Upskilling & Reskilling

Phase 2: Prioritizing Professional Options

Your determination and “get it done” attitude likely has your eye on sustainability and growth in your career. Are you sticking with a plan that sets you up for success? As a military spouse or partner, adopt the same mindset, strategies, technologies, and resources you use to get everything else done! They will all influence and improve your career direction and success. Whether you have an eye on a promotion, lateral movement to a new organization, or even moving to a new field, strengthening existing skills - or developing new ones - may be your best bet.

Phase 2: Prioritizing Professional Options


Milestone 1: Focus on Education or Upskilling

With your professional goals in mind, identify the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Can you bridge the gap by obtaining a degree, or will some additional training get you there? If you’re looking to build on an existing skill, a brief training course or certification program may fit your needs. If you want to dive into a new field or industry, a degree program may be the best route to take. Seek the support of a career coach or counselor if you need assistance, additional information, or a different perspective. And don’t forget to utilize them, your mentors and your support network to help you navigate schooling and military life. You can do it all, but taking on more should also mean utilizing more support!

Real Life Snapshot from Woman at Spouse Event

Real Life Snapshot

Kate Viar, an Army spouse, served as Amazon’s Director of Worldwide Public Sector Engagement for Amazon Web Services  – a term-limited executive development role that allows Viar to shadow and learn from leaders within the worldwide AWS public sector business. She says Amazon’s philosophy of “Learn and Be Curious” has positively impacted her career. When considering upskilling it can positively impact yours too. Kate says, “My best advice is to never stop learning and developing your skills, even if you land in a remote location without relevant job opportunities,” Viar said. “Do not view your career trajectory as a rigid line; instead think about the skills you will need to get you into an executive role down the road.”

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Evaluate educational opportunities

With so many educational and training opportunities the enrollment process may seem overwhelming. Take a deep breath and don’t rush yourself.  Do you research to make sure you enroll in a high-quality program or course that will ensure you learn the skills you really need to get you where you want to go. And seek recommendations and advice from your network so you can make a selection that you’ll feel good about.

Key Findings

Military spouses were equally interested in pursuing a degree, a certificate, or brushing up on new skills.

Certification Illustration

Overall, they were equally interested in pursuing a degree (52%), a vocational or technical certificate (52%), or to brush up or gain new skills even if no degree or certificate (55%). 

Resources Illustration

Military spouses were most focused on getting skills they could use no matter where they lived

Certification Illustration

Those who were not employed were more interested in a degree

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Scholarship Resources and financial aid

When do you ever let obstacles derail your plans? You don’t!  So if the anticipated cost of a course, certification program, or degree add unnecessary strain to your finances, hit “pause” and explore scholarship and financial aid opportunities. Sure, there are more logistics involved and it may require a little more time before you can enroll, but it will be worth it if you don’t have to take out loans or pay for anything out-of-pocket.

Key Findings

Research focused on the military community has shown that spouse career opportunities are an important factor in service member retention.


Previous Hiring Our Heroes’ research (2017) told us that 81% of military spouses and their service members have discussed leaving the service, with the availability of career opportunities for both spouses cited as one of the top deciding factors.

On a scale of 1-10, military spouses ranked equal employment opportunity as very important to their decision making process.

Almost half of military spouses with a graduate/professional degree have seriously discussed leaving the military service with their spouse to support their work or career.

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Determining your return on investment for upskilling

Additional education and skill development take time and money, so you’ll want the best return on your investment. This is another opportunity to play the long game. Do your research to ensure your desired training or degree program will lead to increased skills or a new skill set, and have a clear understanding of your potential for promotion, salary increases, and overall career progression.

Key Finding

Overall, military spouses were more interested in HR specialist, office supervisor, and market research analyst positions, and less in IT support professional and software developer positions.

Career Interests
500OverallSome College or
2-year Degree
4-year degreeGraduate or
Professional degree
Human Resources Specialist52575447
Office Supervisor49606139
Market Research Analyst48383949
IT Support Professional25333418
Software Developer24232425

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Selecting a program and getting started

Identifying a program of study or a skill to learn or strengthen, selecting a course or college to enroll in, and figuring out how to pay for it all are only the first steps in your upskilling journey. See your educational or training program to the finish line by setting yourself up for success as a student.

Keys to Student Success as a Military Spouse or Partner

  • Consider military life-related obstacles and create a plan. Before your program or training begins, review program requirements and timelines. Pay particular attention to any in-person interaction that is required as your military life may require you to consider additional obstacles, such as upcoming deployments, TDYs or PCS moves. 
  • Communicate your needs to your partner/family. Participating in additional schooling or training will cause a temporary shift in your home life as you build in time to complete your course of study. Share how others can help you be successful, whether that be by providing extra support, accountability, and/or encouragement. Develop solutions to military-related obstacles during your conversations with your partner. 
  • Set up your study space. Ensure you have a quiet place to learn and access your school and training materials. If your home is not conducive to learning due to space or distractions, consider a place away from home such as the library, a coffee shop, or a space on-site at your school.
  • Carve out distraction-free time for learning. You may have to be intentional with your learning time, especially if you have competing obligations such as a job or family. This may mean dedicating study time in the early mornings or late in the evening, or securing child care to ensure you stay on track with your schooling. 
  • Create and stick to a schedule. Your program of study may be time-sensitive, or you may have a goal in mind for when you would like to complete training. A schedule can help you balance your schooling with your work and family and help you make time for physical activity and to maintain social connections. 
  • Delegate or streamline household tasks and chores. There are only so many hours in a day. Make time for your education by cutting back or creating efficiencies with household tasks by enlisting the help of others such as your partner or temporarily hiring help from outside of your home.  
  • Make time for your health and wellness. Maximize your learning by continuing to eat well, getting regular exercise, and ensuring you get enough sleep. 
  • Take advantage of support services and resources offered through your school or training organization. Seek opportunities for extra support through tutors, advisors, and study groups. Additional learning aids, such as study guides, may also be available. 

Aligning coursework with family needs

Balancing your education with your family may be a new challenge for you, albeit one that can have a long-lasting positive impact on your family. Discuss how and for how long your schooling will impact your daily routines, and find ways to support one another while you complete your education.

Key Finding

The majority of Military Spouse Career Journeys survey respondents were parents of dependent children.

Child care infographic

2 out of 3 respondents were parents of children 18 and under 

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Next Phase

Up Next: Phase 3: Finding a Rhythm