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OPM.gov / Policy / Training & Development / Career Development / Understanding the Career Path
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Understanding the Career Path

A career path is a progression of positions in one or more occupational series. As illustrated on Figure 1: Typical Career Paths for Program and Project Management, each level of the Program and Project Manager career paths is comprised of entry and exit points. The solid lines represent typical career movement, while the dotted lines are representative of non-typical career patterns. The career paths also depict the various lateral movements that occur within each career stage because of the interconnectedness between program and project management. Double-sided arrows signify movement both in and out of a certain level, while single-sided arrows indicate movement in only one direction.

Individuals at all levels commonly transfer into Federal Program and Project Management from the military; however, individuals in Program and Project Management positions rarely leave their positions to serve in the military. Please note the specific GS occupations vary greatly and may depend on the types of program/projects being managed which require job-specific subject matter expertise. OPM’s Program Management Improvement Accountability Act – Program and Project Managers Workforce Survey data indicated over 150 job series in which Federal employees perform Program/Project Management work. The job series included in the following career paths reflect the greatest reported job series from this survey (see Appendix C for a detailed list of the designated title for each series).

Typical Career Paths for Federal Program and Project Management

This graphic shows a high-level overview of how individuals commonly progress through the Federal Program and Project Management career stages. Solid arrows represent the most common career advancement; dotted arrows represent equally viable, but less common advancements. Double sided arrows signify movement both in and out of a certain level, while single-sided arrows indicate movement in only one direction. The career path also depicts the various lateral movements that occur within each career stage because of the interconnectedness between program and project management. The job series that are included in the following career paths reflect the most frequently reported job series from OPM’s P/PM Workforce Survey (see Appendix C for a detailed list of the designated title for each job series). Expand the levels below for more information.

Typical Career Paths for Federal Program and Project Management image. Details in the text below.

Federal Job Series: 0201, 0301, 0340, 0343, 0801, 0808, 0905, 1101, 1102, 1301, 2210

Job series may be determined by the types of programs or projects being managed (e.g., engineering, IT, acquisitions, etc.) that require specific subject matter knowledge.

At the Mid/Full-Performance Level, it is most common for individuals to enter and exit this career stage from General Schedule occupations specific to the types of projects they manage or functional project management role and private sector organizations. It is also common for individuals to enter this career stage from non-profit organizations, state/local government, colleges/universities, the military, and Federal internship programs. However, it is uncommon for individuals to exit this career stage to these categories.

Common Roles:

  • Project Manager
  • Functional Project Management Role
  • Business Function, General/Business Analyst
  • Program Manager

It is common for an individual in the Functional Project Management role and the Business Function, General/Business Analyst role to move to Project Manager.

At the Expert-Level, It is most common for individuals to enter and exit this career stage from General Schedule occupations, private sector organizations, state/local government, and non-profit organizations.

Common Roles:

  • Project Manager
  • Program Manager
  • GS-13 may be supervisory

It is common for a Project Manager to move into the Program Manager role; however, it is uncommon for a Program Manager to move into the Project Manager role.

At the Senior-Level, it is most common for individuals to enter and exit this career stage from General Schedule occupations, academia, private sector organizations, state/local government or be a reemployed annuitant. In addition, it is common for individuals to enter this level from non-profit organizations and the military, but uncommon to leave for these categories. Senior-Level individuals also exit Federal Program and Project Management in pursuit of non-Federal program and project management opportunities.

Common Roles:

  • Senior-Expert Project Manager
  • Senior-Expert Program Manager
  • Supervisory Program/Project Manager

It is common for a Senior Expert Project Manager to move into the Senior Expert Program Manager role or the Supervisory Program/Project Manager role. It is uncommon for a Senior Expert Program Manager to move to the Senior Expert Project Manager role. In addition, it is common for individuals to move in or out between the Senior Expert Program Manager and the Supervisory Program/Project Manager roles.

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