New Study: Giving Military Spouses Better Career Options | Burning Glass Technologies

There are many sacrifices involved with military service, but one of the less-appreciated ones is the toll it takes on the careers of military spouses. 

Seven in 10 military spouses report they had taken jobs that were “uninteresting, low paying, or below their skill level,” in a study released by Burning Glass Technologies and Hiring Our Heroes with support from Grow with Google and Approximately one-third of military spouses whose partner had already retired or left the service indicated that supporting their spouses’ career was a major factor in the decision. 

But there are solutions. A number of occupations can be good opportunities for military spouses. These include careers in Business Management and Operations, Human Resources, and Marketing and Public Relations, according to Burning Glass job data analysis. 

Entitled Examining Entrepreneurship, Remote Work, and Upskilling as Drivers of Economic Success for Military Spouses, the research project utilized a survey of 1,522 military spouses, in-depth qualitative focus groups, and an analysis of Burning Glass’ proprietary set of 2019 job postings collected from approximately 40,000 websites. 

The study, which was completed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, found that many of the problems military spouses face foreshadow what has happened in the broader economy. Military spouses have long struggled to find the remote and flexible work options that the rest of the country has been forced to adapt. The creativity and resilience these spouses have shown can be a useful guide in the post-COVID work world.

Even so, the report found that military spouses rarely find themselves in work situations that they consider ideal. In 2019, despite having achieved high levels of education (77% of those surveyed had completed a B.A. or higher), military spouses experienced high unemployment levels, with some research estimating their unemployment rate at 10 to 16%, in contrast to the average 2019 unemployment level of 3.7% for the general U.S. population.  

Approximately 70% of military spouses reported not applying for a position because they didn’t think they had the right skills. After relocating, many felt overwhelmed by the prospect of searching for a new job.  

Surveys and focus groups found that military spouses struggle with employment for a number of reasons, including frequent, unpredictable relocations, increased family responsibilities while partners are deployed, and living in rural areas or other locations where job prospects may be narrower and where military spouses’ social and professional ties may be weaker.  

The report identified a number of recommendations for improving the employment prospects for military spouses.  

  • Increase opportunities for military spouses to pursue remote and flexible work. In the survey, seven out of 10 military spouses indicated that they have held a job with set hours and a physical workplace (what some may consider a “typical” 9-to-5 office job) in recent years, but less than 10% considered this “ideal.” Accordingly, online platforms should be used to identify and prioritize occupations that offer military spouses remote work opportunities, and employers should be provided with tools to offer more remote work opportunities.  
  • Streamline employment resources available to military spouses to make the process easier for them to navigate. Additionally, more online coaching and mentoring should be made available to military spouses.  
  • Provide resources and training to encourage entrepreneurship, and offer more outreach to military spouses about loan options that can enable them to open their own businesses. Most military spouses don’t leverage the loans available to start businesses. While one in four military spouses is pursuing an entrepreneurial or self-employment career, fewer than 6% relied on loans to launch their businesses, even though they are eligible for Small Business Administration loans that do not involve personal savings.   
  • Target training and education to help military spouses find employment that tends to fit their lifestyle and skills in several in-demand industries 

There are a number of occupations with potential to meet the needs of military spouses:

Key Opportunities, Business and Financial Operations 

Occupation 2019 Demand Median Market Salary Typical Education Remote Work Potential 
Project Manager 275,542 $80,468 Bachelor’s degree (80%) Above Average 
IT Project Manager 205,560 $105,152  Bachelor’s degree (87%) Average 
Operations Manager/ Supervisor 174,168 $61,888  Bachelor’s degree (63%) Average 
Program Manager 136,238 $91,267 Bachelor’s degree (81%) Above Average 

Human Resources

Occupation Demand Median Market Salary Typical Education Remote Work  
Human Resources/ Labor Relations Specialist 215,083 $50,049 Bachelor’s degree (64%) Above Average 
Recruiter 164,173 $47,456 Bachelor’s degree (68%) Above Average 
Human Resources Manager 77,557 $71,195 Bachelor’s degree (81%) Average 
Training and Development Specialist 68,287 $52,776 Bachelor’s degree (63%) Average 

Marketing and Public Relations

Occupation Demand Median Market Salary Typical Education Remote Work 
Marketing Manager 170,887 $79,021 Bachelor’s degree (88%) Above Average 
Marketing Specialist 113,649 $46,822 Bachelor’s degree (91%) Above Average 
Product Manager 104,500 $102,376 Bachelor’s degree (93%) Above Average 
Public Relations/Communications Specialist 63,691 $45,434 Bachelor’s degree (87%) Average 

The financial well-being of military spouses is key not only to their own success, but also to the success of our military as whole. With the implementation of these ideas, we can strengthen the economic prospects of military spouses for years to come.   

Read the full report.