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Pathways Program – Student Job Opportunities

Are you a current high school, undergraduate or graduate student thinking about your post-education work opportunities? The Federal government’s Pathways Program (Pathways) can not only provide you with the training and exposure you need to decide whether a government career is right for you, but also with the opportunity for permanent employment. The Obama administration authorized Pathways in a 2010 Executive Order that, in part, replaced the Federal Career Intern Program (FCIP). The administration discontinued the FCIP largely as a result of successful legal challenges based on a lack of public notice and application of veterans’ preference concerning intern positions.

Pathways consists of the following three components more fully discussed below: Internship Program, Recent Graduates Program, and Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program. Access to these programs depends on your current academic or professional status.

Internship Program

This program replaces the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) and Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) and is open to current students attending high school, college, trade school, or graduate school. Agencies are required to post information regarding available intern positions and application information on USAJOBS and a recent visit to the site indicated the availability of almost 100 positions, many of which include multiple vacancies.

Student interns become eligible for conversion to a permanent position at any Federal agency upon meeting the following conditions:

  • Completion of at least 640 hours of work experience
  • Completion of degree or certificate requirements
  • Receipt of a favorable recommendation for appointment by an official at the agency served
  • Met the qualification standards for the position to which the intern will be converted
  • Met agency-specific requirements as specified in the Participant’s Agreement
  • Successful job performance

Recent Graduates Program

This is a full-time, one-year developmental program designed for individuals who have received an undergraduate or graduate degree from a qualifying educational institution or program. Candidates must apply within two years of graduation, with the exception of veterans, who may have up to six years to apply due to their military obligations. Consistent with the Internship Program, agencies must post available positions and application information on USAJOBS. There are currently over 40 Recent Graduate job announcements, several of which contain multiple vacancies. Each agency determines how many recent graduates they will hire.
Upon completion of the Program, recent graduates become eligible for conversion to a full-time competitive service position in their employing agency if the following conditions are met:

  • Successful completion of at least one year of continuous service in addition to all requirements of the Program
  • Successful job performance
  • Met the qualifications for the position to which the Recent Graduate will be converted

Presidential Management Fellows Program

The PMF Program has been the Federal government’s showcase leadership development program for over thirty years. Many PMF alumni have gone on to notable careers in academia, politics, and government service.

The above-referenced Executive Order adjusted the existing program by expanding the eligibility window, aligning the deadlines with academic calendars, and eliminating the requirement that applicants submit school nominations. Eligibility for the Program is now based either on the applicant receiving a qualifying advanced degree within the preceding two years, or meeting the degree requirements by August 31st of the year following application. PMF finalists selected by a participating agency receive a two-year appointment and have at least one four to six month developmental assignment. Upon successful completion of the Program, PMFs are eligible for conversion to a competitive service position in their employing agency.

Beginning with the Class of 2014, the PMF program added a pilot STEM track specifically for those interested in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. As STEM PMFs, individuals engage in meaningful work on high-visibility federal research and development projects. These assignments will allow fellows to network with STEM professionals in different fields and locations, as well as to travel to locations where innovative STEM personnel solve national problems.

Unlike the Intern and Recent Graduates Programs, the PMF Program is centrally administered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The application window for the PMF Class of 2015 was open from October 1-15, 2014. Following receipt of applications, OPM conducts a comprehensive written and in-person assessment process and ultimately notifies agencies of the candidates eligible for selection in April of each year. Once selected, PMF finalists have up to twelve months to obtain an agency appointment. Each PMF appointment is two years in duration. Although an appointment is not guaranteed, OPM hosts numerous job fairs and workshops designed to find the right agency fit for the finalists. Please see the PMF website for extensive information regarding the application, assessment, and appointment process.

If you think you may be interested in one of these Pathways Programs, please visit the referenced sites, as well as the information on each program provided on OPM’s website. Also, explore other private sector student job opportunities in your area.

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The information provided may not cover all aspects of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, and programs are subject to change. Our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic human resource guidance and factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with school counselors, hiring agency personnel offices, and human resource professionals where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

About The Author

David Scholl recently retired with 35 years of Federal legal and human resources experience from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. While at OPM, Scholl served as a Deputy Assistant General Counsel where he was the principal agency labor-management relations legal advisor and handled a variety of Federal staffing issues. At the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Scholl held positions as an Assistant Director of Personnel for Labor and Employment Relations and as a Senior Counsel in the Legal Division, where he conducted labor and employment law mediation, negotiation and litigation. Scholl began his Federal career with the Office of the General Counsel of the Federal Labor Relations Authority. Scholl received his law degree from The Catholic University of America and undergraduate degree from Lehigh University.