The NCSL Blog

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By Iris Hentze

Military spouses often struggle to find and maintain employment due to frequent moves, making them some of the most mobile workers in the labor market and leaving them particularly vulnerable to licensing requirements that often vary greatly from state to state.

Staff Sgt. John Carlin walks off the flightline with his family May 13, 2001, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Sergeant Carlin is assigned to the 61st Airlift Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Chris Willis) May 13, 2001.The roughly 500,000 military spouses in the U.S. make up a diverse group of highly educated individuals with 84 percent having at least a college education. Despite this, military spouses experience an underemployment rate of nearly 33 percent and roughly 38 percent earn less than their civilian counterparts.

Military spouses find some of the barriers individuals often face when pursuing a license particularly difficult to overcome. Military families move an average of once every three years. Frequent moves across state lines mean military spouses must bear the cost of obtaining a new license more frequently than many other licensees.

Interstate variation in licensing also proves difficult as military spouses may have to take additional education courses, gain additional experience and meet other criteria before meeting licensure requirements in a new state.

Licensure by endorsement, temporary licensure and expedited review represent some of the solutions state legislatures consider to address the challenges military spouses face.

Temporary or provisional licensure, which allows a military spouse to practice his or her profession while fulfilling the necessary requirements to qualify for permanent licensure in a new state, have been popular in some states.

In Arkansas, for example, the legislature in 2017 passed HB 1184, which required state boards and commissions to promulgate rules for temporary licensure, certification or permitting of spouses of active duty service members. Also, the Texas Legislature passed HB 1934 in 2017, allowing for temporary certification of military spouses with teaching credentials in another state so they can work as an educator while pursuing licensure in Texas. 

Some states are taking things a step further and considering legislation to exempt military spouses from licensure, under certain conditions. In 2018, Utah passed SB 227, which allows active duty service members and spouses to practice a number of professions or occupations in the state without requiring a distinct license in Utah, as long as they hold a current license in good standing in another state and pay all applicable fees.

Arizona lawmakers are currently considering similar legislation with HB 2569. The bill would allow individuals licensed and in good standing in another state to freely practice in Arizona, provided they pay the required fees in the state. The language specifically limits the provisions in the bill to individuals who either establish residence in the state or are married to an active duty service member and accompanying their spouse on their official change of station to Arizona.

Licensed military spouses would need to hold their credential in another state for at least one year and have never had a license previously revoked in any other state or country to qualify. The legislation has successfully passed the Arizona House, with consideration by the Senate to take place next.

For more occupational licensing resources, visit www.ncsl.org/stateslicense.

Iris Hentze is a policy associate in NCSL’s  Employment, Labor and Retirement Program.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.