Hundreds of thousands of American military families move each year. It's part of the job. For some military family members, however, it means giving up their jobs and starting over.
New efforts are underway to make it easier for military spouses who cross state lines to stay employed.
"We know that there are so many military spouses who want to work and are engaged in their career and professional identifies,” said Jessica Strong, Ph.D., senior director of Applied Research at Blue Star Families.
As a military spouse for more than a decade, Strong knows that that feeling firsthand.
"I had a bachelor’s in social work when I met my Army husband,” said Strong.
She went on to earn a Ph.D. and eventually landed a job as an assistant professor of social work at a University in North Carolina. But her time there was cut short.
"We relocated to Tennessee just about a month shy of when I would have been eligible for tenure at my professor position,” Strong said.
While in Tennessee, Strong started to work toward a clinical license in social work. Her goal was to help military families like hers. However, in that state, this type of license requires 3,000 hours of training. Not knowing where her family would end up or if she'd be able to complete her license, Strong decided to step away from her dream.
"It's very challenging for people who have spent a lot of time working toward a professional career that they've envisioned for themselves and invested so much of their identity into to step away from that,” Strong said.
Strong's story isn't unique. She's one of tens of thousands of military spouses forced to sacrifice their careers to follow loved ones across the country.
Nearly 15% of military spouses move across state lines each year, according to the Department of Defense. One in 3 hold a professional license, and 1 in 5 have a hard time maintaining that license. It’s because many states don't recognize out-of-state job licenses. For states that do, verifying credentials can seem like an uphill battle.
"Military are that population that don't have a choice about having to move,” said Terron Sims, Advisor on Veteran & Military Life Issues at Merit.
Merit is a group committed to eliminating licensing barriers that plague so many military families.
"One of the things that Merit is doing is we're having meetings with various leaders at the state levels and working to determine what's the path of least resistance,” Sims said.
States are listening. Sims said at least 16 have some form of reciprocity law on the books, and that number is growing. He said Merit is making it its mission to get legislation passed across the board.
“We have the ability and opportunity to create a great, positive impact on that community by providing spouses the ability to continue their careers,” Sims said.
Military spouses are teachers, nurses, social workers and so much more.
"We know that families are often better off if a spouse who would like to work is employed,” Strong said. “This makes our military stronger, it makes our nation stronger."
You can learn more about Merit's efforts by visiting, Merits.com/reciprocity.