Cover: Advancing the Careers of Military Spouses

Advancing the Careers of Military Spouses

An Assessment of Education and Employment Goals and Barriers Facing Military Spouses Eligible for MyCAA

Published Jan 21, 2015

by Esther M. Friedman, Laura L. Miller, Sarah Evans


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Research Questions

  1. Who uses a MyCAA scholarship?
  2. Why do some eligible spouses not use MyCAA?
  3. What are the educational experiences, preferences, and barriers faced by MyCAA users and nonusers?
  4. What are the employment experiences, preferences, and barriers faced by MyCAA users and nonusers?

Since the move to an all-volunteer force, the U.S. military has increasingly provided an array of programs, services, and facilities to support military families, including programs to assist spouses in pursuing their educational and employment goals. These programs are particularly important, given that military spouses face challenges related to military life that can make it difficult for them to maintain and develop careers. One program designed to help spouses of junior military personnel meet their educational and employment objectives is the My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) scholarship. This report analyzes data collected from November 2012 to March 2013 on the 2012 Active Duty Spouse Survey to examine MyCAA scholarship use in the previous year and educational and employment goals and barriers faced by recent MyCAA users and nonusers. The survey showed that nearly one in five eligible spouses used MyCAA in the previous year, and more than half of nonusers were unaware of the scholarship. Key reasons for not using the scholarship among those who were aware of it include perceived program ineligibility and lack of time for education. Reported barriers to achieving educational and employment goals were remarkably similar for recent MyCAA users and nonusers. Cost was the key reason spouses reported for not pursuing higher education. Barriers to both education and employment among interested spouses included competing family responsibilities and difficulties with child care. The authors conclude with recommendations for improving and complementing the existing MyCAA scholarship to help military spouses achieve their educational and career objectives.

Key Findings

Approximately One In Five Eligible Spouses Had Recently Used MyCAA

  • Recent MyCAA users were more likely than nonusers to be in school and less likely to be working.
  • Recent MyCAA users were half as likely as nonusers to report that they wanted to be in school but were not (25 percent compared to 51 percent).

Many Eligible Spouses Faced Barriers to MyCAA Participation

  • More than half of recent nonusers were unaware of the scholarship.
  • Key reasons for nonuse among those who were aware of it included perceived ineligibility and lack of time for education.

About 40 Percent of Spouses Were Working for Pay or Profit

  • Almost one-third of spouses working part-time wanted to be working full-time.

Reported Barriers to Achieving Educational and Employment Goals were Remarkably Similar for Recent MyCAA Users and Nonusers

  • Cost was cited as a key reason for not pursuing higher education.
  • Competing family responsibilities and difficulties with child care were often cited as barriers to both education and employment.


  • Continuously promote the MyCAA program.
  • Coordinate with the four military services to make sure that promotional activities for MyCAA target all eligible pay grades.
  • Through career counselors at Military OneSource's Military Spouse Career Center (MSCC), ensure that spouses are aware of resources that can help them manage competing responsibilities so that they can benefit from MyCAA scholarships.
  • Help spouses who contact MyCAA or MSCC identify other educational financial aid opportunities.
  • Help spouses explore whether online classes could help with challenges to accessing education.
  • Have career counselors reach out to recent MyCAA graduates to assist them with job searches.
  • Investigate whether military child care options can be aligned to meet the needs of spouses in school, whose schedules may shift with each new school term.
  • Investigate whether MyCAA partner schools that offer on-site child care would be willing to offer discounts, scholarships, or space priority to MyCAA recipients.
  • Connect MyCAA participants with opportunities for internships while they are still in school.

This research was conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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