Sunday, November 5, 2017

Making Sense of The Military Spouse Employment Preference Programs

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in Military Spouse Preference programs or the federal job hunting process in any way. This is only to provide a brief overview of what the program entails. It is important to ensure that understand these programs as not all military spouses qualify. 

Trying to navigate the job market while being a military spouse is like navigating a bike on a four-lane highway in LA during rush hour...really freaking hard. BUT the DOD/Congress has been kind enough to make some legislation to make it a bit easier to navigate the federal job market.

You can thank Executive Order 13473 for making the job hunt just a bit easier for a military spouse. Executive orders make for some pretty boring reading material, I read it so you don't have to!

Federal jobs are awesome for spouses. The private sector is not always a friendly place for spouses. While no one is going to just give you a job because you are a military spouse, these programs have helped spouses immensely on their search for federal jobs.

Getting Started

When applying for jobs on, in order to be recognized as a military spouse you will need to send in some documents. For EACH AND EVERY APPLICATION you will have to include a copy of your spouse's PCS orders with your name included on it (black out the social security numbers), and a copy of your marriage certificate. This will let the hr employee know that you are a military spouse covered under EO 13473.

You will know that a job is open to military spouses on USAjobs by seeing the military spouse symbol listed under the job listing. It looks like two wedding rings....I know it looks a bit lame.

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

Some military spouses will simply send these documents and not bother applying for Program S. However, I highly recommend you look deeper into the Priority Preference Program as well. It wouldn't hurt to use all the resources available to you, especially on the job hunt.

Program S / Priority Preference Program

My Army Benefits is a fantastic resource about this program and describes Program S as, "a subprogram of the Priority Placement Program (PPP) - provides statutory employment preference to military spouses. By giving military spouses priority in the employment selection process, Program S works to reduce the impact of frequent relocations on spouse's careers."

The reason why this program is so vital to spouses is because federal jobs are highly competitive and have a rigorous application process. This gives you priority placement over people who are from a civilian background or are not married to a service member. An important thing to note, NO ONE HAS TO HIRE YOU IF YOU ARE NOT BEST QUALIFIED FOR THE JOB, even with this program. 

According to MilitaryOneSource, in order to be eligible you must have/be the following:
1. A spouse of an active duty service member (Coast Guard and full-time National Guard Included)
2. Moving with your spouse to a new duty station
3. Married and on PCS orders before your spouse's reporting date
4. Apply for jobs within a "reasonable" commuting distance from spouse's duty station
5. Be considered one of the "best qualified" candidates for the job

How Do I Register?
You will schedule a meeting with your post's Civilian Personnel Office. You will have to bring a copy of your federal resume (different from a private sector resume), a copy of orders, and your marriage certificate. 

From this point, you will work with the CPO to discover what types of federal jobs are the best fit for you. They will have you fill out a Program S checklist to make sure you understand the whole process easier. You'll be entered into the PPP/system, given a registration form that will show you what job types you are matched and placed in your GS Salary Rate (pay level). 

How Do I Get Hired?
You will be notified when a job could be a good fit for you and your qualifications. While you might receive this email, this does not mean you automatically get the job. You still need to follow the application process. If you choose to not apply to the job, you could be removed from Program S. There are no guarantees that this program will get you a job.

I'm sure you have MANY more questions. I highly recommend you do a search on for yourself and contact the Employment Readiness Program Manager on your post. I've only scratched the surface with this post, but don't be discouraged. There have been so many success stories of military spouses in government jobs, it is absolutely worth the effort to further your career or start a career you'll love!

**It is extremely important that you have a federal resume for this meeting. If you do not, I would suggest meeting with an employment counselor on post. I also recommend attending any federal resume classes that might be available. I used them and it helped me a ton.


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