Military spouses often face hiring challenges due to their spouse’s occupation, and the global pandemic exacerbated this even more. The unemployment rate of military spouses is nearly 3 times greater than the national average. According to Navy Federal Credit Union’s research, 13% of military spouses are unemployed, and 43% of military spouses are under-employed. In both unemployment and under-employment, military spouses cited specific challenges around relocation, childcare responsibilities and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a military spouse myself, I know that military spouses face unique employment challenges that make securing a sustainable, long-term career very difficult,” said Matt Vean, commercial banking lead at Navy Federal. “This ‘Best Careers’ list offers deeply-researched insights that this community can turn to for advice and direction as they take the next step in their employment journey.”
Research & Results
To help them navigate these challenges and enjoy long-term career success, we conducted more than 2,000 online interviews with military spouses, both within Navy Federal’s current membership and in the general population in 2021. We found that this community requires a flexible schedule, competitive compensation, a clear career advancement path, a consistent work location (either in-person or remote), a team-oriented work environment and childcare options.
We then partnered with Hire Heroes USA® to identify industries and career paths that meet the values that matter most to this community.
“Although military spouse employment is being talked about more and more, there is still work that can be done. Military spouses are reporting they are looking for stability and flexibility across all industries according to the ‘Best Careers’ list and data,” said Amy Dodson, a military spouse and human resources manager at Hire Heroes USA. “I encourage military spouses to utilize employment resources that are tailored specifically to their unique needs, leverage volunteer work to build a career and search for companies that have military spouse hiring initiatives.”
Here are the top 10 industries we identified as best for military spouses.
Best Careers for Military Spouses
- Government & Public Administration: No surprise here, but having a stable job is one of the most important qualities military spouses look for in a career. Government and public administration roles provide spouses with just that and more! In fact, nearly half (46%) of military spouses currently working in this industry plan to keep their job until they retire. Other important benefits of this industry are flexible scheduling and working for an organization that supports military service as employees. Some of the most popular careers are analyst, manager or supervisor, support worker and lawyer. Of note, the analyst is the role best suited for frequent relocation via permanent change of station (PCS).
- Business Support & Human Resources: Military spouses seek out a meaningful career and job that allows flexibility in childcare options and moving locations, which aligns well with business support and human resource positions. These roles also provide flexibility for families who experience a PCS. Some of the most popular career paths include administrative assistant, secretary, analyst, support worker and recruiter. This career path is a relatively new industry of interest for military spouses, with two-thirds (66%) currently in this industry having been in their position for less than 2 years.
- Health Care & Social Assistance: One in 10 military spouses are employed in the health care field. Military spouses favor this industry because it provides a meaningful career, offers stability and has competitive compensation. There are a wide range of roles that military spouses can explore in health care & social assistance; a few potential job functions include becoming a nurse, therapist, health caregiver, dental hygienist, pharmacy technician and medical assisting personnel.
- Educational Services: The educational services industry aligns well with military spouses’ compatibility with mission-driven environments, work-life balance and stable careers. Some of the most popular career paths include becoming a teacher or instructor, education counselor, support worker, manager and supervisor in education administration. For military spouses who regularly experience PCS or plan a PCS in the future, the role of support worker is particularly flexible for changing locations.
- Information Technology: With everything becoming increasingly digitized, careers in the information technology space have seen a rise in popularity. The great news is that these job functions are a good fit for military spouses because they provide a meaningful, stable career that allows them the flexibility to change locations with ease. There are a wide range of roles that military spouses can explore in IT; a few potential job functions include software or web developer, manager or supervisor, computer programmer, network analyst, database administrator and information security personnel.
- Financial Services: Financial services is a popular career path, particularly among military spouses in urban areas. Military spouses appreciate a stable career with a clear advancement path and competitive compensation—perfect for this industry. Over half (56%) of military spouses employed in this industry agree that their current job offers them a clear path for advancement. Some roles within this industry include accountant, bank teller, service representative, project manager, claim adjuster and credit analyst. A financial institution that understands the military lifestyle is most likely willing to help military spouses in these roles maintain their careers as they PCS.
- Defense Contracting: Military spouses often find defense contracting to be a good fit, citing that the work is meaningful, supports military service as employees and offers flexible hours and schedules to fit their needs. Military spouses can explore a wide range of roles in Defense Contracting. A few potential job functions best suited for military spouses include being an architect, analyst, project manager andr engineer. Project managerial roles are great for spouses of Active Duty servicemembers, as there’s greater flexibility for families experiencing PCS.
- Community-Based Services: Community-based services roles are most popular for military spouses 55 and up. Why do they like this industry? These spouses can achieve a work-life balance while contributing positively to the greater good. They serve a purpose every day and are passionate about their work. Some of the most popular career paths include social services, administrative support services, religious services or church workers, program management, general management, training, instructing and teaching.
- Retail & Customer Service: Retail and customer service ranks on our list due to its flexible work schedule, team-oriented work environment, and creative or strategic opportunities available. The importance of flexibility in retail cannot be overstated: over one-third (34%) of military spouses rank flexibility as the first thing they look for in an ideal job. Job functions within this sector include cashier, salesperson and customer service representative. The customer service representative role is especially flexible for military spouses who may experience or are experiencing PCS.
- Manufacturing: Rounding out our top 10 list of careers for military spouses is manufacturing, as spouses are attracted to competitive compensation, flexibility and creative or strategic opportunities in their job. Some roles within this industry include assembler, brazer or welder, machinist or operator, production manager and quality control inspector.
Planning for a career also means having a financial plan to match. There are different insurance and retirement savings options as a military spouse and specific considerations your family needs to consider at each step in your spouse’s military career. Navy Federal Credit Union is proud to offer tools, tips and resources to help military spouses succeed in their career search and continue their financial literacy.
Navy Federal has presented its ‘Best Of’ lists every year since 2018. In 2018, we developed the first iteration of the Best Cities After Service list. In 2019, Navy Federal developed Best Careers After Service, a comprehensive list of the best careers that will make the transition from Active Duty to civilian life more successful. In 2020, Navy Federal published Best Cities After Service 2.0, which helps identify top cities in the U.S. for military members who recently completed Active Duty service and their families amid changing priorities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Consider your skills, experiences and passions. Make a list of each and see if you notice any themes or patterns.
- Compare your list to ours—do any of these career paths seem to line up with your interests?
- Pick the three likeliest fields for you and start searching for opportunities in your area!
This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.