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At times, it’s felt like you were never going to get to a place where college or graduate school would be realistic. You’ve waited and bided your time. Through deployments and babies and PCS moves, you’ve been holding onto your dream. Now, finally, your moment has arrived: You’re ready to take the big leap into your next stage in education.

You’re not alone either. Many military spouses are taking advantage of outstanding continuing education opportunities, including the use of CLEP testing through the College Board. Check out how these four military spouses are making college and graduate school work with their military lives.

A career change for a busy mother

Julie, a National Guard spouse and voice of the popular blog Soldier’s Wife, Crazy Life, is heading back to college to pursue a career in nursing. After spending time supporting her husband’s active duty and National Guard career, plus raising three young boys, Julie decided to return to college this fall.

“After working from home since I had my first child almost 14 years ago, I decided I wanted to go back to school,” she explained. “My youngest son is almost 8, and I finally felt like I was at a place where I could do this.”

In addition to going back to school, Julie will be making a significant career change, from professional writer to medical professional. “I have always had nursing in the back of my head, and it won out when I made a short list of possible career paths,” she said.

Julie will be going back to school at a community college near her home and Fort Campbell. She’s hoping to apply her husband’s GI Bill benefits toward her education. As a longtime military spouse, Julie understands that military life can often complicate plans. Luckily, she has a supportive family.

“My husband and my boys are all so encouraging,” she said. “They ask me about how I did each week and are interested in my future plans. My husband makes it really clear how much he wants this for me.”

After she completes her studies, Julie would like to give back to her military community and support women.

“At this time, I would love to work in labor and delivery, possibly on post here, but we will see,” she said. “I love the idea of helping military spouses have a baby.”

Julie is currently completing her prerequisite courses and is planning to begin nursing school in fall 2019.

Making yourself a priority

Tinia is an active-duty Marine spouse and reservist. She paused her educational goals to care for her three children, serve her country and support her husband’s career. Now she is headed back to school to pursue a career in health policy administration through Penn State World Campus.

“In spite of being a military wife and raising three children, I needed to make myself a priority again,” Tinia explained. “I had to strengthen my marketability and equip myself to take the reins if need be, not just for my family but for my own personal goals and ambitions.”

Tinia has young children at home, but still makes herself a priority.

“I chose this time to go back to school because my youngest child, who is 16 month old, is not as dependent on me anymore,” she said. “I paused my education for my older two children. I paused my education to work full time and serve as a reservist. I don’t want to push the pause button on my education anymore.”

Tinia is deeply connected to the military, as a service member, spouse and military child. After she completes her degree, she is looking forward to giving back to the community she considers her family.

“My heart is very much attached to the military,” she said. “I want nothing more than to use my degree in a way that helps and improves the military community. I decided on the health side of administration, with the goal of working in a VA hospital or otherwise military-affiliated hospital, so that I can make a positive difference in how servicemen and women are treated.”

With a planned 2022 graduation date, Tinia is excited to continue working toward her human resources certifications and future career goals.

Reach your career goals

Overcoming education, career path obstacles

Jackie is an active-duty Air Force spouse pursuing a degree in mortuary science. She’s been working toward her degree for over 10 years, with a few stops and starts along the way.

Jackie was inspired to start furthering her education after some career setbacks.

“I could not find a job in two different states, after looking for a year in each location, with my bachelor’s degree in social psychology,” she said.

This time, Jackie is going after a career that interests her and provides her something of her own.

“I chose something I was actually interested in this time around and just got lucky that San Antonio College had a mortuary science program,” she said. “This type of program is very few and far between. I will be able to have my own thing, something not military/spouse/kid-related.”

Her husband and family are super supportive of her decision to return to school. Right now, Jackie is a stay-at-home mom and attends classes while her children are at school. She and her husband have worked to make his military career fit her education goals.

“My husband PCS’d to Japan, unaccompanied for two years, so I could stay and finish school,” Jackie said.

Right now, she is scheduled to graduate in spring 2019. Following graduation, Jackie will need to work in her field for two years before becoming fully licensed.

Focusing on the longterm

Rebecca graduated with a master’s degree in emergency and disaster management in 2009. She persevered through the birth of her second child and her active-duty Army husband’s deployments to complete her degree with American Military University.

“I married my service member after I decided to continue my education, and he was incredibly supportive,” Rebecca said. “It also helped me feel as though I was contributing through the early years, with small children and living overseas. Using my amazing support system, CYS Hourly Care and a lot of motivation, I was able to finish and graduate with honors.”

Having a supportive spouse and community made it easier for Rebecca to pursue her educational goals.

“My spouse was sometimes more emphatic that I continue than I was,” she said. “My family helped in all ways possible, including providing childcare during times of work and study.”

Rebecca currently writes and manages content for a number of online media outlets in the military community. She finds her background in emergency management helps inform her writing.

“It’s been almost 10 years since I graduated with my master’s, and I find myself using my degree weekly while writing and analyzing emergency response,” Rebecca explained. “I plan to continue that for the next three to five years, while pursuing some certificates and preparing to enter that field full-force upon my spouse’s retirement.”

Rebecca looks forward to pursuing a full-time career in emergency and disaster management, hopefully in a way that reflects her military community.

“My long-range goals include being the emergency manager for a military organization, medium-sized town and/or state agency,” she said. “We also plan to work with organizations like Team Rubicon upon my spouse’s retirement, combining our love for veterans and my passion in emergency management.”

How are you pursuing your career dreams with college or graduation education? Share your story in the comments and check out how CLEP can help you save time and money as you begin your educational journey.