Career&Employment, Employment & Career, Milspouse, New Spouse, PCS

Military Spouse Preference

By Rose Holland, CWDP
Employment Advocate

The following is an excerpt from our Federal Employment Tool Kit. To download this free toolkit, go to the employment section of the MSAN website at:—employment.html 

It is important to understand the a little about the federal hiring preferences available for military spouses. These preferences can provide you with an edge when applying for a federal position. There are quite a few other preferences and many misconceptions about the preferences. It is no wonder spouses are confused.

There are three main preferences that you should be aware of as a military spouse; Priority Placement Program for Military Spouses, Military Spouse Non-Competitive Appointment Eligibility and Derived Preference. Each of these works a bit differently. Each of these provide you with a “Non-Competitive Appointment Authority” which allows you to apply for jobs normally open to current federal employees. You should learn all you can about them. I’ve included some key resources at the end of the article.

Priority Placement Program

I am amazed at how few spouses are aware of this program. This program is available to a spouse who PCSs with their Service Member. It places them on a very high priority for Department of Defense (DoD) positions. This preference is for two years from the time of orders.

Requirements for this Program

  1. You must be the spouse of an Active Duty Service Member, to include Active Guard/Reserve (AGR), AND
  2. You must move with your spouse, and be on their orders, to qualify, AND
  3. You must have married your spouse prior to moving to your new duty station.

Things You Should Know

  1. You will need a federal resume, a copy of your spouse’s orders and a copy of your marriage certificate to register. Do yourself a favor; do not try to use your 2 page corporate resume to register, take the time and put together a strong federal resume.
  2. You must register for this program with your local Civilian Personnel Office (CPO). You can register up to 30 days prior to your arrive at the new duty station with your current CPO, if they have the capacity to do so.
  3. If you already have a federal job at your new duty station, to include a Non-Appropriate position (usually these are with Morale Welfare and Recreation)  or a position with the Exchange, even part time or intermittent, you cannot apply, so wait to take that part-time job until you register for the program.
  4. The CPO will evaluate your federal resume against career series. They will then meet with you and go over the registration. If you do not understand, ask them to explain it. If you disagree, ask them if you can update your resume to better reflect the series and level you are seeking.
  5. If you are coming from a federal job, you can only be assessed at your current pay grade.
  6. You can register for up to 5 career fields (check Office of Personnel Management and the link to the PPP handbook).
  7. The CPO will contact you when a position you qualify for opens. Usually you are given a short window to apply. This does not mean you still should not look, there are positions outside of DoD and the CPO personnel are human, they can miss things. This means you need to check your email daily and answer your phone!
  8. The hiring official cannot interview you, as of this writing. This means they must hire based on your resume and any other paperwork you submit. So make it a good one!
  9. To be referred to the hiring official you must be among the best qualified. So make sure your resume covers the job posting and especially show your expertise from the expertise area on the questionnaire (not sure what this is, download our free Federal Employment Toolkit).
  10. If you turn down a job, you are out of the PPP system. If you do not apply for a position they contact you about, you are out of the PPP system.

Military Spouse Non-Competitive Appointment Eligibility

This is different from the PPP-S program in that you do not register for it and it is available throughout the federal government (recall that the PPP-S is only Department of Defense).

Requirements for this Program

  1. You must be the spouse of an Active Duty Service Member, to include Active Guard/Reserve (AGR), AND
  2. You must move with your spouse, and be on their orders, to qualify, AND
  3. You must have married your spouse prior to moving to your new duty station.

Things you Should Know

  1. You should be clicking on “current federal employee,” this will open the number of positions available.
  2. Be sure to upload your documents to include marriage certificate and copy of orders.
  3. Use a federal resume, not your 2-page corporate resume.
  4. Read the job announcement carefully to make sure that you can utilize this. Not all positions willaccept this non-competitive appointment eligibility

Derived Preference

With a derived preference, you are taking the preference that would be available for the Service Member, but that Service Member is unable to use it. There are two categories here. One is for spouses or parents of 100% disabled service members where the disability is related to their service. The other is for surviving Family members of deceased service members, to include spouses and parents. If you fall under this category, the website explains the requirements very well. If you have questions, contact your local civilian personnel office.

Other Preferences

There are a number of other preferences to include veteran, disabled veteran with a VA disability rating of more than 30% and Schedule A for a documented disability. If you feel you might qualify, do your research through the Office of Personnel Management website and

Want to learn more? Check out the following resources:

Resource Center on USAJobs:

Army Civilian Personnel: and

FedsHireVets website: and

Office of Personnel Management:

Executive order 12721:

Executive Order 13473:

The Resume Place:


2 thoughts on “Military Spouse Preference”

  1. Couple corrections here:
    1. You CAN register for a higher grade level as long as you are not a current government employee. Also depending on how the CPO read the regs, they may just register you for higher grades anyway.

    2. The hiring official can and will interview you.

    3. If you already have a job you can still register, you just can’t use your preference until you are no longer an active employee .

    4. You do still need to register for PPP-S.

    5. Also there are BIG differences in the programs depending on if you move in CONUS or OCONUS. MAKE sure to contact CPO to get the differences.

    6. EVERY CPO has different rules. The written rules and regulations are all the same, but each CPO reads and interprets them differently. One will allow you to register 3 months out, another won’t let you do it until you arrive. One will register you up to your qualifications on your resume, others will limit you to what you were before. Ask them to explain the ENTIRE program to you in detail as though you are new so you know what rules you are playing by.


  2. Thanks Ann! Great comments. The key is to ask lots of questions and know the rules. If something doesn’t seem right, ask for clarification and ask for the written regulations and laws.

    I would love to know where you found information that you can register for a higher grade level than you left. I was unable to do this at my last duty station even with a break in service.

    I do know that as of now the Army cannot interview PPP-S candidates even if there are multiple for the position. This has been going on for at least 2 years. Not sure if you are with a different service or if your region or service is not interpreting the rules the same.

    Great point about CONUS and OCONUS! I know it is different, but have not been able to get definitive answers on the differences. Again, ask questions and keep asking!


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