Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling & Human Services



Committee Director

Tom Grothaus

Committee Member

Mark Rehfuss

Committee Member

Kristy Carlisle


In the United States, the number of dual career couples has been increasing due to economic and personal growth needs (Pixley, 2009). Furthermore, more careers are requiring specialized education than before (O'Neill & Thomson, 2013). However, there is a limited understanding of the trailing career oriented military spouse as a student population (Gleiman & Swearengen, 2012). This phenomenological qualitative study aimed to explore the lived experiences of 11 military spouses pursuing education to advance their career options. Participants were military spouses who valued career development and who were currently enrolled or admitted in a post-secondary educational or training program. In addition, participants each had experienced at least one relocation as a military spouse.

Data were analyzed with a research team. To increase rigor, four main strategies of trustworthiness were utilized: credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability (Hays & Singh, 2012). Three superordinate themes as well as 10 themes and 28 subthemes were constructed and explained. The first superordinate theme, the self, focused on the participants’ inner dialog. The second superordinate theme, the circumstances, focused more on external factors impacting participants’ lives. The final superordinate theme, the choices, focused on the decisions made given the inner dialog and the external circumstances. The findings suggest that military spouses may have more needs than has been noted in the military spouse literature. Implications for practitioners and institutions, limitations of the study, and future research were also addressed.


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