While Washington, D.C. remains a hot-bed of cleared careers, exciting, high-paying and interesting work is available across the country – from locations as diverse as Sierra Vista, Ariz. to Fort Bragg, N.C. One of the critical career areas with opportunities across the country is program management. Because wherever there are government programs, there is a need for qualified program managers to oversee the work.

First step to a successful application – read the qualifications

Program management careers are as diverse as the programs themselves, so it’s critical that you read position descriptions carefully to ensure you meet the qualifications. Here is an example of an (active as of posting) list of qualifications for a PMP to support U.S. Forces Command at Fort Bragg, NC:

Minimum Qualifications:
  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience with an advanced degree in engineering or business preferred
  • 24 semester hours in mathematical, engineering, or quantitative analysis courses
  • A minimum of 10 years’ program-related experience in related areas with at least 5 or more years’ cost analysis experience
  • Project (PMP) or Program (PgMP) Management Professional certified
  • Familiarity with Defense Department Data Sources (cost and software data reporting) and EVM
  • Top Secret or ability to obtain interim TS
  • Knowledgeable in the mission and operational requirements of U.S. Army
  • Demonstrate understanding of U.S. Army IT operational and technical requirements and an advanced understanding of U.S. Army IT applications and network systems
  • Expertise in management and control of complex information systems architectures involving multiple disparate database, network, and communications subsystems
  • Performs the role of the Change Manager using the latest ITIL Foundations framework as guide to change management practices
  • Responsible for change management procedures and processes and suggests changes to meet customer requirements

Some of the minimum qualifications are standard – a PMP certification, for instance, and understanding of the organizational mission (in this case, of the U.S. Army and U.S. Army IT applications). Also standard – 10 years of program-related experience. Program managers oversee both personnel and dollars, so some form of previous management experience is generally required. The careers are a great fit for veterans, who often have management experience, financial management experience and strong leadership abilities (if you don’t have the required certification it’s often a good idea to get them).

Others are going to be more specific. In the qualifications above, for instance, ITIL Foundations framework is a requirement, as well as expertise managing IT architecture. Clearance requirements also vary by position – for the position above, ability to obtain a top secret security clearance is required, and you’ll want to highlight that clearance if you already have it.

Next step – consider the position description

If you’ve read the qualifications and believe you meet them, you’ll also want to read the position description thoroughly. It goes beyond the minimum qualifications and gives you a better idea of what the day-to-day job will entail. It is a good chance to see if the position fits your personality and suits your strengths. Because the program management field is diverse, be prepared for a lot of variety when it comes to position descriptions. A critical common denominator will be responsibility for the performance of a specific program or mission. If you’re considering a program management career, be willing to step up to the plate and take on the responsibility.
If you can only keep one person happy – program management probably won’t be for you. Successful program managers report to both their company supervisors as well as their government clients. They also have a critical role in delivering new business for the company, and will participate in contract negotiations.

Research the Company

Finally, consider the company itself. If you find a link to a position on a career networking site such as ClearanceJobs.com, extend your research to the company website. Get an idea of the company’s benefits and culture before you apply, and be sure you prepare good questions based on your research, if you move past the application and into the interview stage.
Individuals applying for program management positions should definitely extend their search beyond Washington, D.C. While the D.C. region is home to a variety of exciting careers, one can argue that job security, career opportunity and diversity of programs are stronger in markets outside of D.C., including locations such as Fort Bragg, N.C.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.