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Accountant: Portable Career Option for Military Spouses

Given the frequent relocations associated with being a servicemember, the life of a military spouse commonly involves shifting jobs. In addition, it’s often necessary for the spouse to find work that can be balanced with the responsibilities of being the sole caregiver for extended periods.

That’s not easy.

Two studies from RAND Corporation found that between between 42% and 48% of military spouses are not employed, compared to 25.5% of civilian spouses, according to a 2016 report from Blue Star Families, a nonprofit that serves military families. Also, the U.S. Department of Defense says pay for military spouses typically lags significantly behind their civilian counterparts.

For military spouses looking for a career that offers both portability and solid job growth, accounting may be a good option. Accountants work in the public and private sector, and may specialize in particular disciplines or industries.

Job Outlook and Salary for Accountants

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts 11% employment growth for accountants through 2024, slightly higher than the average for all occupations. The agency cites several factors for the growth, including tighter financial regulations and expansion of international trade.

Also the financial crisis has prompted a renewed focus on accounting that could increase the demand for accounting services, the agency said.

The BLS notes that employment opportunities should be more robust for job candidates with master’s degrees or professional certifications or licenses, such as Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

The median pay for accountants in May 2016 was $68,150, the BLS said.  Those in the top 10% of earners had a median salary of $120,910 in 2016, the BLS said.

Employment opportunities and salary potential vary by geographic location, and also are influenced by an individual’s experience and education.

Education and Training for Accountants

According to the BLS, most accountants hold at least a bachelor’s degree, often in accounting or a similar field. For example, earning a bachelor’s in business administration with a specialization in accounting could provide a solid core of business knowledge in addition to specific skills such as certifying and examining financial statements.

The convenience and flexibility of 100% online degree programs offered by regionally accredited universities gives busy military spouses an opportunity to pursue educational qualifications while balancing family and other responsibilities.

In addition to attaining a bachelor’s or master’s degree, many accountants also achieve professional certification in a specific discipline.

After entering the profession, accountants may rise through the ranks as they gain experience and take on more responsibilities. Some may assume managerial positions or become partners in larger firms; others may open their own firm.

Accountants typically must be proficient in a core set of skills, including math and communication. They must also be organized and detail-oriented.

Resources for Military Spouses

The Post-9/11 GI Bill® allows eligible servicemembers to transfer unused education benefits to family members, giving some military spouses the opportunity to secure financial assistance to help pay for college.

Military spouses can also get help finding work through the Military Spouse Employment Partnership. The partnership, a program of the Department of Defense, provides guidance on writing resumes and cover letters, as well as an Ask an Expert service. It also connects military spouses with employers who have agreed to participate in the partnership.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government web site at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.

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