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Education Options for Military Spouses

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By John Aldrich
Associate Vice President, Military & Community College Outreach at American Military University

The life of a military spouse is filled with changes and choices. Our civilian counterparts experience their fair share of change, of course, but military spouses experience change exponentially, especially when it comes to deciding on an educational course of action.

Although there are a myriad of help organizations located at military installations, the fact remains that it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the lack of knowledge about our educational choices and how to manage change. One of the best ways that we can prepare for future change is through careful career planning and education.

For many years, I worked as an education counselor for active-duty military. I was always excited to see the occasional spouse visit our education center. Hey, I am a military spouse. I can relate. Regardless of sex, rank of active-duty spouse, or branch of the service, one common theme emerged:

How can I plan my career and education needs around my spouse’s military career? We never seem to be in one location long enough to complete a college degree.

While it is true that military spouses are faced with multiple deployments, permanent duty station changes, extended work hours for our military spouses, finding new schools for children, setting up a new house, etc., it is easy to get sidetracked from our own education goals. However, even in the midst of our military lives, you can accomplish your educational goals.

You may have heard the expression “walk before you run.” Finding a good education fit is the same thing. Start slowly by gathering information about available degree programs in your area. Then determine the possibility of realistically completing your degree of choice prior to your next permanent change of station or consider an online program of study. To ensure that your education goals don’t remain on the back burner, consider the following:

  • Visit your local base education center. Military education centers are staffed by subject-matter experts who can help you navigate the available education programs in your area. In many cases, staff members at education centers are military spouses too, and they can speak from experience that it can be done.
  • Look to spouse organizations and base support organization for assistance.
  • Consider attending an online university or college. Completing your degree online can let you study free from time constraints, duty station locations, or frequent permanent change of stations.

About the Author

John Aldrich is the associate vice president for military and community college outreach at American Military University (AMU). John’s past assignments for AMU include serving as director for military outreach, west region senior manager for military outreach, and education coordinator, California and Hawaii.

Prior to joining AMU, he served as an education services specialist for Marine Corps Base Twenty-Nine Palms California; director of career services and job placement at the Technical College of the Lowcountry, Beaufort, South Carolina; education specialist for Navy College Programs, Sicily, Italy; academic advisor for undecided students and student athletes at the University of Rhode Island; and as a Naval Hospital Corpsman, Fleet Marine Forces.

John earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Sciences and Services and a Master of Science in College Student Personnel from the University of Rhode Island.

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