What is it?
Program Managers (PM) are not merely senior level project managers. PMs oversee and coordinate multiple projects. The PM’s projects will sometimes be within one program that has one overall contract with multiple projects and budgets. Other times, PMs manage multiple projects within one subject area for an organization or government agency. PM positions vary depending on whether the work is for a contractor or for the government.
A cleared PM will often have significant experience working as a project manager of various projects for years. Through this experience (along with training and education), PMs develop an understanding of cost, schedule, and quality. A PM needs to have project management skills, but not all project managers are cut out to be PMs.
PMs should be leaders and have the ability to keep tabs on projects while ensuring projects meet overall strategic goals. PMs need to understand the program’s strengths and weaknesses and monitor how the program is fitting and/or adapting to the agency or organization’s larger strategic direction.
PM positions often require travel in order to inspect individual projects or coordinate various aspects of the program.
Education and Training
Education can range from undergraduate to advanced degrees. For positions within the government, many have advanced degrees in addition to training in project or program management (PMP or PgMP). Some PMs have broad education backgrounds (business degrees), but in agencies whenever the PM needs subject matter expertise, it is better to have a degree or training in that specific subject matter. Cleared veterans are often well-suited to a career as a PM. Their ability to work under pressure and oversee multiple projects and a host of people make them well-qualified for PM careers within the Department of Defense.
Skills and Certifications
PMs should have strong skills in contract negotiation, procurement, and advanced financial management and budgeting. One way to step into program management is to take on a few smaller projects simultaneously. Proving your ability to manage simultaneous projects could be a stepping-stone to gaining a PM position.
Since a Government PM may serve as a Contract Officers Representative (COR), PMs may be required to complete Defense Acquisition University (DAU) certifications and trainings.
A Typical Day as a Cleared Program Manager
(A cleared PM will have different responsibilities within different agencies, and they will have some different responsibilities than a contractor PM. Below is an example of a few things a PM can expect to do in the course of a day.)
07:30 – Arrive at a government agency office and log-into your computer. Check email and respond to pressing emails. Check the day’s calendar of meetings.
09:00 – Meet with Project Managers/Analysts for updates on different projects.
10:00 – Access classified networks in order to communicate with end users, find information, and coordinate with stakeholders.
11:30 – Weekly staff meeting. Provide direction on the focus areas of the program.
12:30 – Lunch at your desk, while answering emails.
13:00 – Meet with Contract Officers and Finance Officers to ensure overall contracts are being awarded and funding is in place.
14:00 – Develop briefings for classified projects and meet with agency Directors to ensure strategic objectives are being met.
15:00 – Identify and prioritize the requirements that the program will focus on and continue working on on-going reports.
Security Clearance Concerns
For government and most contractor PM positions, at least a secret clearance is required, and for some, a TS/SCI security clearance is required.