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The Final Rule implementing the Pathways Programs has been published. It will take effect as of July 10, 2012. Agencies may continue to use the existing student and Presidential Management Fellows hiring authorities until the effective date of the Final Rule. The Recent Graduates Program will become available to agencies after the effective date of the Final Rule and the agency's completion of a memorandum of understanding with OPM.
The Federal Government values the contributions made by students and recent graduates of all ages and backgrounds. We have been placed at a competitive disadvantage, though, compared to other sectors in recruiting and hiring students and recent graduates. To address these difficulties, President Obama signed Executive Order 13562 , entitled "Recruiting and Hiring Students and Recent Graduates," on December 27, 2010.
This Executive order established two new programs and modified another. They are the Internship Program for current students; the Recent Graduates Program for people who have recently graduated from qualifying educational institutions or programs (2 years from the date the graduate completed an academic course of study); and the reinvigorated Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program for people who obtained an advanced degree (e.g., graduate or professional degree) within the preceding two years. These programs, collectively the Pathways Programs, are streamlined developmental programs tailored to promote employment opportunities for students and recent graduates in the Federal workforce.
As directed by the Executive order, OPM issued a final Pathways Rule to implement these programs. The final rule aims to improve recruiting efforts, offer clear paths to Federal internships for students from high school through post-graduate school and to careers for recent graduates, and to provide meaningful training and career development opportunities for individuals who are at the beginning of their Federal service.
The Internship Program is for current students. It replaces the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) and Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP). The new Internship Program provides students in high schools, colleges, trade schools and other qualifying educational institutions with paid opportunities to work in agencies and explore Federal careers while completing their education.
The Recent Graduates Program provides developmental experiences in the Federal Government. It is intended to promote possible careers in the civil service to individuals who, within the previous two years, graduated from qualifying educational institutions with an associates, bachelors, masters, professional, doctorate, vocational or technical degree or certificate from qualifying educational institutions. To be eligible, applicants must apply within the previous two years of degree or certificate completion except for veterans precluded from doing so due to their military service obligation, who will have up to six years after degree or certificate completion to apply. For more information about Federal employment information for veterans, go to OPM's Feds Hire Vets website.
For more than three decades, the PMF Program has been the Federal Government's premier leadership development program for advanced degree (e.g., masters or professional degree) candidates. Executive Order 13562 expands the eligibility window for applicants, making it more "student friendly" by aligning it with academic calendars and allowing those who have received a qualifying advanced degree within the preceding two years to participate. It also directs OPM to set eligibility requirements and minimum qualification standards, and to make the PMF experience more robust and substantive for participants.
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The Internship Program replaces the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) and Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP). This Program is designed to provide students enrolled in a wide variety of educational institutions, from high school to graduate level, with opportunities to work in agencies and explore Federal careers while still in school and while getting paid for the work performed. Students who successfully complete the program may be eligible for conversion to a permanent job in the civil service. Additional information about the Internship Program can be found at USAJOBS. Here are some key provisions of the Internship Program.
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The Recent Graduates Program affords developmental experiences in the Federal Government intended to promote possible careers in the civil service to individuals who have recently graduated from qualifying educational institutions or programs. To be eligible, applicants must apply within two years of degree or certificate completion (except for veterans precluded from doing so due to their military service obligation, who have up to six years after degree completion to apply). Successful applicants are placed in a dynamic, developmental program with the potential to lead to a civil service career in the Federal Government. The program lasts for 1 year (unless the training requirements of the position warrant a longer and more structured training program). Here are some key provisions of the Recent Graduates Program.
The Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program is a flagship leadership development program at the entry-level for advanced degree candidates. Created more than three decades ago, the program attracts and selects from among the best candidates and is designed to develop a cadre of potential Federal Government leaders. Here are some key provisions of the PMF Program.
Executive Order 13562 Recruiting and Hiring Students and Recent Graduates dated December 27, 2010, authorized two new excepted service hiring authorities and consolidated them with a revised Presidential Management Fellows Program to establish the Pathways Programs for students and recent graduates. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) promulgated implementing regulations and codified them at various places in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), mainly 5 CFR parts 213, 315, and 362. 5 CFR part 302, which addresses hiring in the excepted service, explains how Pathways candidates may be evaluated, how selections can be made, and how veterans’ preference applies.
The following questions and answers are intended to clarify use of this authority. The questions and answers listed here are not meant to be a substitute for reading the regulations.
Agencies are advised to refer to these provisions before filling jobs under the Pathways Programs and to confer with their counsel if they have any questions.
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OPM also recommends inclusion of the following information in job opportunity announcements:
An agency's procedures for receiving applications (see 5 CFR 302.201) must address the use of these options. Additionally, when one or more of limitations are used the agency must state the limitation in the Pathways job opportunity announcements. Agencies must consider the merit systems principles when posting notices and consider whether the notice and time allowed will provide for a fair and open competition that assures that potential applicants for the position will receive fair and equitable treatment. Consultation with agency counsel is always desirable.
Agencies must apply veteran’s preference in accordance with the procedures in 5 U.S.C. 3320 and 5 CFR 302, and any applicable agency policy. How veterans’ preference is applied depends upon the selection method the agency chooses to use when filling its Pathways jobs. In accordance with 5 CFR part 302, agencies can generally choose from among three selection methods when filling jobs in the excepted service: the ranked list, the unranked list, or a category rating-like process.
Ranked list – This method works the same as the ‘rule of three’ rating-and-ranking process used in the competitive service. Individuals are assessed against criteria which produces a numerical score. Preference eligibles who earn a passing score receive 5 or 10 points, as appropriate, which are added to their score. Applicants are then listed in score order and selection is made from the highest-ranked three names available on the list. Preference eligibles with a 10 percent or more disability are placed at the top of the list, and thus achieve the highest ranks. Agencies cannot select a non-preference eligible veteran over a preference eligible veteran with an equal or higher score without going through the applicable pass over procedures.
Unranked list – Applicants who meet basic eligibility criteria are listed by veterans’ preference category: 10 percent or more disabled veterans, other 10-point preference eligible veterans, 5-point preference eligible veterans, and then non-preference eligible veterans. An agency must consider the candidates in the highest preference group first. Agencies cannot select a non-preference eligible veteran until the preference eligibles are exhausted or the agency has gone through the proper pass over procedures with respect to the preference eligibles that are remaining
Category rating- like process – Under 5 CFR part 302.105, agencies may establish their own systems for applying veterans’ preference provided that such a system results in preference eligible applicants receiving at least as much advantage as they would under the numerical ranking or unranked selection methods. Out of convenience, many agencies have adopted a category rating-like process. This method works the same way as category rating does in the competitive service. Rather than using numerical scores, individuals are assessed against agency-established criteria and placed in one of two or more pre-defined quality categories. Preference eligibles are listed ahead of non-preference eligibles in the quality category into which they are placed. Preference eligibles with a 10 percent or more disability are placed in the highest quality category (ahead of the non-preference eligibles). An agency must make its selection from the highest quality category. An agency cannot select a non-preference eligible over a preference eligible veteran until the preference eligibles in the top category are exhausted, or the agency has gone through the applicable pass over procedures with respect to the preference eligibles that are remaining in that top group. An agency may select any preference eligible veteran in the highest quality category.
If fewer than three people are in the highest quality category, the agency can merge the highest and second highest quality category into a new category – provided that all preference eligible veterans from both categories are listed ahead of the non-preference eligibles in the newly merged category.
Professional Order – When filling professional and scientific positions at the GS-9 level and above, the rules differ slightly. Agencies may list applicants either in a ranked list by score order or in an unranked list by preference status. When a ranked list is used, preference eligibles who earn a passing score will have an additional 5 or 10 points, as appropriate, added to their score. Applicants are then listed in score order (i.e., nobody “floats”), and selection is made from the highest-ranked three names available on the list. When an unranked list is used all qualified preference eligibles will be listed in order of preference status (which will consistent of candidates eligible for 10-point veterans’ preference followed by candidates eligible for 5-point veterans’ preference), followed by all other qualified applicants. An agency must consider preference eligibles in the highest preference group first. An agency may not consider a non-preference eligible until all preference eligibles have been exhausted or the agency has gone through the proper pass over procedures with respect to the preference eligibles who are remaining.
In accordance with 5 U.S.C. 3318 and 5 CFR 332.406, the following special provisions apply to passing over a disabled veteran with a compensable service-connected disability of 30 percent or more, for nonmedical reasons:
No. Students who have not completed their educational degree requirements may apply and be considered for a Recent Graduates job in the weeks/months prior to the job being filled. These individuals must, however, meet the definition of a Recent Graduate in 5 CFR part 362.302 in order to be appointed as a Recent Graduate under the Pathways Program.
In addition, agencies can choose to accept applications from individuals who will complete education by a certain cutoff; e.g., announcement closing, date certificate issued, appointment date. Any such conditions must be established in the agencies’ Pathways MOU and in the agencies’ application procedures under 5 CFR part 302.301.
The Pathways Programs regulation (see 5 CFR 362.103) defines certificate program as “post-secondary education, in a qualifying educational institution, equivalent to at least one academic year of full-time study that is part of an accredited college-level, technical, trade, vocational, or business school curriculum.”
Since the early days of the Cooperative Education Program (more recently called the Student Career Experience Program), a predecessor program to the Pathways Internship Program, certificate programs were included in the educational requirements to accommodate technical, trade, and vocational schools where individuals learn a trade that does not necessarily require a 2- or 4-year degree from a college or university. Generally, these occupational fields require licensure for an individual to practice his or her trade or craft. OPM did not intend the use of certificate programs to allow agencies to appoint individuals enrolled in short term “certificate programs” that are not required for the position or which lacked sufficient academic rigor.
For positions that have positive education requirements, agencies may impose educational requirements as they would relate to the OPM qualifications standard for the target position if stated as eligibility requirements, rather than minimum qualification requirements. For example, if an agency is filling a Petroleum Engineering Intern position, which upon conversion would require that the Intern had completed specific courses in engineering, then the agency may indicate that only students who have completed or are currently taking some or all those required courses will be eligible for the Petroleum Engineering Intern position.
For positions that do not have positive education requirements, agencies may not impose education degree requirements or require that specific courses have been, or will be, taken as an eligibility requirement. The agency may indicate in the Pathways job opportunity announcement that they seek or prefer candidates who are pursuing specific degree paths or courses. However, agencies must follow the selection procedures in 5 CFR part 302, before making a selection.
The following lists some of the documents referenced in the final regulations.