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Professional Certification or Masters Degree: What to pursue during transition from Active Duty

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

As a veteran, while I was going through transition I had a hard time deciding where to focus my efforts. Transition was uncertain but I wanted to prepare for my future both in the military and as a civilian. In the last couple years and following months leading up to transition, I was constantly debating the desire and effort to get either a masters degree or get a professional certification. The difficulty I found was not that I wanted one or the other but that I was unsure what degree I wanted. MBA, MS in logistics or MS in Supply Chain Management, MA in operations or management etc. Then there was the factor of time available and time until I transitioned; neither of which I had a lot of. As I began to look at job postings I was interested in however, two certifications stood out. Lean six sigma and PMP. When I talked to a mentor of mine I was advised to pursue the certifications for a few reasons.

  1. Both certifications apply to almost every field I was interested in

  2. They were less expensive to obtain and could be achieved within the 18 month timeline I had established for myself

  3. They were more affordable since I wanted to save my GI Bill for my kids. (As it turns out I was able to use unit training funds since both certifications applied to my job as a logistics officer and I was able to apply the training to benefit the Marine Corps as a whole and ultimately save the USMC a lot of money and time by applying what I learned.)

This isn’t to say that certification is better than a Masters, but there are some good things that often get overlooked with certifications. As someone told me, Certifications demonstrate education/training and experience where degrees only show education. Degrees often have a focus on one field (except for MBA) where certifications may be more broad. Degrees provide a depth of training that a certification does not. Certification is often quicker and more affordable but my prove intense and difficult to obtain. There are goods to both and I am always an advocate of pursuing continued education and want to get Risk Management Professional certified and also get my Lean Six Black Belt.

I can tell you that for me my PMP certificate and the training I received was invaluable. In my current position as a Project Manager I could immediately enter into high level discussions about critical path, total float and strategy analysis from day 1 which ultimately had a huge impact on a project. My past experience with military planning greatly enhanced my project management knowledge but with PMP I was able to shape the discussion and dialog in a congruent way using a common language with my peers. The training on contract risk and how to manage project progress and progression were different from what I had been taught by the military and provided me with great tools that I use now.

If you are an active duty veteran, a transitioning veteran, or a civilian and you are interested in PMP training please let me know.

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