Please upgrade your web browser

These pages are built with modern web browsers in mind, and are not optimized for Internet Explorer 8 or below. Please try using another web browser, such as Internet Explorer 9, Internet Explorer 10, Internet Explorer 11, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple Safari.

Switching from program management to engineering roles


Jesse Marder Silverdale, WA

Hi and thanks for your help in advance.

I've been working in program management since getting out of the Navy as an O-3 in 2017 (submarines). I'm interested in getting into a more technical position as an engineer, specifically in the aerospace/rocket propulsion area. The programs I've managed have been mainly electronics development and acoustics based and the last time I did true research and development engineering as an individual contributor was in school 8 years ago.

I'm curious how you feel this type of transition would be best approached. I'd be happy to take an entry level engineering position to help me improve my skills but are these types of positions generally for recent college grads?

Thanks for your guidance.

21 May 2020 4 replies Career Exploration



Shelley Appelbaum Elk Rapids, MI

Jesse - thank you for your service and best wishes as you cast a wide net as you pursue your respective career path! Your willingness to be flexible and open minded as you explore new roles will truly be beneficial. Remember to focus on your education and your versatility with your tool box and skills. Likewise, it is important to be bold and confident when you are interacting with future employers and be prepared to provide “real life” experiences from your life and work career that will demonstrate your intellect, team oriented attitude, ability to perform under pressure and your commitment to completing tasks in a thorough and efficient fashion. Best of luck! Shelley


Jesse Marder Silverdale, WA

Thank you both for your responses - much appreciated!


Jeff Martin Ashburn, VA

Your willingness to go back to an entry level role in order to change career path is the right kind of attitude to make this transition. With any luck you won’t have to go back to an entry level role but that’s the kind of determination and flexibility that a smart employer will recognize and want to bring to their organization. I would express a desire to take on a mid-level role along with a willingness to start at entry level If that was necessary in order to join the right organization. Good luck.


Brian MacDonald Allen, TX


One of the first "hurdles" to get over may be the type of degree that you have. Most engineering roles require a degree in engineering, math, science to qualify. Based on your profile, you would have no issue there, but I share that for others who may see it.

Most college-grad roles are advertised as such on the hiring websites, and I would avoid those, as you do have valuable experience well beyond someone just graduating.
In my opinion, you may want to apply to roles slightly below your "years of experience", and use your resume to emphasize the tech work that you did. Also, don't undercut your management skillset, as many engineers also manage budgets, schedules, and people in addition to applying technical skills.

Your Answer

Please log in to answer this question.

Sign Up

You can join as either a Veteran or an Advisor.

An Advisor already has a career, with or without military experience, and is willing to engage with and help veterans.
Sign Up as an Advisor.

A Veteran has military experience and is seeking a new career, or assistance with life after service.
Sign Up as a Veteran.