse-friendly firms that serve as educational and career mentors. An initiative of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, the program provides helpful interactions between experienced military spouses and those looking for support or direction.

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Installation Employment Readiness Programs

Employment readiness specialists are available at most installations to assist you at no cost with issues related to education and employment, including career exploration, education, training and licensing, employment readiness and career connections.

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