Additional education makes a mobile, fulfilling career possible

  • Published
  • By Ashley Norris
  • Air Force spouse at Nellis AFB, NV
As a military spouse, I'm always thinking about my husband's next PCS or mobilization. With the military, you never know where you'll end up living or how long your spouse will be deployed, so you've got to be prepared for anything. Having a career that I enjoy is very important to me, as is having a career that will allow me to be mobile. Through military spouse education opportunities, I can have both.

I've always wanted to work with animals, especially hawks and falcons, but even though I already hold a bachelor's degree, I didn't have the certifications I needed. However, with a veterinary technician degree and license, many doors would be opened to me and I would be able to pursue my goal of working with animals and raptors.

Several months ago, I found a program that is right now paying for me to go back to school to get a degree and license in a portable career field; it's called Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts or MyCAA.

Now I'm taking three classes for a Veterinary Technician Associate's Degree. All I had to pay for was my books because class costs are paid for by MyCAA. It will pay for $6,000 worth of education, so that will cover the cost of both my degree and my licensing exam.

I was afraid the whole process would be complicated but it was actually easy; here is how it works. Several months before classes started I went onto MyCAA's Web site to establish an account. I provided information regarding myself and my spouse and within several days they verified my eligibility in the program.

Next, I checked to see if my school, San Juan College, an online college based in New Mexico, had already been approved by MyCAA. I had chosen this school because it is one of the few online programs in the U.S. that offers the Veterinary Technician program, and I would be able to complete the entire degree for the $6,000 offered by MyCAA.

Luckily it was preapproved, but they had step-by-step instructions on how to get approval for a school. I began creating my Career and Training Plan, which required information about my school, course names, start and stop dates, and the costs. Once I was sure the information was correct, I submitted my financial aid request a month before classes started. Within a week, I received an e-mail on my MyCAA e-mail account stating that it was approved.

During this whole process, I worked closely with San Juan College to ensure that I was registered for classes, had completed all the necessary paperwork and that I was receiving financial assistance through MyCAA. The only thing I had to do was order my books.

I would like to stress that registering with MyCAA early and getting together a financial aid plan did take some time and planning, but it was worth the trouble. If a spouse is thinking about taking summer classes, I highly recommend they begin the process soon. As class dates approach MyCAA becomes logged with new account requests and traffic, which makes the approval process take longer.

MyCAA provides $6,000 for qualified spouses to use towards a license, certificate or degree that will help them become employed in a portable career field. Spouses of active duty, and activated members of the Guard and Reserve are eligible. National Guard and Reserve spouses become eligible 90 days before mobilization and will continue to receive benefits until 180 days after de-mobilization. Legally separated spouses and spouses who are Active Duty or activated Guard or Reserve members are not eligible.

MyCAA doesn't pay for computers, entrance exams, application fees, books, supplies or equipment. They do pay tuition costs for education, training courses, and professional licenses to include continuing education classes. Degree programs and colleges vary widely in cost and any amount in ex¬cess of $6,000 will need to be paid out of pocket.

More detailed information can be found at MyCAA's website, mycaa/ or by calling Military One Source at 1-800-342-9647.