Military family - husband and wife.

MN Impact: University study helps lead to new policies and guidance regarding professional licenses for military spouses

May 26, 2020


According to the Department of Defense (DoD), the military spouse unemployment rate is 24 percent and frequent military moves can make it more difficult for spouses to hold down a career. This has proven especially true for the 34 percent of military spouses who require state-issued professional licenses or certifications to work. 

What has been done

In the U.S., each of the 50 states establishes how people apply for professional licenses and the DoD has been working with states since 2011 to implement policies and laws that make it easier for military spouses to transfer licenses. In November 2017, researchers taking part in the Military REACH Project at the U’s Center for Research and Outreach (REACH) released the Military Spouse Licensure Portability Examination report based on a study that examined what real changes have occurred on a state-by-state level from the DoD’s effort. 

Overall, the study showed that results were mixed with some state boards interpreting the broad law differently than expected and inconsistent implementation throughout the states. The report concludes with recommendations for professionals who work with and on behalf of military families to consider as they advocate for and support efforts to improve licensure portability for military spouses.


The study was shared with the DoD’s Office of Family Policy and was mentioned in the DoD’s Military Spouse Licensure: State Best Practices and Strategies for Achieving Reciprocity report delivered to Congress. As part of this effort, the Pentagon has also designed a best practices continuum that shows milestones states should aim to reach to ensure they are on track.

Significantly, new policies have the potential to make it easier for everyone, not just military spouses, to transfer occupational licenses between states. One positive outcome already—a nurse licensing agreement is now approved in 34 states and being considered in ten more in 2020.