Project Management

How Military Service Can Translate to a Project Management Career

Published by in Project Management

Memorial Day in the United States is a day to remember servicemen and women who gave their lives for this country. Many gather with their friends and loved ones and grill or visit famous historic sites like Arlington Cemetery.

project management career for veterans

As a local to DC, I benefit from Memorial Day. I get to attend the National Memorial Day Concert along with innumerable other events hosted across the city. As I spend the time remembering and reflecting on those who lost their lives in service to my country, I am also grateful to those who are still serving today—many of whom are my friends.

One frequent concern I know current service people face is how to transition to life outside the military. In fact, one woman who serves in the Air Force, whom I’ve known for years, recently asked me about applying her skills as a Major to becoming a project manager.

“So,” she hesitated, “Do you think I’d be a good fit for this civilian job?” She handed me her resume. Keywords jumped out immediately: leadership, goal setting, task management, iterative decision making, and incredible self-direction.

“Absolutely,” I replied.

Project management career for veterans may be one of the easiest jobs for military officers to transition to after serving. Read on to find out why.

Teamwork is second nature to veterans.

There is no military branch that doesn’t center on teamwork. Whether you’re worried about getting a construction project in on time and on budget or capturing an enemy combatant, military personnel are used to pushing their mission not just for higher morals—like serving their country—but for their teammates.

But teamwork in the military is a little different than in the civilian world. Lance Walker, a career coach for veterans, notes, “One thing that is really different about the military environment is that people already know what the mission is… Once you get through basic training, everybody is pretty much on the same mission.” He then adds that civilian organizations are dissimilar. He says, “Getting people to work together, a lot of times in my experience, is kind of like herding cats… They just don’t take orders well. You have to actually get them to want to do what you want them to do, which makes teamwork a much different looking animal.”

This is where military experience becomes crucial. Veterans know how to be clear, concise, and concrete with their subordinates, and what could happen if they’re not. Organizing human capital is where the military excels—and an area where veterans can translate their skills into civilian life. Project management is an excellent avenue to do so.

Veterans come with high independence.

On the flip side, vets are also highly self-reliant and independent. While they care deeply about their team, they’re not afraid to make tough decisions in the name of the mission. As employers are looking for project managers that are both highly independent and team-oriented, soldiers are especially fit for the job.

An astounding 65% of vets leave their first civilian job within two years—largely because they’re dissatisfied with their work environment. Project management is uniquely attuned to a military culture and lifestyle in the private sector, which may make transitioning to this line of work easier—particularly with government contractors.

Soldiers are not averse to learning new technology and new skills.

The military does a good job in educating its personnel on real-world skills. From the Air Force’s technical training program to the Naval Education and Training Command, many vets are well-equipped to learn the world of project management software and IT.

Derek Bennett, chief of staff for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told The Hill, “We now have in most of our Humvees and military vehicles almost like a Facebook — a networked community that relies on your GPS position and data to connect virtually with your allies… veterans also have experience with operating surveillance drones, bomb-disarming robots and advanced targeting weapon systems.” If veterans can handle this kind of software, transitioning to the tech industry should be a breeze.

Notably, Bennett adds, “There’s also a whole section of the military that spend a lot of time on IT and system administration… those skills make for a really good project manager.”


Project management career for veterans easily aligns with the pre-existing skills from serving in the military. For those interested in transitioning to civilian life, consider project management as a career choice.

Looking for Project Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Project Management software solutions.

About the Author

Rachel Burger

Rachel Burger

Rachel is a former Capterra analyst who covered project management.


Comment by Jay Hicks on

What a Great Article! Thank you so much!

I have given this subject a lot of thought since my last comment. So many Service members and veterans have project management experience. They just don’t know it. Most are challenged with the translation and repackaging of their skill sets. Veterans transition naturally to commercial project management.

For additional insight, you can read more about the translation of your military skills in The Transitioning Military Project Manager, available at the PMI Bookstore, Amazon and at AAFES.

Jay Hicks


Comment by Rachel Burger on

Thank you for your service, Jay, and I’m delighted that you found this post on military service and project management helpful.

Comment by Jay Hicks on

Rachel, Great article. I could not agree with you more. Thank you.

Jay Hicks
“The Transitioning Military Project Manager”


Comment by Debbie Gregory on

I appreciate your article. If any vet needs a god job of any type. They may also visit once. It seems to be quite good


Comment by Rob Sconzo on

I really liked your article , I am a active senior enlisted close to retirement pursuing right PMP Cert now . I am enrolled in Villanova Master Program Management course. The hardest part I have found out that transferring my PM experience on the application , no overlapping projects . Most of the time I am working on 5 to 10 Projects yearly. Over 40 hours a week . If you can help with some guidance would be appreciated

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