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 60% of finalists ultimately secure a job.
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.
It’s important to remember to look at the number of applicants versus finalists. It’s a pretty selective program – not one you can depend on getting. You apply with the hopes of getting it but you need to keep on applying to other positions throughout the process.
- Kaleigh Emerson, PMF Class of 2010, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
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).
By the time you are done with the program, you will have:
- Attended a minimum of 160 hours of interactive vs. “formal classroom” training (80 hours per year)
- Completed at least one development assignment four to six months in length
- Created a performance plan and received an annual performance review
- Passed an annual review
- Created an Individual Development Plan (IDP), used to set goals for time in the program
- Received Executive Resource Board (ERB; or equivalent) certification that an individual has met all program requirements
- Benefited from the assignment of a mentor
- Gained eligibility for non-competitive conversion to a permanent or term position upon successful completion
Process and Schedule
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 as master’s students, PhD recipients, and law students. In addition, the program is encouraging applicants from a wide array of backgrounds, including individuals with advanced degrees in 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 jump-start 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.
Traditionally, the PMF program begins to accept applications every fall. 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 application process before you begin your application to become a PMF.
Once you have filled out the online 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 interview. If your score is high enough in the interview, you will be named a finalist and be eligible for a PMF appointment. At that point, you will attend a job fair to meet potential agencies, and be eligible to apply for job opportunities..
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.
By the start of my final year in graduate school, I decided on pursuing a career in public service and I established my own network of PMF alumni and other contacts in federal agencies. I used my school’s resources, my own connections, and professional associations. These conversations really helped my preparation.
- PMF Class of 2011
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