Working in support of the Department of Defense (DoD) can be a rewarding and exciting career. Being a part of DoD gives a worker the chance to support one of the most valued and important missions of the U.S. government. But what does it take, and what type of person will be successful in department of defense jobs? Is the personal reward worth the concern of sequestration, continuous resolutions and potential layoffs?

Obviously, the most logical candidates are prior service members, veterans or Reserve or National Guard members. But the DoD workforce is one of the most diverse – it includes many government contractors and civilians with no prior military service, and who come from a variety of backgrounds.

Factors When Applying for Department of Defense Jobs

A few points to consider when thinking about a career in DoD:

1. The security clearance

Are you eligible to get, and maintain, a security clearance? It is probably the first, and most important question, because the nature of the work, and the environment, will demand trust, responsibility, and consistent reliability.

2. The culture.

For transitioning service members, working in the DoD is like coming home. For those without prior military experience the work can seem very foreign – from a new language of acronyms to unique processes. But even within the DoD workforce each segment is unique. Those who have worked in the Pentagon can attest to the subcultures between service members, contractors and DoD civilians. That subculture extends even to the service branches, which each have their own requirements, policies, and idiosyncrasies.

3. The mission.

The work DoD performs is too important to fail. Dedication and service are the cornerstone concepts required for each job seeker to fully understand. Unlike a corporation or business which are financially and economically driven, the mission of DoD involves the lives and security of service members, citizens, and the world at large. Because of the importance of that mission, the work is surprisingly stable. Despite concerns about sequestration and budget cuts the federal government workforce continues to grow. Versus private sector employment, working within the DoD offers greater job security.

5. Professional fields or expertise – what’s in demand.

Across the government, including DoD, cybersecurity professionals are most in-demand. Other in-demand career fields include big data professionals or those with Special Forces and Counter Intelligence backgrounds. Program managers are always in demand within government and the DoD, but in today’s market there are many more applicants than open positions.

The critical point to consider – DoD is still hiring, despite what you might hear in the news. If you’re a qualified professional or a transitioning service member, consider career opportunities in defense. Just be prepared for the budget roller coaster.

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Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who works as a professional freelance writer, commentator, and blogger; as well as a public affairs, website content and social media manager for the Department of Defense.