Only 21 percent of military spouses have a Bachelor’s degree.
The following are major factors as to why military wives feel intimidated and/or feel discouraged to pursue higher education:
- Their military spouse’s career lacks concrete scheduling.
- It is not uncommon for the work schedule of a military personnel to fluctuate from day to day. Most receive their post for the next day at the end of their shift. So, this could be the difference of getting off work at 6pm or at 11:30pm. It makes a difference in the daily lives of military wives to plan the evening accordingly.
- The military attracts people from disadvantaged backgrounds
- People typically enlist in the military to pay for college because they grew up poor or to have a respectable career without further education because college is not for everyone and is not always promoted in every household. Most military couples are high school sweethearts with similar backgrounds.
- The military increases the service-member’s salary if married
- Increasing the service-member’s pay after marriage encourages military personnel to marry young, which most do. Other perks include being able to live on base with your significant other and being able to PCS with your significant other. The point of a degree is to increase chances at a higher paying job. If the military already financially provides for the family then there is also less survival stress for the spouse and less motivation to find a vocation, have a career, and obtain a higher education.
- There is always a possibility of PCSing
- Most military spouses do not want to start their education without the guarantee that they will be in one location for the four years it will take to finish with a Bachelor’s degree.
Those factors are often used as an excuse with some resentment towards the service-member as to why the spouse feels they can neither have a career nor a higher education. It is difficult balancing school with military stress, especially when scheduling trips, evenings, and the future. Marrying military was one of the reasons I did not apply for PhD programs right after graduating with my first Master’s degree. Graduate school credits do not transfer, and there are not a lot of online programs for graduate school. However, rather than letting the difficulties of location affect my career, I did intensive research to find an online graduate program for my second Master’s that could complement my career path while opening more accessible career opportunities in any state, if we were to PCS.
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Furthermore, the military also provides some financial aid to the spouses. Below is a list of programs established to assist dependents’ education:
- The MyCAA (Military Spouse Career Advancement Account) provides $4,000 over two years for a military spouse to receive an Associate’s degree in a portable career. It is supported by the Department of Defense’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program.
- After 9/11, service-member’s can transfer their unused G.I. Bill benefits to immediate family members if they have put in 6 years of service and promised 4 more years.
- Dependents’ Education Assistance Program (DEA) offers a possibility of 45 months worth of education benefits for eligible dependents towards a degree or certificate
- Furthermore, the Air Force offers scholarships for dependents to apply towards their college degree.
If a military spouse wants to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in a traditional college setting then it is also important to remember that undergraduate credits transfer. It is possible to start your degree in one location and graduate from a different school in a different location.
There will have to be some compromises with the military whether it be studying online, transferring credits, and/or studying part-time during deployments. However,compromising is always better than never trying.