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Civilian Transition Services for Military Spouses

Active duty service members prepare to separate or retire from the military about one year out. They will have a series of milestones to pass, which vary depending on the military branch they served.

Transitioning from service to civilian life does not just impact the service member. It’s a complex process, and your role as a military spouse is critical in creating a smooth transition. Thankfully, plenty of resources exist to support military spouses during separation, which we will outline below.

The transition period is an excellent time for the military member and you as a spouse to work on your resume, build a professional network, and decide on your path forward. Whether you choose to go into the workforce directly after separation or further your education, many options are available.

>> For information on scholarships for military, veterans, spouses, and dependents, try the CollegeRecon Scholarship Finder. <<


The Defense Department has created the Military Spouse Transition Program (MySTeP) tool to aid in a smooth transition. This program empowers you as a spouse to understand and utilize the benefits, resources, and tools available through separation.

The MySTeP program is self-directed and has three stages based on the experience: Stepping In, Stepping Through, and Stepping Beyond.

Stepping In

The Stepping In segment of the program is for military spouses still learning about all the programs and benefits the military offers.

Stepping In includes:

  • Trusted and reliable information designed for the military-spouse community;
  • Engaging videos to help you find answers to common questions about military life;
  • Links for quick and easy access to relevant information, tools, and programs; and
  • Opportunities to easily share information to help others find the resources they need

Related: Military To Civilian Career Transition Strategies

Stepping Through

The Stepping Through segment is for spouses who are more familiar with the military and want to expand their knowledge, grow their personal and professional networks, and dive deeper into the available resources and programs.

In Stepping Through, spouses will continue learning about successfully transitioning from military to civilian life. The program includes information designed specifically for military spouses and links for easy access to relevant tools.

Stepping Through includes:

  • Trusted and reliable information designed for the military-spouse community;
  • Links for quick and easy access to relevant information, tools, and programs; and
  • Opportunities to easily share information to help others find the resources they need.

Stepping Beyond

The Stepping Beyond segment is for those actively preparing for a spouse’s separation.

This segment helps military families identify any possible challenges in their transition process and make a plan to overcome them. Pre-transition topics include post-military benefits, health care, finances, and transition training.

Whether your spouse is preparing to leave the military after four years or forty years, Stepping Beyond will help you achieve your post-military goals.

Stepping Beyond includes:

  • Trusted and reliable information designed for the military-spouse community;
  • Engaging videos to help you find answers to questions about transition-related topics;
  • Downloadable and printable fact sheets to equip you with knowledge, resources, and confidence to help yourself, your family, and your friends successfully transition from the military and
  • Links for quick and easy access to relevant information, tools, and programs

Education Resources

It is a great time to explore education opportunities during the transition period. The benefits of completing a college education may include higher wages, better job opportunities, and increased professional security.

Many colleges, universities, and training programs support military spouses with specialized services, support, and financial assistance.

Benefits such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill help military spouses receive education assistance. There are also spouse and dependent programs you can explore.

Related: Get a free Education Benefits Guide

Employment Resources

Leading up to separation is a great time to identify the people who will support you and your family during your transition to civilian life. Your network is a great place to start if you plan on looking for a job. If you know what kind of work you want to do, find a mentor currently doing that work who is willing to coach you. If you’re open to different types of work, look for referrals within your network.

Get in touch with friends and fellow military spouses. The most valuable job search tool is a referral, so continue to build and expand your network.

Look for organizations committed to helping veterans and their spouses find good jobs. A few examples are:

Military Spouse Employment Partnership

The Department of Interior is an official partner of the Department of Defense (DoD) Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP).

MSEP connects military spouses with hundreds of partner employers committed to recruiting, hiring, promoting, and retaining military spouses. MSEP is part of DoD’s broader Spouse

Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) initiative, which seeks to strengthen military spouses’ education and career opportunities.

For more information, visit https://www.doi.gov/veterans/msep.

Resume Tips

Whether you plan to work full-time or not, having an updated resume on hand is always a good idea.

The components of your resume should include:

  • Contact information: Name, address, phone number, and email address go in the header.
  • Objective: In one or two lines, explain what job you’re looking for and how you are uniquely qualified for it.
  • Employment history: This section will include dates of any specialized positions you’ve held and your responsibilities.
  • Education and training: List any schools, colleges, and training programs you have attended. You do not need to list the dates.
  • Special skills: Include foreign languages, technical and computer skills, medical training, and other relevant skills that will set you apart. Be sure to include non-tangible skills such as leadership, work ethic, and discipline.
  • Volunteer Work: Include any volunteer work you’ve done only when it’s relevant to the job you’re applying for or showcases your unique skills.

Writing a Cover Letter

Don’t forget the cover letter. Your cover letter will explain why you’re interested in the position and how your skills make you the best choice for the job.

Get the name of the person in charge of hiring, and email your cover letter to them. You can call the company directly and ask for their name and email address or try to locate it on their website.

In your cover letter, in the first paragraph, you should mention the job you are applying for by name. Then, keep the content focused on how your skills and abilities will help the company succeed.

Keep your letter to one page, and use a business format. Mention in closing that you will call to follow up and set a reminder to do so.

Do Your Research

With your updated resume ready, start narrowing your job search to a few fields and research what to expect. Use the CareerOneStop website, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, for free skills and interest assessments and career exploration tools, including salary information.

They also have a section for transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses.

Where to Find Job Listings

There are several avenues for finding and applying for jobs. Websites that act as job bulletin boards let you post your resume for employers to find, search for, and apply for jobs in various industries. These sites include Monster, Indeed, CareerBuilder, and ZipRecruiter.

You can apply directly for federal jobs at USAJOBS.gov.


About the author

Andrea Daniell

Andrea Daniell is a freelance writer based in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Specializing in copy and blog writing, she has ten years of experience writing across many industries. In addition to her love of both writing and reading, she enjoys boating, cooking, and spending time with her husband and two kids.