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Careers for military spouses?

pdt1530

Member
Hi all! I'm new to airwarriros as I am currently putting my packet together for Navy OCS for an aviator slot. I am posting here because my gf (of 4 years) and I are trying to coordinate our careers. I graduated last year and she is graduating this year. To make this as short as possible, we are planning on getting married and BOTH having careers. Her potential career interest makes this especially difficult; law. I found a thread on here about one Lawyer spouse who has followed her husband around taking the bar exam in different states but that doesn't exactly apply to our situation.

Basically, we are trying to plan my training around her law school. We want to have kids after she graduates from law school. She can stay on base with the kids and find a job through the numerous spousal support groups, etc. on base (which sounds amazing, btw). She will only start to practice law later when the kids are a bit older. Our initial plan was for her to go to law school while I go to flight school but now we're not sure if we want to spend that much time apart (there aren't any decent law schools near P-cola). So now we're thinking that she go to law school after I get out of flight school and get my first station. We're willing to try anything to make both of our career dreams a reality but it's going to prove difficult. Either way, both of our aspirations are difficult individually and will require great personal sacrifices but together, they seem almost impossible.

Anyway, are there any thoughts on this? Has anyone been in the same or a similar situation? Are there any programs or exceptions out there for lawyers/law degrees? Are there any related career fields that may be more fitting for her during my time in the military (to where she could pursue law more specifically after my service)? Anything would help!! Thanks ahead for the reply!
 

phrogpilot73

Well-Known Member
Here's my advice, for whatever's it worth:

Pick one individual's career path and make that the priority. Let the other scrape and scrounge (and even make decisions on education) based on what happens in the primary's career path.

I met my wife when I was a Capt in the USMC, and she was a LT in the USN. Trying to sync mil-mil was impossible. And we only had to deal with normal, ordinary PCS moves - not the sheer number of PCS moves that you make while in the training command.

Because of circumstances beyond our control (she had obligated service from a lat-move, I was free and clear from my winging obligation), we decided that I'd get out. Most of my post-military career time has been spent finding a job where my wife gets stationed. Because I've had to be flexible, I've worked as a software engineer on the 53K, work as a JTAC(I) at EWTGLANT, have been unemployed, and decided to follow my dream and go to culinary school. Getting a job on base isn't exactly a given (unless your soon-to-be wife is Fillipino :) ) and even if you have hiring preferences (as I do), it's tough to say the least.

Again, I'd recommend that you decide whose career is more important, and then make other career decisions based on that. I am prepared to move with my wife and bid farewell to my current job/career that I love, but we're in a place where I don't have to because of her seniority. A new officer won't have that luxury.
 

villanelle

Nihongo dame desu
Contributor
Hi all! I'm new to airwarriros as I am currently putting my packet together for Navy OCS for an aviator slot. I am posting here because my gf (of 4 years) and I are trying to coordinate our careers. I graduated last year and she is graduating this year. To make this as short as possible, we are planning on getting married and BOTH having careers. Her potential career interest makes this especially difficult; law. I found a thread on here about one Lawyer spouse who has followed her husband around taking the bar exam in different states but that doesn't exactly apply to our situation.

Basically, we are trying to plan my training around her law school. We want to have kids after she graduates from law school. She can stay on base with the kids and find a job through the numerous spousal support groups, etc. on base (which sounds amazing, btw). She will only start to practice law later when the kids are a bit older. Our initial plan was for her to go to law school while I go to flight school but now we're not sure if we want to spend that much time apart (there aren't any decent law schools near P-cola). So now we're thinking that she go to law school after I get out of flight school and get my first station. We're willing to try anything to make both of our career dreams a reality but it's going to prove difficult. Either way, both of our aspirations are difficult individually and will require great personal sacrifices but together, they seem almost impossible.

Anyway, are there any thoughts on this? Has anyone been in the same or a similar situation? Are there any programs or exceptions out there for lawyers/law degrees? Are there any related career fields that may be more fitting for her during my time in the military (to where she could pursue law more specifically after my service)? Anything would help!! Thanks ahead for the reply!
Me thinks spousal support groups are not what you think they are. It's a group of women that get together maybe one time a month to eat finger foods and talk about the dates of up coming command functions, or maybe paint homecoming signs. It is decidedly not the kind of thing you "find a job through". They are social groups, and in my experience unless you are overseas, they are not especially robust.
 

villanelle

Nihongo dame desu
Contributor
And Phrog gives good advice. Sometimes, it works where both spouses can have successful professional careers, but it is the luck of the draw. You get orders to Japan, and what happens? Either the two of you live apart for 2-3 years, or she more than likely will be unemployed or maybe teaching English lessons part time.

Perhaps the two of you can agree that she'll do whatever she can piece together during your time, and when you get out, then it's her turn. That might not work so well if you plan to make a career of it though.

Unless she wants to go JAG (and even then, you might not get co-located), I'd say that you certainly can't expect her to have a career where her decisions are made based on furthering that career, while you do your Navy thing. You might luck out, but you need to go into it prepared for and accepting of the worst cases, so that there's no resentment when the times comes for her to quite a job she loves and is proud of to move to Japan (says a wife who quite a great job she was very proud of to move to Japan). You both need to be fully aware of the possibilities and the ramifications for her career.
 

pdt1530

Member
Here's my advice, for whatever's it worth:

Pick one individual's career path and make that the priority. Let the other scrape and scrounge (and even make decisions on education) based on what happens in the primary's career path.

Thanks for the advice. Our plan is to put my military career as a priority (we don't really have a choice anyway, assuming I'm lucky enough to get commissioned). I've read that once stationed, you can stay there anywhere from 2-3 years or you can be moved 4 times in 3 years. With that being said, do you think there would be an opportunity for her to continue education at all during my career? I don't know of any exceptions for military family on grad schools...anyway, thanks again! We'll have to find a way to manage it! She might just have to follow me around for a few years.
 

Renegade One

Well-Known Member
None
I am posting here because my gf (of 4 years) and I are trying to coordinate our careers...
Here's my advice, for whatever's it worth:
Phrog…that was/is GREAT advice. Good on you for making what seem to be "all the right choices" in your circumstance.

pdt1530: Dual careers ARE tough….often "Varsity Hard". Obviously, many "spouse career options" are pretty transportable…realty, the medical profession in its many forms, teacher… all come to mind, but there are many, many others.

I would opine that you will NOT be able to "plan your military training" around anything…let alone her law school stuff. It is what it is...

Don't plan on being able to "stay on base"…anywhere. It's a numbers and "waiting list" game…obviously dependent on the locale.

Your "first station" may not exactly lend itself to her Law School preferences either…Atsugi (Japan), Lemoore, CA and many other locales may loom large in your next 5 years. The two of you need to go into all of that "eyes wide open".

All that said…good luck!
 

pdt1530

Member
Thanks villanelle! Ya I figured spousal support groups weren't much more than just that...support groups. But I wasn't sure if there were programs or anything offered to spouses trying to complete grad school. Anyway, Thanks again for the thoughts!
 

pdt1530

Member
Your "first station" may not exactly lend itself to her Law School preferences either…Atsugi (Japan), Lemoore, CA and many other locales may loom large in your next 5 years. The two of you need to go into all of that "eyes wide open".

All that said…good luck!

Very true! I've been keeping a close eye (as I'm sure everyone has) on the tensions from N. Korea. All I know is it makes me more eager to serve my country! Thanks for the best wishes!
 

afwx

Booyahkah
Thanks for the advice. Our plan is to put my military career as a priority (we don't really have a choice anyway, assuming I'm lucky enough to get commissioned). I've read that once stationed, you can stay there anywhere from 2-3 years or you can be moved 4 times in 3 years. With that being said, do you think there would be an opportunity for her to continue education at all during my career? I don't know of any exceptions for military family on grad schools...anyway, thanks again! We'll have to find a way to manage it! She might just have to follow me around for a few years.
Continuing her education can be done but plan for the worst case (you two being separated). I am currently stationed just outside St. Louis. For her first year of law school, my wife attended a private school in Montgomery Alabama. I worked shift work while taking care of our (then) 2 year old.....pretty rough but doable. Her second year she applied to St. Louis School of Law and got accepted, making my life and our relationship much easier. We got lucky with how the cards fell into place. If SLU wasn't 30 minutes away, SIU Law is the next closest she could have transfered to which is 3 hours away. She could have been home on the weekends but still would have been away during the week. You can do it, but plan for the separation.

Sent from my Nexus 4 using Tapatalk 2
 

e6bflyer

Used to Care
pilot
My advice: put off getting married until she is done with law school. You will have a more certain future and she will be done with school. This will put off a lot of pressure to cohabitate when it really isn't necessary. Flight school is full of moves to locations that are neither professionally or educationally robust. Also, you will be busy much of the time studying and flying. Going solo is the way to do it.

I know relationships are complicated, but it sounds like she is smart and you two have been together for a while. Two or so years of infrequent contact will probably be no big deal.

Don't be in a rush to get married. Trust me on this one.
 

SynixMan

Professional CCX Wrangler
pilot
Contributor
I think you need to read more and understand exactly what your career is going to be like for the next 11 years or so, then be really honest with your girlfriend. You're going to be moving, a lot, during the training command. Figure that's three years lived 6-8 months at a time in one place. Then PCS moves to, possibly, the other side of the country/world, where you'll be lucky to stay for 36 months. She'll likely be unemployed or underemployed for those first three years if you choose to live together. Can she handle that? It's tough. My wife finally found a job after a year in Norfolk looking for work, and this is a decently sized city.

Does she have student loans? Do you? Can you afford to support both of you on an ENS/LTJG salary? Everyone with wings knows at least a few folks who's significant other thought this life was all "choker whites and dining outs", and were sorely mistaken. Is hard, and it takes two people with an amazing bond and resiliency to succeed. Don't take me as anti marriage. Quite the opposite. My wife is an amazing person, super supportive of me, generally a very positive person, and this lifestyle has taken a toll on her. And we had an idea at least of what to expect (haha). Honestly, and this is presumptuous from only a few posts, but you seem pretty naive on what you're about to start. Good on you for asking folks here who have experience, but keep reading and absorbing.

Also, I know I posted this in another thread, but if you love her, you should really try to talk her out of being a lawyer. It's a soul suck of a career. You're talking about three years of education at ridiculous high prices and interest, to work a job at (likely) a billable hours farm where she lives her life by 6 minute increments of billable hours. That might sound like sour grapes, but I have friends who were sold the bill of law school goods, though they were living the good life in Chicago (at a "good" firm btw) and burned out shortly after. One still hates his life, but only does patent research for less than I make as a LTJG (all while making $1k/mo in student loan payments) and the other loves life, he's an iOS developer and has nothing to do with the law anymore.

Why does she think it's a good job? Because it looks good on TV, doesn't know what else to do with an english degree, and thinks lawyers make good money? 1 and 3 are totally wrong, and 2 is a terrible reason to saddle yourself with $150k in debt. Think I'm crazy? Google "why not to go to law school". Read something that isn't published by a law school looking for your money or the American Bar Association.
 

The Chief

Retired
Contributor
Lot of good information herein, a tough nut, but it is good to go in with your eyes wide open. The current unemployment stats for military spouses looking for work is 23%, a big number.

There are several programs out there to assist the military spouse. DOD's MSEP (Military Spouse Employment Partnership) is but one. There are others.

While I do not have the citation a recent law was enaced to address the issue. All that said there are also some unique opportunities, someone mentioned Japan, there are excellent opportunies there, albeit SOFA rules complicates the matter but there are ways to game that system

Take a look at the GAO report on the subject.

www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-60
 

Spekkio

He bowls overhand.
E6B offers some good advice.

Personally, I have not stayed in one place more than 2 years. My wife doesn't have a professional degree that allows her to get swept up immediately everytime we PCS, but would still prefer to work. She has been unemployed since moving in with me a few years ago. She always ended up getting a call right at the inopportune moment -- first time, she was having a child. Next time, we were about to PCS or had just PCS'd, but in either case the calls for interviews always came 6-12 months after she dropped the application.

The base jobs are mostly entry level admin-type jobs and there are waiting lists for those. The assistance the Navy offers through employment programs is likewise geared toward entry level employment. Villanelle is correct that the spouse's club is mostly a social club that gets together on occassion. Small wardroom, but my boat had 0 career wives actually working. Two had teaching certifications, but they decided to become stay-at-home-moms because the cost-analysis for starting over again untenured after moving did not off-set child care costs (and they both thought they could better educate their children than the school systems around the base). If you are lucky it can serve as an employment resource, but don't plan on it leading your wife to a 6-figure corporate law job.
 

villanelle

Nihongo dame desu
Contributor
Thanks for the advice. Our plan is to put my military career as a priority (we don't really have a choice anyway, assuming I'm lucky enough to get commissioned). I've read that once stationed, you can stay there anywhere from 2-3 years or you can be moved 4 times in 3 years. With that being said, do you think there would be an opportunity for her to continue education at all during my career? I don't know of any exceptions for military family on grad schools...anyway, thanks again! We'll have to find a way to manage it! She might just have to follow me around for a few years.
If she's willing to do an online school (which I would assume means something other than law), then getting a grad degree would be no problem. Most bases have programs (with varying degrees of competency and support) that offer a little assistance in getting enrolled if you select one of the schools that has an office on base, but that's about it. There really are no programs. O-1 and O-2 spouses qualify for MYCAA, which is a few thousand dollars in tuition assistance, but you'd have to check and see if it can be used for an advanced degree as I'm not super familiar with it. Really, that or separation are the only educational opportunities you can count on for here. More traditional opportunities my pop up, but you certainly can't count on them. Even if you end up in one place longer term, you likely won't know you'll be there long term, which means the 4 years she'll need (about a year to apply and wait to start, and then 3 years of school) will likely never be a sure thing.

As was mentioned job placement services for spouses are typically for non-professional careers and jobs, so I wouldn't count on that. She would qualify for spousal preference for GS jobs. I've never applied to any of those, but from what I've seen, the preference never seems to do a lot of good anyway, unless the candidate is already extremely and somewhat uniquely qualified for the job anyway.

Until we went overseas, I always worked, and did so in professional environments (not retail, food service, child care, etc.). But I was damn lucky in that we stayed in one place for about 9 years (4 sets of orders, including the FRS). We don't have kids, which makes us rare (especially in the military) so working has always been important to me and there's essentially no reason for me to choose to stay at home. But I've always accepted that the time might come where my career would be a casualty to his job, and that I'd end up taking whatever work came along if we needed the money, or being unemployed. That day came about 3 years ago, and it appears it will last another 2 years, at least. I don't love it, but because I was prepared for it and it was a conscious choice I made and accepted when we got married, it hasn't been a struggle for our relationship.

From what I've seen, I'd say that probably 70% of young O spouses worked until having kids, and then that dropped to maybe 25%. When we moved to Japan, that dropped even more, though the opportunity for part time employment teaching private English classes is very good and the pay is extremely good. With very rare exception, that's about all there is. Now, I am in Germany and there is pretty much nothing, other than childcare on base, or baby or pet sitting.

Overall, I get the sense that you don't entirely "get" it. I mean no offense by that, but I think it is critical that you and your lady friend understand what you are in for. To proceed without that understanding is to wade into very dangerous waters. If she can't accept that she will basically be filling in work around the whims of the military, you are nearly doomed. (Unless you are willing to geo-bach long term, and from what I've seen, that rarely ends well, though a few have made it work.) It's hard, and it sucks sometimes, and she (and you) need to really get that, not just pay lip service to it. The chances of her going to a brick and mortar school without a long term separation from you are slim. The chances of her being able to establish herself with an organization are slim. That chances of her not having periods of unemployment, possibly long term, are slim.

I don't want to make it sound utterly dire (or myself utterly bitter!). There are some great things and excellent opportunities. I've seen and done some amazing things c/o the Navy. But without realistic expectations, it would have been painful, especially professionally. It sounds like your girlfriend is very motivated professionally, which means the career sacrifice might be more painful for her than it is for those who only want to work for a few years and then devote themselves to child rearing. So make sure she has the info she needs up front so that she can make sure this life will work for her. It sounds like she has decided that life with *you* will work for her, but sadly, that doesn't mean the circumstances if lie with you will work for her.

Usually, I disagree with some of the rampant anti-marriage sentiment around these parts. However, in your case, I think it might be a good idea to wait it out and let her see a bit more how it works, allow yourself to better understand the implications of the lifestyle, and give both of you time to make sure this life will work for you as a couple. Too many people make the choice to marry by only considering whether the person is right for them. Like it or not, the Navy is part of the package now, and you must make sure that works for both of you, together, as well.
 
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