Military service is an honorable path, but it is not without sacrifices. During active duty, service members may have to be away from their families for long periods of time, work long hours, and even be placed in potentially dangerous situations.
Members of the military give up a lot to serve their country—and so do their spouses. Specifically, military spouses often face significant challenges as they try to build their careers. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), approximately 25% of military spouses are unemployed. Additionally, when comparing military spouse employment to civilian employment, military spouses make approximately 25% less than their civilian counterparts.
While the DOI reports that 77% of military spouses want to find employment, frequent relocations can make the process difficult. The possibility that they may suddenly need to leave on short notice can affect a military spouse’s ability to land a job and further their career. Fortunately, they have options to help them overcome these obstacles. Pursuing higher education has proven to be an effective way for military spouses to enhance their employability and chart rewarding career paths. Standing out to employers and closing the wage gap are just two benefits of earning an MBA for military spouses.
An Overview of Military Spouse Employment
For much of the past decade, military spouses have experienced a disproportionately high unemployment rate compared to the general population: approximately 20% and above, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for the civilian population was only 3.4% in the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In light of the challenges military spouses face when they try to establish their careers, the federal government has developed various resources to facilitate military spouse employment. For instance, in December 2020, the DOI partnered with the Department of Defense (DOD) Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP). The MSEP works with hundreds of companies and organizations that are committed to improving military spouse employment and connects them with potential employees.
The MSEP is part of a broader plan intended to benefit military spouses known as the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) initiative, which aims to provide educational opportunities for military spouses to make them more competitive in the job market. The SECO initiative helps candidates meet academic, certification, and licensure requirements so they stand out to employers.
The U.S. Department of Labor also offers a variety of employment resources for military spouses. Some of the organizations they have partnered with to promote military spouse employment are:
- Military OneSource
- USA Jobs
- Hiring Our Heroes
- Blue Star Families
- USO Pathfinder
Military.com, an online resource for veterans, active-duty service members, and their families, published a series of best practices pertaining to job seeking. Their military spouse employment manual breaks down the process into four concise steps:
- Find a job that can grow into a career.
- Use all available resources to craft a resume, job hunt, and self-market.
- Take advantage of all military networking opportunities.
- Consult with other military spouses who have found success in their careers.
Earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is another way that military spouses can elevate their profile. The advantages of an MBA for military spouses in terms of employment opportunities are numerous. In addition to developing business expertise and in-demand skills that can be applied in several industries, earning an MBA can lead to career advancement and even entrepreneurship. Several successful startups and women-owned businesses have been created by military entrepreneurs with advanced business degrees.
What to Expect from an MBA Program
MBA programs teach the high-level management skills and strategies used by effective business leaders. These competencies are in demand for a variety of roles across a wide range of industries, including positions in marketing, technology, finance, and retail. Many MBA programs offer concentrations in particular sectors, such as international business or hospitality, allowing students to tailor their degree to their personal or professional interests.
Examples of courses featured in the Washington State University Online MBA program include:
- Introduction to Financial and Managerial Accounting
- Data Analysis for Managers
- Managerial Economics for Decision-Making
- Managerial Leadership and Productivity
- Financial Management
- Business Analytics: Transforming Data into Decisions
The advanced business knowledge and skill development that MBA programs offer means that graduates can enter the workforce with business expertise that makes them assets in virtually any business setting.
Earning an MBA, for military spouses, can be the career move that opens doors to a number of opportunities. It can equip them with the skills to formulate actionable business strategies, solve complex business problems, apply leadership theory to a variety of scenarios, and conduct themselves ethically.
MBA Careers for Military Spouses
Military spouses with an MBA are qualified to pursue a variety of rewarding and high-paying careers that demand advanced business skills and training. According to Payscale, the median annual salary for individuals with an MBA was approximately $95,000 as of May 2023.
One of the main advantages that MBA programs offer students is the ability to choose a specialty area. Students in the WSU Online MBA program can focus on finance, international business, marketing, or hospitality and tourism, or choose to pursue a general track MBA if they’re seeking a broader view of the business world. The luxury of choice allows students to align their educational path with the field or industry they wish to establish their career in.
Financial managers oversee the financial strategy of their organization and manage finance department personnel, such as financial analysts. According to the BLS, financial managers had a median annual salary of $131,710 in 2021. Financial manager is one of the fastest-growing roles in finance, with an employment increase of 17% projected between 2021 and 2031, translating to more than 120,000 new jobs.
Chief financial officers (CFO) are senior executives who oversee all financial actions their organization takes. CFOs convey financial goals and objectives to the accounting and finance departments, assess financial performance, and handle financial concerns such as taxation and cash flow issues. According to Payscale, CFOs had a median annual salary of approximately $145,000 as of May 2023.
Managers who specialize in marketing, promotions, and advertising oversee the marketing strategy and the day-to-day operations of marketing staff for their organization. Marketing managers find innovative ways to gain the interest of customers by collaborating with other marketing professionals in creative, analytics, account management, print media, and digital media to accomplish the goals of their organization.
According to 2021 data from the BLS, marketing managers had a median annual salary of $135,030, while advertising and promotions managers earned $127,150. Positions for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers are projected to grow 10% between 2021 and 2031, according to the BLS, twice as fast as the average for all occupations.
One benefit of earning an MBA for military spouses who one day wish to go into business for themselves is that it gives them credibility with potential customers as experts in their field. Knowing how each marketing channel works, how to analyze marketing data, and how to effectively attract customers is critical in any industry.
International Business Careers
When a company’s products travel through the international supply chain, the skills and experience of logisticians with an MBA in international business are essential. Logisticians oversee the system that moves products from manufacturers to suppliers to consumers. They also analyze the effectiveness of supply chain processes, maintain business relationships with suppliers, and find innovative ways to save time and money. According to the BLS, logisticians had a median annual salary of $77,030 in 2021, with projected employment growth of 28% over the next decade.
Economists who specialize in the international economy evaluate the monetary and fiscal policies of foreign countries. Additionally, they analyze the cost of energy, health care, and goods and services across the globe. Applying in-depth analysis using advanced statistical tools and mathematical models, economists prepare reports, charts, and graphs for publication in academic journals and other media. According to the BLS, economists had a median annual salary of $105,630 in 2021, with employment growth of 6% between 2021 and 2031.
Hospitality Management Careers
Food service managers oversee the day-to-day operations of restaurants and other establishments. They work alongside teams of servers, cooks, hosts, and other staff to ensure customers are satisfied and operations are running smoothly. Food service managers also handle budgets, payroll, equipment, and supplies. According to the BLS, food service managers had a median salary of $59,440 in 2021. The BLS projects that food service manager positions will grow by 10% between 2021 and 2031.
Lodging managers (also known as hotel managers) oversee the daily operations of hotels and other lodging facilities. They ensure that these establishments adhere to company and regulatory standards, that hotel staff provide an exceptional experience to guests, and that problems are resolved in a timely fashion. Lodging managers also oversee payroll, budgets, and goods and equipment purchasing. The BLS reports that lodging managers had a median salary of $59,430 in 2021. The BLS projects employment in the field will grow by 18% between 2021 and 2031.
One advantage of earning an MBA in hospitality business management is that the skills and competencies are highly transferable. Because hotels and restaurants exist around the world, when military families need to relocate, securing employment can be less challenging for military spouses who work in hospitality.
Other MBA Careers
Management analysts evaluate organizations and provide useful insights on how to improve operations, increase efficiency, and boost revenue. Typical duties of management analysts include analyzing financial data, conducting on-site research, recommending organizational changes, and providing written reports to company leadership. According to the BLS, management analysts had a median salary of $93,000 per year in 2021, with employment projected to grow by 11%.
Public relations managers craft communications and build relationships with the public on behalf of their organization or clients. To perform this role, PR managers carefully curate their organization’s public image, write press releases, develop promotional programs and materials, and oversee a staff of public relations professionals. The BLS reports that PR managers had a median annual salary of $125,780 in 2021, and projects that employment will increase by 8% between 2021 and 2031.
Human resources managers oversee all staffing functions of their organization. Some day-to-day duties of HR managers are recruiting and hiring talent for open positions, educating employees about benefits programs, working with company leadership on strategic planning, and overseeing the employees in the HR department. The BLS reports the median annual salary for HR managers was $126,230 in 2021. HR manager positions are expected to grow by 7% between 2021 and 2031.
Another career path for military spouses is entrepreneurship. MBA graduates may decide that being their own boss is their ideal work situation. One of the major benefits of an MBA for military spouses is that it can provide them with the expertise and skills to effectively run their own businesses. Business owners with military connections also have the advantage of a supportive network of military personnel and organizations. The founders of FedEx, Nike, GoDaddy, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car all have military backgrounds.
Expand Your Career Opportunities with an MBA
For military spouses, securing employment that offers adequate compensation and stability can be challenging. However, they’re not without options. The widespread adoption of remote work and the resources provided by government organizations have improved the landscape for military spouse job seekers.
Military spouses interested in expanding their opportunities should explore the benefits of a graduate degree. An MBA can provide students with valuable and transferable skills they can apply in any of a number of industries. The Online Master of Business Administration program at Washington State University is fully remote—meaning that relocation won’t disrupt your studies—and you’ll graduate with business expertise that can help you further your professional ambitions.
Find out how WSU can help you embark on your own career.