Originally published on Stars and Stripes - May 21, 2021
As a military spouse, my life has been anything but boring. I’ve had the opportunity to travel and explore parts of the country I may never have experienced if my husband had taken a traditional job in small-town Indiana, where we both grew up. I’m proud to support him and privileged to remain with him as his orders change. But when it came to my professional life, that path has been less clear and more challenging.
Unemployment among military spouses is higher than the national average, often exceeding 20%, because the frequent moves make completing a degree or program difficult or impossible. Many of the military spouses I know have either faced significant obstacles in pursuing a career, or have chosen to remain at home because of the difficulty, but those aren’t the only possible outcomes.
I always knew that I wanted to work in the medical field, but I wasn’t sure in what capacity or how to get started. My husband was already serving in the Navy when we got married, but I only realized afterward how few options I had for schooling that would allow me to stay with him and complete a program. Most schools, predictably, required a two- to four-year commitment, but with the frequency of our moves, I knew that wasn’t a real possibility.
Even if we had stayed in one place long enough, most career paths require that entry-level workers spend a prolonged amount of time, at least a few years, establishing themselves and moving up through the ranks. I didn’t have that kind of time, and most employers, understandably, seemed leery of hiring someone who was guaranteed to leave.
I renewed my search for schools and programs when we relocated to Key West, Fla., without much luck. Living in a vacation town can be a lot of fun, but it’s definitely lacking in educational opportunities, with only one school in the area. And most jobs were career positions, with very little room for the kind of temporary work I could do.
I was lucky. I was able to find work as a receptionist, but so many other military spouses can’t even get that. Employers are reluctant to hire us because we move around, and if we do find work, we have trouble finding child care. I’ve had plenty of friends passed over for jobs because they couldn’t find someone to take care of their kids while they worked. I see families struggling to put food on the table because their wives and husbands are overseas. A military paycheck often covers a family’s expenses, but sometimes it’s not enough and families don’t realize that until it’s too late.
Despite my gratitude at finding a job, working as a receptionist didn’t leave me fulfilled and it wasn’t a sustainable career. I started looking at options, and found the MyCAA program. I didn’t even know it existed, and I know I’m not alone. I feel like if other spouses knew they could get a certification that could lead them to a job they can take anywhere they were stationed, they would do it.
When I found out about an online program promising a Medical Assistant certification in 27 weeks through MyCAA, I couldn’t believe it. It seemed like I’d finally found an option that would fit into my life and provide me with the training I was looking for. I did a lot of research and spoke with a program adviser about the specifics before signing up and hoping for the best. I wasn’t sure what I expected from the experience, but the reality far exceeded whatever expectations I had.
The program I went through was developed as a 27-week course, after which I would be required to take an exam to receive the credential. Because it was entirely online and self-paced, I found myself logging on to complete lessons whenever I had spare time, even during downtime at my job as a receptionist, and moving through the curriculum much faster than anticipated. The course had videos and hands-on simulations built in, making the content easy to understand, retain and review if necessary.
Instead of 27 weeks, I was able to complete it in a fraction of the time, and I took and passed the exam on my first try. But the best part came when I received my nationally recognized credential and realized I will always have a career option that I can take with me, no matter where we are stationed next, and I will have the opportunity to help people, just like I’ve always wanted to.
I don’t know where I would be now without my hard-earned credential, and I want other military spouses to be aware of the availability of online programs that can help them achieve their professional goals. So many employers shy away from hiring military spouses, so it’s important for us to have options that give us the opportunity to pursue fulfilling careers and the knowledge that frequent relocations don’t mean we must give up our professional aspirations.
Alexis Tornquist is a military spouse stationed at Naval Air Station Key West, Fla., and a recent graduate of MedCerts.
To learn more about MedCerts, please visit medcerts.com
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