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Military Career to Project Management Career

No matter which branch of the military you served in, you’ve been exposed to project management skill sets that may lead to a successful post-military career. The question often is how to make the transition from military service to a civilian project management career.

Why Project Management?

First, a military background may be an ideal foundation for project management roles. Here’s why: Teamwork is of utmost importance while serving, and this is a primary requirement of being a successful project manager. The difference is that in the military, everyone is already on the same mission. In the civilian world, this may not be the case. You can use your leadership experience to be “clear, concise and concrete,” according to Capterra’s “How Military Service Can Translate to a Project Management Career,” and get the project team focused on the objectives at hand.

While an emphasis on teamwork is essential, servicemembers must also be able to make tough decisions independently (and quickly) to see the mission through. Putting the goal first and making decisions based on that is valued in project management. Additionally, the military requires servicemembers to learn and adapt to ever-changing technologies. By being open to new tools, you’re more likely to be comfortable transitioning into a civilian project management career, especially an IT project management role.

Additionally, project management is a growing career option. According to the Project Management Institute® (PMI), more than 33% growth is projected for project management practitioners through 2027. This in-demand role averages an annual private sector salary of $105,000.

How to Transition into a Civilian Role

To break into the field post-military, you’ll want to have earned your Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification. According to Veterati’s “4 Steps to Earning a PMP Certification While in The Military,” this may help you connect with the project management community.

Start by downloading PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP)® Handbook, which provides a complete overview of the certification program. You’ll learn about the eligibility criteria to apply for the certification and, once you’ve determined you’ve met the criteria, you can submit an application for the test.

Once you schedule your exam, study, study, study. There are a few options when it comes to developing a study plan, including online programs, classroom instruction and prep books. Consider how you learn best and use a combination of tools to provide a variety of coursework. Also, give yourself two to three months for sufficient preparation.

For additional resources on how to get started, Vets2PM offers guidance to veterans on transitioning into project management as civilians. Its “How to Translate Your Military Operational Experience into Civilian Project Management Experience” article provides examples to guide you in how to translate a military project into civilian terms. This is helpful for documenting your project management experience – enough to allow you to sit for the exam (7,500 hours with a high school diploma or a two-year degree and 4,500 hours with a four-year degree). The White House Joining Forces Initiative has also partnered with PMI and can provide resources to veterans to explore the project management profession.

Now that you’re armed with the information to transition your military career into a civilian project management role, plan out your mission and prepare for a rewarding new career opportunity.

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