For military spouse professionals, however, there’s something else to consider when it comes to the PCS and packing game: your state-issued license.
My first encounter with the issue of professional licenses came through my very first military spouse friend. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Middle Grades Education (yes, she volunteered to teach middle school!) and was offered the opportunity to take over a class for a teacher going on maternity leave. At the end of the school year, she was one of three teachers offered a contract position for the following year.
This seems like the dream, right? She completed her education, landed an opportunity for a position, and then worked hard to turn that position into an offer for the following year. It sounds, dare I say it, normal.
Civilian normal, however, was out of the question—because military normal arrived instead. A day before she received her contract offer, my friend’s husband received PCS orders.
What could she do? What should she do?
Like many military spouses, my friend prepared to move her career along with her family. She made packing lists, researched their new location, worked on housing… and discovered that out of all of the moving hoops she’d have to jump through, transferring her teaching license would be the hardest one to clear. In fact, it would be nearly impossible.
Due to factors such as state requirements, certification demands, and the costs associated with transferring a professional license, she nearly gave up on her teaching career.
While I believe my friend is exceptional, her licensing struggle is not. Thousands of military spouses face the same struggle when they try to transfer their professional licenses from state to state.
Although most states have adopted some kind of compact agreements and license reciprocity, there is no consistency. One state allows license holders to easily make a transfer while others require costly testing and re-certification. These requirements can be difficult to find and even more difficult to understand. And once you do find them, they can make you feel like a professional afterthought in the military PCS plan.
If you are seeking help transferring your professional licenses, we see you and we’re cheering you on. We hope these resources ease your path:
- The Defense State Liaison Office was created in 2004 to educate state lawmakers on issues facing military families. They work in conjunction with policymakers to enact military-friendly bills, including those pertaining to professional licensures.
- Nurses: Every state except New York has legislation in place to help military spouses transfer their nursing license. Twenty-five states have adopted the Nursing License Compact, which allows nurses to work in multiple states with just one license. Your compact nursing license opportunity is just a click away.
- Teachers: Transferring a teaching license is still probably the most difficult due to the wide variety of state specific requirements. However, legislation is in the works, and strides are being made in many states to adopt reciprocity and compact license requirements. Interested in moving the process forward? Contact your elected representatives and let them know how much this issue impacts military families. If you’re in need of resources to help you right now, check out Teach and CareerOneStop. These sites both provide the ability to research state-specific license requirements.
- Doctors: Doctors Without Borders may be more well-known, but some military spouse physicians have the opportunity to be Doctors Without State Lines! The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact is an agreement between 22 states that allows licensed physicians to practice across state lines. Check to see if your new home is on the list and what you need to do to transfer your medical license.
- Attorneys: The Military Spouse J.D. Network was created by two military spouses who were fed up with the challenges of maintaining a legal career while being married to the military. Since 2011, the Military Spouse J.D. Network has advocated for change and they’ve made change possible. Through their advocacy, they’ve made changes in state licensing rules for attorneys, including the allowance of state bar memberships without additional exams. If you’re an attorney and a military spouse, join this amazing group!
We’ve come a long way… but there’s a long way to go.
The Military Spouse J.D. Network is a prime example of what a group of driven, focused military spouses can accomplish. Can you imagine what it would feel like to PCS knowing your professional license wasn’t going to be an issue?
If we’re really going to effect change for professional military spouses, we’re all going to need to get involved. Do not underestimate the importance of state-level politics. License requirements are state-specific, so the best way to get involved and make change is on a local level. Contact your state representatives and meet with elected officials to educate them on the struggles of transferring professional licenses for military spouses. Give Congress a call. The Lift the Relocation Burden from Military Spouses Act was introduced in Congress in March 2017 by a New York state representative. If approved, this Act will provide reimbursement for licensing fees, expedite license portability, and require the DoD to find ways to improve military spouse employment rates. However, this bill is slow moving and was referred to a sub-committee on April 12, 2018. If you want to see this bill move forward, let them know this bill matters. If you are concerned about candidates' views of military spouse licenses, contact them too and share your experiences. Let your vote be your voice.
As military spouses, we know how to stay flexible and make the best of things. But when it comes to military spouse employment, things aren’t going to get better if we agree to stay flexible and let the chips fall where they may. Network with fellow military spouse professionals, educate yourself on license reciprocity and compact agreements, and advocate for your professional needs with your elected officials. It’s time to speak, to act, and to make change happen.