Note: This is the first in a series of articles to address federal hiring preferences. Stay tuned for more information on the Military Spouse Preference for excepted service, including attorney positions.

By Lizanne Carlson

Acquiring a Federal job can be advantageous when relocating with your spouse to a new assignment. A benefit for military spouses seeking to acquire a Federal job is the “Military Spouse Hiring Preference”. This preference can be a great aid to those spouses for securing a job in a Federal office where they have PCSed.  However, the hiring preference as well as the process for applying for a Federal job often can be confusing and frustrating. There are several sources that you can utilize in order to assure that when you apply for a Federal job, you are both competitive and successful in securing employment.

The Military Spouse Hiring Preference: Who Qualifies

The Military Spouse Hiring Preference, or “Program S”, is a part of the DoD’s “Priority Placement Program” (“PPP”). PPP only applies to those spouses relocating within the domestic United States and its territories. PPP enrollment is granted if one of the following criteria are met by your sponsoring spouse:

  •  Assigned by a PCS move from overseas to the U.S., or to a different commuting area within the U.S., including U.S. territories or possessions;
  • Relocated to a new and permanent duty station after completing basic and advanced individual training;
  • Permanently assigned to the same duty station where initial entry training was received;
  • Assigned by PCS to a service school regardless of the duration of the training;
  • Be former military member who re-enlists and is placed in a permanent assignment; OR
  • Reassigned on an unaccompanied tour by PCS with orders specifying the sequential assignment. The spouse may register at activities in the commuting are of the sequential assignment at a time during the sponsor’s unaccompanied tour

The Military Spouse Hiring Preference: How to Register

Once that you determined that you are qualified, you will need to take the next steps to assure that you are listed under the program. In order to be enrolled within PPP and Program S, you will need to either register at your current Human Resources Office (HRO) up to 30 days before your sponsor’s reporting date to his or her new duty station; or, you can also wait and register at the HRO at your new duty station after your move. During the registration process, you can register up to five skills possess, and this list will help determine the jobs that you may be offered. To get an idea of the jobs offered, and to help see what skills you may want to list, you can view the full list of Federal Classifications and Job Grading Systems Page. There, you can read the skills required for different jobs, and use those skill requirements to list which ones for which you are qualified.

When meeting with the HRO, you will be required to provide the following documents:

  • A copy of your sponsoring spouse’s PCS orders
  • A copy of an SF-50 (if you have prior federal employment experience) or your DD214 (if you are a former service member)
  • A copy of your most recent performance appraisal (if you are a current or former federal employee)
  • Other documentation such as college transcripts or licenses, as required for the position

You may also want to bring copies of your most recent resume, in order for the HR worker to help you nail down your skills list.

Important detail: You will only receive one job offer in the PPP per relocation. If you are matched with a vacancy, you must take it or decline it. Even if you decline the job, you are no longer registered with PPP. Take advantage of speaking with the HRO specialist regarding which skills that you list. Your HR specialist is the best resource to ensure that you receive the best offer.

Applying for Federal Jobs

After registering for the PPP and Program S, you can take stop steps to apply for federal job vacancies outside of the one job you may be “offered” through the program. The federal job openings are listed on, where you can make an account to upload your important information. Once you have joined the site and browsed the openings, you will need to take the necessary steps to have your resume and credentials reviewed under the preference. When applying for federal jobs, first read the announcement carefully to check the grade, skill requirements, and other information. Then, follow these steps described by a MSJDN source:

  • Look to see if the announcement asks if you can apply under a non-competitive appointment. For this, check yes and describe if the Non-competitive Appointment for Certain Military Spouses isn’t shown.
  • To confirm eligibility, the hiring agency must verify the individual has a valid marriage certificate or other documentation verifying marriage (such as any official documentation verifying a recognized common law marriage).
  • In addition, you must be authorized on the military orders assigning the service member to a certain post.  Eligible spouses do not have a selection priority over other qualified applicants under these provisions. This appointing authority allows for eligible individuals to be considered and selected for Federal jobs; however it does not convey selection priority to eligible spouses.
  • This authority is an additional non-competitive hiring tool which agencies may use to select qualified, eligible individuals. Agencies are not required to use this hiring authority, nor does it take precedence over the use of other appointment mechanisms.

Some of our own MSJDNers shed some light on the federal job process:

“I think a huge tip would be to hold out for a grade that fits your experience and education. I had the idea that I would just “get my foot in the door” and ended up using the preference to get an administrative type job that was impossible to climb out of based on merit. (Time in that grade turned out to be very important and you could only be promoted one grade at a time).” –Christina Elizabeth Ellis

What are your experiences and tips with and for using the spouse preference for federal employment? Please share!


Sites for more information:

“Federal Military Spouse Preference Programs Explained” by InGear Career

“Homefront- Snagging a Federal Job” by Janet Farley

“Military Spouse Preference in Employment” by Military OneSource

 “Military Spouse Preference” by National Military Family Association


One Comment, RSS