Military Spouse Teacher: What Is It Really Like?


When Tabitha’s Air Force husband came home with news that he would be stationed in Korea for two years, her career crisis came to a head. Tabitha wrote:

 “I am an English literature major and I am wanting to teach. But with this career choice of my wonderful better half, I was wondering if there was any advice as to whether or not it can be achieved. I know the whole “renew license because every state has a different policy” deal so I’m not worried about that. I’m just bumfuzzled at the moving-every two-three-years concept.”

We are bumfuzzled, too. Although teaching has always been a common career choice for military spouses, we wonder how that actually works out in real life for a real military spouse teacher.

If you are a military spouse teacher, we would like to hear about your experience. Is it easy to get a job? Do you end up in locations where there are so many military spouse teachers that the competition is insurmountable? Did your teaching career lead to something else? Help us help Tabitha with some up-to-the-minute SpouseBuzz advice.

About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for 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

29 Comments on "Military Spouse Teacher: What Is It Really Like?"

  1. I'm really looking forward to some insight on this. I'm facing this exact situation as soon as I finish my state certification.
    I'm especially concerned about the frequency of moving. How does one explain several short teaching jobs to an interview panel? It seems revealing a link with the military would scare them off, as they might assume (and rightly so) that they would lose their new hire in a couple years. But, not informing them of the military connection might lead them to assume I can't hold down a job.

    • Tevera Hesslink | June 7, 2012 at 1:03 am |

      I subbed for a few years and was wondering if I would ever get highered full time. A long term sub was the key to my current position however. They liked me so much that they didn’t seem bothered about what might occur. The interview was focused on my credentials and experience.
      We’ve now been station on Naval Base Kitsap for for nearly 9 yrs. and just received orders for another 4. I know that’s not always the case but if your transfer date is addressed then just tell the truth and add “most military spouses remain in the same position the entire time while at their duty station”.

    • Fortunately, when you're near a military base, they understand. I lived off-post when we were at Bragg and many of the schools were staffed by military spouses, so they knew the situation.

  2. smurphwest | June 5, 2012 at 8:19 pm |

    I have my teaching certification and personally for me I have found it easier to be a substitute teacher than a full time teacher. I keep my certification uptodate in case a full time job comes up but I have been a sub for 7 years now and love every minute of it. I hope and pray that you find a way to make it work for your situation because teaching can be such a rewarding career be it as a classroom teacher (I taught a 5/6 grade classroom one year) or as a substitute teacher. Also as a sub after school gets going for the year I can end up being at the school as many days as those teachers with their own classrooms.

  3. I am a teacher and milspouse. I was already working in my first teaching position when I became a mil spouse. My husband told me that we would be stationed in Japan and since I had already committed to working the next school year I wanted to try to work until the Christmas break. Unfortunately, I couldn't, I had to leave conus and go to Japan before Thanksgiving. That has been the hardest part of being a milspouse teacher; leaving my kids part way through the year. Before I left conus I had already put in my application for DoDEA and asked my current principal and colleagues for recommendations. When I got to Japan I went to the school with recommendations in hand to let them know that I was in Japan and available to work. Luckily, I walked in to a just recently opened position and started teaching there in January. I taught there for 2 1/2 years until we came back stateside. My biggest mistake was not obtaining a license in the state where we moved to. Since I didn't get a teaching license right away I had to commute 95 miles one way to the state where I did have a license. I have since obtained a license where I live and I am currently looking for a job there. I will not say that being a milspouse teacher is easy because there are some setbacks but as long as you are up for a new challenge wherever you move you can make it work somehow. I wouldn't trade it and I haven't once wished that I chose a different career.

  4. I have found it tough to get a teaching job when new to an area. I am "highly qualified" with a PhD, Masters in Education, and certified in two states, but I am finding it hard to get my foot in the door. Maybe it is due to the job market, but I think the biggest factor is I don't have any contacts where we live. I think it all depends on who you know, and it is hard to get contacts when new to an area. I do have a private school job, but the pay is half the public school pay and the commute is long. I am reluctant to go through the job search again this summer when there is only one more year until we PCS. I feel guilty about moving after just one year on a new job, and I feel guilty about not admitting I will move at an interview. I suspect that the gaps in my resume may be suspicious to employers (we lived overseas for 9 years and I have some overseas volunteer jobs on my resume). I know I won't be hired if the employer knows I am transient, so I am just going to stick it out at my current job. It is frustrating to not have better prospects after switching to a career that is supposed to be good for mil spouses.

  5. I lived my whole life in Mexico. It was a great challenge adjusting to a new culture, new language, etc. It is a little more difficult for me since most people think that my teacher preparation program does not meet the standards of this country. I see it more like a challlenge. I felt great when I became certified, knowing that many teachers, trained in a US University, had the same challenges that I encounter. I passed!!! What a great feeling. Think of this as a journey, not as a curse. Family is first. If you can afford a few years off, raising your kids, having more time to spend with your spouse, take it easy. In the meantime you can always volunteer to keep yourself active. It is much easier to study for those certification test when you have a part time job or stay home. We have a lifetime to fulfill our dreams. Being a military spouse is already a full time job. If is possible, go for it!

  6. HW Stevens | June 6, 2012 at 12:10 am |

    As a Navy vet and a retired 30 yr middle school teacher I am wondering how a mil spouse teacher participates in a retirement plan. I am now 70 yrs or age and well see the need of a retirement plan for both the wife and husband. With the constant shifting from one school administration to another it would seem to be impossible to create some type of employer retirement plan. Believe me it is imperative to have such a plan in place as you go into you later years. SS will not cut it alone!!

  7. I have been able to maintain a career as a teacher for the past 9 years and we were stationed at 3 different bases. The first school was easy to get a job at as I moved there 6 months before my husband returned from an overseas short tour. I worked at that school for 1 1/2 years until we had to move due to my husband cross training. It was really difficult to leave my school half way through the year but I lucked out and was able to find a new teaching job right away at our next base. The last teaching job was a little harder to find as the teaching certifications in CA are a lot different than the east coast so I was really limited on which schools I could actually work at. Just when I had given up hope of getting a teaching job I found one at a charter high school and worked there until a couple weeks ago. We just PCS'ed to Germany and I'm hoping my teaching luck doesn't run out but as everyone else suggested I have already planned to sub. Don't lose hope, it is possible to still keep your career but you'll have to "sell" yourself a little more because of the lack of connections when you move into a new community.

    • Ah, well my husband primarily wants to remain overseas, but once he's done with his station now, he's returning stateside so we can move to the next assignment. He'll want to enjoy the area for a while before going back. How difficult is it to obtain a position overseas?

  8. Hello. My husband is currently a deployed guardsman. He is considering going full service. What do I need to know and do to become a sub? I was going for a teaching cert but would like to start subbing. Thank you.

    • Is he going to be full-time in your state? Locate your state's Department of Education website and research substitute licensure. Most require you to have a Bachelor's Degree at a minimum, and some states require a basic skills test.

  9. Thank y'all so much for the advice! My husband was pleased as well with the help! We're hoping it will work out. If not, then substituting or another career choice will be made. Luckily my husband is supportive of anything I want to do!

  10. My wife sent me this link as I am in the military and she is a teacher. As posted earlier, it can be quite a challenge attempting to keep a teaching career going when married to a servicemember but it can be done. Before getting ready to move to our next assignment, we did research on local schools so we would know where to move. I actually decided to speak ot the principal of a promising elementary school to get some feedback. I concluded the call with, by the way, do you have any openings for teachers this school year. In fact she did and later had a telephone interview with my wife and my wife started work the day after we arrived. In another location she was able to work towards her Phd and also do some work study. In another location, she taught remedial type classes at a local community college.

    Regarding the question of pensions: You generally will not have a pension as you will not normally get vested in any particular system due to moving so often. But you should have some type of retirement program which you should contribute to if possible. Then after you leave the school district and know you are not going to return, you convert whatever retirement benefits accrued during your short tenure and convert it to a 403(b) which is simliar to a 401K but available for public service organizations. This collection of 403(b) plans can later be converted to an annuity which can provide monthly income for life.

  11. It's a challenge, for sure. One thing I'd like to add is that even though many states chime in that they are "reciprocal" or that they honor military spouse teaching credentials, it's not 100% true. Often it is only a 1-2 year temporary license, during which the teacher must take the classes and do the work to become certified in that new state.

    My home state, where my initial certification is, even rescinded my certificate during our time in another state; I pulled the "military spouse" card and now have that certificate back–but I had to take another class to do it.

    I'm currently teaching part-time as an adjunct instructor at a university satellite campus, and I love it. Less pay, no pension, but great rewards in teaching active duty military, spouses, and retirees.

  12. Always look to DOD Schools as an option and keep your Teaching Certificate current. If you have a MA
    adjunct postions are great to keep your skills fresh. Keep meeting the challenges with a smile; there will be many. By a military spouse of a retiree.

    • I am currently finishing my B.A. and will more than likely continue with my M.A. once at the new PCS. I figured it might be easier with an M.A., er, somewhat anyway. Thank you for the DOD schools! I didn't even think about that.

    • What is a DOD school?

  13. I have a masters in music education, which would be great if schools weren't cutting music programs left and right. I've had to be flexible. Luckily, at our first base I got a full time high school music teaching position close by. At the base we are at now, most area schools were laying off music teachers when we got here. So I contacted all the music teachers within about 15 miles and offered myself to sub or for private music lessons. As a result of this, I was asked to be the cello instructor at a specialized arts school for 15 hours a week. It's not exactly a full time teaching position, but it's something nonetheless. It's a fantastic job, and I love it, I just wish it was more than just two days a week.
    As for retirement stuff, I have been saving my own money and investing it, without relying on state retirement systems.
    It's not exactly what I was hoping for in my career, to jump around and try and find new jobs every where we go, but so far I've been pretty fortunate, it just took me to be creative and get myself out there as much as possible!

    • Ah! A survivor of music theory! I congratulate you! My husband was actually a music education major before enlisting. I play myself.

      Yes, I do believe substituting will the easiest way if not able to find a full-time position, but I also believe that employers will be pleased to have such an eclectic rounded individual on staff.

  14. I have six years of experience and a Master's Degree in Special Ed, which is always a high needs field, but I just moved with my husband to Ft Bliss and can't even get a callback from a principal. I guess it all depends on where you end up. Keep an eye on your retirement too. Teacher retirement goes into a state account and it is doubtful that you"ll stay anywhere long enough to accrue enough for retirement, so you probably want to set up your own retirement account that you can move with you.

  15. I was a military wife for over 25 years, I did took many courses and finally was able to completed the Interior Decorating, I finished on 1997 then two weeks later we PCS overseas for three years, I did over twelve years of volunteer work, now my husband retired and we found ourselves trying to survive with his retirement check, two kids in college, paying rent and helping our elderly parents. I applied three times to a nearest military base from my home, but I been rejected each time, my husband believed that's because he was Army and the base I applied is Air Force, I not sure if this is real, I thought the military support each other not matter the branch. Our situation is difficult, to make matter worst my husband seems to be PTSD from the multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, but not been help form the VA , I able to do babysitting, home Aid, anything, where I can find a job?

  16. I forget to said that most of my twenty five years as a military wife I spent it overseas.

  17. Deanna Dall | July 11, 2013 at 7:40 pm |

    Is there a retirement program for those of us that are teachers that links into the Federal Govt retirement. Every time I change states I lose my benefit build up…My Husband is Coast Guard…Homeland security

  18. I've thought about doing that, keeping my certification updated in several states, but of course it would be difficult to know where we would be going next, much less be shipped somewhere else at the last minute where the process would have to be done from scratch. I know I can only do so much before the next orders are sending us in the opposite direction.

    How were you able to hold a position for those moves and for twenty-five years?

  19. I've done this as well – maintained all of my licenses, even though it's unlikely that I'll return to some of these states.

  20. As soon as we had orders, I would begin the process of transferring my license and getting certified in the next state. Sure, things can change, but starting that process early is key.

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