The NCSL Blog


By Zach Herman

There are more than 630,000 military spouses in the United States. Compared to civilians, military spouses, who are 93% female, are 10 times more likely than other workers to have moved to a new state in the last year due to military relocation.

Photo credit: Recruitmilitary.comAccording to a survey by Blue Star Families, 35% of military spouses work in a licensed occupation, 30% are unemployed, and 56% are underemployed. 

For those who work in licensed occupations, it can be time-consuming and costly to have a license recognized in a new state. Often, each state has different procedures and requirements for occupational licensing for the same occupation.  

According to a 2017 report from the Department of Defense, these difficulties contribute to “employment gaps and underemployment within military families, which lead to additional stress and financial strain that could also impact military spouses’ health and wellbeing, as well as service members’ military readiness.”

Recently, many states have passed laws creating less burdensome license recognition options for military spouses. Examples include, but are not limited to, fee waivers (2019 NE LB 112; 2019 OK SB 670), expedited licensure (2019 MS SB 2452), and exemption from licensure (2018 UT SB 2272019 AZ HB 25692019 AR SB 5642019 SD HB 1111).

In an effort to elevate promising implementation practices from around the country, the U.S. Department of Labor is working with the Department of Defense and other key organizations to help military spouses take advantage of occupational license recognition options when moving to a new state.

Practices such as creating a simple application process, clearly explaining license recognition options on relevant websites, and providing knowledgeable points of contact to guide military spouses through license recognition processes can make a significant impact on military families.  

The Department of Labor has created a suite of resources for licensing boards, state agencies and other interested stakeholders, including:

Visit Military Spouse License Recognition Resources to access these resources.

To find out more about how occupational licensing can create unnecessary burdens for veterans and military spouses, visit the NCSL webpage on our Barriers to Work Series for occupational licensing. NCSL also maintains a database of legislation related to occupational licensing for all 50 states that includes all legislation passed related to occupational licensing for military spouses from 2017 to present.

Zach Herman is a research analyst in the NCSL Employment, Labor & 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.