“In a dream world, there would just be a national certificate that would transfer anywhere,” says Maggie Smith, who’s moved four times in six years with her Coast Guard husband—and has had to start over in her special education career every time.

From wait lists to additional coursework to an endless rotation of paperwork and fees, getting state-certified is a recurring nightmare for military spouses who thought they were doing themselves a favor choosing a “portable” career.

As a result, many end up working in jobs they are over qualified for (for drastically lower pay)...or not working at all. And according to The USA4MilitaryFamilies website, this situation influences the service member as well, with more than two-thirds of married service members reporting their spouse’s inability to maintain a career impacts their decision to remain in the military by a large or moderate extent.

But there is hope. The Defense Department has taken notice of this issue, which is considered to be one of the top concerns for military families, and its state liaison office has begun working with state legislatures to facilitate cross-endorsement of out-of-state licenses, issue temporary licenses to give people time to work through state paperwork, and expedite procedures so that applicants can simply attest they’ll provide supporting documentation later on.

“We are not looking to lower any standards that the state may have, or to get concessions so that military spouses don’t have to comply with standards,” says DOD State Liaison Office Chief Marcus Beauregard. “We’re finding ways that they can expedite.”

In the meantime, USAA Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner J.J. Montanaro encourages military spouses facing this hurdle to act early and be prepared. “Know what you’re up against and get a jump on it. Build up a cash cushion so that if there’s a gap in time, you have some cash to help fill the gap.”

Military spouses who’ve been through the recertification wringer have their own advice to share.

Maggie Smith, teacher: “Keep a folder with your notes and names of people you spoke to and what day. Don’t let this certification lapse—especially certifications you currently hold. You definitely don’t know when you’re going to end up back in that state.”

Melissa Rothenburg, nurse: “The minute you find out, I think you need to start. Even just check the requirements, and see everything that’s needed.”

Natalie Williams, engineer: “Don’t just say, ‘I have to have this 9 to 5 job.’ Look to get experience where you can.”

Christina Actis, teacher: “Don’t roll over, and if somebody tells you no, there’s always a way to do what you want to do. I think being married to a service member, you lose our identity a little bit. So it’s good for spouses to know to keep pursuing their dreams.”

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