Skip to page navigation
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites. / News / News Archives / Releases / 2024 / April / OPM Issues Final Rule Updating Pathways Programs, Significantly Expands Opportunities for Early Career Talent

News Release

Thursday, April 11, 2024
Contact: Office of Communications

RELEASE: OPM Issues Final Rule Updating Pathways Programs, Significantly Expands Opportunities for Early Career Talent

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a final rule today on the Pathways Programs designed to significantly expand opportunities for early career talent in the federal government. The final rule is one of the most significant actions the federal government has taken since the program’s inception 14 years ago. Updates include expanding skills-based hiring through qualifying career programs, raising the ceiling for starting salaries for recent graduates, and easing the path for interns to be converted into permanent positions, including lowering the number of hours required to convert and expanding the time given to agencies to complete such a conversion.  

In addition, OPM will soon release new web-based guidance, an updated Pathways Program Handbook, an updated Pathways Toolkit for federal managers and supervisors, and will host a series of webinars and office hours targeted at HR professionals, hiring managers, educational institutions, and other key stakeholders.  

“Early career programs are critical to recruit the next generation of government leaders,” said OPM Director Kiran Ahuja. “The updates to the Pathways Programs will increase opportunities and remove barriers to hire interns, fellows, apprentices, recent students and trainees which will help federal agencies boost their talent pipelines to serve the American people. No matter what your interests are, the federal government offers opportunities in nearly every sector and every industry.”  

“To provide Veterans with the world-class care and benefits they’ve earned, we need the very best people to come work at VA,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “The Pathways Programs are critical to helping VA recruit and hire the next generation of leaders to best serve our nation’s heroes.”  

“The Pathways Programs are an effective tool to recruit early career talent into the federal workforce and develop the next generation of public servants,” said Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su. “Expanding these programs to include graduates from Job Corps and Registered Apprenticeship Programs advances the President’s commitment to a federal government that reflects the diversity of the communities we serve and enables agencies to reach a broader pool of talent – because equity and excellence go hand-in-hand.”  

“At NASA, a mission for all humanity needs the talents of all,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “The next generation of leaders, the Artemis Generation, will lead our success in the 21st century. The Pathways Programs now will provide even more opportunities for these leaders to serve our country through public service. Together, we are strengthening the federal workforce of the future.”   

The final rule for the Pathways Programs will:  

  • Expand applicant eligibility for the Recent Graduates program to include individuals who may or may not have college degrees, but who have completed qualifying career or technical education programs, including Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Job Corps, and Registered Apprenticeships.  
    • Provide a more direct route and greater flexibility for graduates/alums of Registered Apprenticeship Programs, Job Corps, Peace Corps, and AmeriCorps to apply for Recent Graduate positions.  
    • Allow Internship applicants who have completed Registered Apprenticeship Programs and Job Corps to credit time served in those programs toward the total hours required for Interns to be eligible to convert to a permanent Federal position.   
  • Allow agencies to convert Interns to a permanent Federal position after completing a minimum of 480 hours in their internship, instead of 640 hours.  
  • Provide agencies with additional time to convert interns into permanent positions (up to 180 days from the current 120 days), which supports broadened employment opportunities for both applicants and agencies.  
  • Grant the ability for agencies to hire Recent Graduates at a GS-11 starting salary instead of being limited to a GS-09 starting salary affording enhanced flexibility to applicants and agencies.    

“This major revision of the Pathways Programs, the first in decades, will strengthen the federal government’s early career talent pipeline and ensure federal agencies have even greater access to diverse talent across the country,” said Jason Miller, Deputy Director for Management, Office of Management and Budget. “Today’s announcement is yet another demonstration of the progress the Biden-Harris Administration is making in strengthening and empowering the federal workforce.”  

“I have had a very welcoming experience,” said Dwane L. Larkin, an intern-trainee at the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). “My hope is to transition to a full-time role at the end of my program. I love my job environment, and it is extremely challenging, pushing me to be a better version of myself daily. I would advise anyone interested in federal service to apply for an opportunity through the Pathways Programs. It’s worth the effort, and the training is priceless.”  

Individuals who successfully complete one of the Pathways Programs may be eligible for a permanent job in the federal civil service. 

The three programs are:   

  • Interns: This is designed to provide students from high school to the graduate level, who are enrolled in school at least part-time, with opportunities for paid work in agencies and to explore Federal careers while still in school. Interns must complete a minimum of 480 hours (320 hours if they receive a waiver) as part of their internship to be eligible for conversion.  
  • Recent Graduates: One to two-year developmental experiences in Federal agencies for graduates from qualifying educational institution, including career and technical educational programs. Individuals must apply within two years of completing a degree or certificate (veterans precluded from applying due to service obligations have up to six years after degree completion to apply for a Pathways position).  
  • Presidential Management Fellows (PMFs) The PMF Program is the Federal government’s premier two-year leadership development program for advanced degree candidates and graduates.  Individuals must apply within two years of completing an advanced degree (advanced degree is defined as a masters, professional (e.g., J.D.), or doctorate). Students may also apply in the fall of their final year of graduate school. PMFs receive a mentor and at least 160 hours of training, complete an Individual Development Plan, and complete at least one developmental rotational assignment.  

These final regulations build on a series of actions OPM has taken to help federal agencies recruit early career talent:  

  • Issuing guidance on promoting internships, fellowships, and apprenticeships; 
  • Issuing interim regulations providing for direct hire authority for certain post-secondary students and recent graduates;  
  • Directing agencies to use skills-based assessments to evaluate talent rather than proxies for skills, such as degree requirements or occupational self-assessments;  
  • Launching an Intern Portal on USAJOBs for agencies to post internships centrally, making it easier for applicants to find and apply for internships; 
  • Creating a centralized Intern Experience Program with resources for current and prospective interns as well as programing that reached more than 2,100 federal interns in its first year, with a second summer series for interns government-wide planned in June 2024;  
  • Developing resources and training sessions for hiring managers and supervisors to enhance interns’ experiences;  
  • Developing an Intern Talent Program (“database” of interns eligible for conversion) that connects federal managers with interns looking for continued service opportunities at the end of their Pathways Internship;  
  • Increasing the number of PMF Finalists selected, making more ready-to-hire early career talent available to agencies than ever before; and  
  • Launching the Talent Sourcing for America “Level Up to Public Service” pilot program to improve and formalize outreach and recruitment at Minority Serving Institutions. 
- end -

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is the leader in workforce management for the federal government. Our agency builds, strengthens, and serves a federal workforce of 2.2 million employees with programs like hiring assistance, healthcare and insurance, retirement benefits, and much more. We provide agencies with policies, guidance, and best practices for supporting federal workers, so they can best serve the American people.

Control Panel