The Presidential Management Fellows Program (PMF) is one of several ways for current and recent students of advanced graduate degree programs to start on a career path as a public servant in the federal government. The program, originally known as the Presidential Management Interns Program, was established by President Carter’s Executive Order in 1977 to attract young people with exceptional management potential into government careers. Several talented people got their start in the early years of the program, including former NASA head Sean O’Keefe and the 13th Commissioner of Social Security Kenneth Apfel.
In 1982, the program mission statement was broadened under President Reagan to attract “outstanding men and women from a variety of academic disciplines who have a clear interest in, and commitment to, a career in the analysis and management of public policies and programs.” Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon began his fellowship the same year as this executive order.
In 2003, under the direction of President George W. Bush, the program was renamed the Presidential Management Fellows Program, to more accurately reflect the talent and professionalism of those men and women serving in the program. In December 2010, the PMF became part of the Pathways Program, a hiring reform initiative designed to recruit new talent to the public sector.
The hiring process for the United States federal government adheres to many rules and regulations that attempt to determine a candidate’s quality. The PMF program allows recent graduates to compete for jobs against other people of their relative age and experience. It also provides management training, rotations through different agencies, and competitive entry-level salaries.
While the PMF program is an excellent opportunity to start a career in public service and sets someone up for quick advancement, the application process is also extremely competitive. Even if you are one of the few hundred Finalists named out of the thousands of applicants, you are not guaranteed a job placement. OPM cites that only about 60% of Finalists ultimately secure a job.
For the PMF class of 2013, there were 12,000 applicants, 1,600 Semi-Finalists, and 660 Finalists. Of those 660 Finalists, roughly 200 found placements.
With this in mind, it is smart for even the most qualified applicant to apply for other opportunities as well. Luckily, the PMF is not the only entry point into the federal government. It would be wise to apply to the Recent Graduates Pathway program, and other positions as they are posted on USAJOBS, especially GS-9 and GS-11 jobs.
The PMF program is a two-year commitment, during which participants are paid a full salary and benefits at the GS-9, GS-11, or GS-12 levels, and in some cases, may go as high as GS-13 (up to $70,000 per year).
This guide will walk you through the rigorous application process and help you earn a highly sought after spot as a Fellow in the Class of 2014.
In order to fulfill the requirements of a PMF, all hired participants must complete the following:
- Attend a minimum of 160 hours of formal classroom training (80 hours per year)
- Complete at least one development assignment four to six months in length
- Create a performance plan and undergo an annual performance review
- Pass the annual review
- Create an Individual Development Plan (IDP), used to set goals for time in the program
- Engage in optional rotational opportunities with other offices or agencies
- Be assigned and work with a senior-level mentor
- Receive Executive Resource Board (ERB or equivalent) certification that an individual has met all program requirements
Process and Eligibility
New program regulations that went into effect on July 10, 2012, under the Pathways Program strive to make it easier for students and recent graduates to find job opportunities and to get experience working in the Federal Government. The PMF Program falls under the Pathways banner and allows graduates to apply to the program in their final year of study, as well as for two years following their completion of their studies.
PMFs come from a variety of disciplines and graduate studies, such master’s students, PhD recipients, and law students. In addition, the program invites applicants from a wide array of backgrounds, including individuals with advanced degrees in the humanities, sciences, information technology and whatever else you’ve chosen as your course of study. Many graduates with non-traditional backgrounds have harnessed the PMF program to jumpstart very successful careers of service. Much depends on current needs within the federal government from one year to the next. Understanding current events will help give you a sense of staffing trends.
Changes to future program eligibility issues will be made available on the official PMF Program website.
*** NEW IN 2014: Emphasizing STEM Careers ***
Currently, the U.S. government has a skills deficit in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. Known as STEM, these fields represent an area in which the federal government is attempting to increase its number of employees. In support of this effort, the PMF application for 2014 Fellows will include a STEM track option for applicants.
To qualify for this career track, applicants will need to have completed an advanced degree from an accredited university in a STEM discipline by August 31, 2014 or no more than two years prior to the opening date of the PMF application
You will select the STEM career track option when initiating the online assessment.
Traditionally, the PMF program begins to accept applications every fall, with the last two years being in October. Prospective participants are notified that applications are being accepted through an announcement from USAJOBS. Head on over to USAJOBS, set up your account, and get familiar with the system if you have not already done so. It is critical that you are familiar with the system before you begin your application to become a PMF.
Once you have completed the application, you will be prompted to complete an online assessment. Based on your score from the online assessment, you will be named a semi-Finalist and be invited to an in-person assessment. If your score is high enough in the in-person assessment, you will be named a Finalist and be eligible for a PMF appointment. At that point, you will attend a virtual job fair to meet potential agencies, and a mutual selection process (hopefully) leads you to a two-year rotational assignment.
APPLICATION TIMELINE FOR THE PMF CLASS OF 2014
Oct 1-15, 2013: Submit an online application on USAJOBS. Upload resume, transcript, and supporting documentation for Veteran’s and Indian preference. Complete the online assessment and 3 additional essays.
Jan-Feb 2014: If you pass the online assessment, as a Semi-Finalist you will be invited to the in-person assessment in Washington, DC. The assessment is a half-day evaluation that includes an individual behavioral interview, a group exercise, and a proctored written test.
Spring 2014: If you pass the in-person assessment and are selected as a Finalist, you will be invited to participate in the Virtual Job Fair, accessible through the PMF website. Finalists have one year to obtain an appointment as a PMF.
Working With Your College / University Advisor
Your college and university advisors may be the best resources available to you along the process (in addition to this guide, of course!). Many university career advisors host an informational session at the beginning of each year to let students know about the PMF program and help them decide if the program is right for them. Others send out emails and direct students to materials on the internet. Find out who the career advisor for the PMF program is at your school and ask them for help in laying out a plan for your application. We’ll say it again: they will be one of the most valuable resources for you on the path to PMF.
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