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Candidate Development Programs


A Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program (SESCDP) is one succession management tool agencies may use to identify and prepare aspiring senior executive leaders.    An SESCDP is designed to further develop SES candidates’ competencies in each of the Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs). Graduates of SESCDPs who are certified by OPM’s Qualifications Review Board (QRB) may receive an initial career SES appointment without further competition.  QRB-certified graduates typically start their SESCDP with experiences normally obtained at the GS-15 level, or equivalent.  However, some agencies open their SESCDPs to individuals at the GS-14 level, or equivalent.  Note that QRB certification does not guarantee placement in the SES, and SESCDP participation is not required for selection into the Senior Executive Service.

About the Program

Agencies tailor their SESCDPs to meet their particular succession planning needs and organizational missions. An SESCDP must last a minimum of 12 months and include the following requirements (mandated by 5 CFR 412.302(c)):

  • an Individual Development Plan (IDP), based on individual needs and competencies;
  • at least 80 hours of formal training that addresses the ECQs and includes individuals from outside the candidate's agency;
  • at least 4 months of developmental assignments outside the candidate's position of record; and
  • an SES mentor.

SESCDPs provide SES candidates with Government-wide leadership challenges, interactions with senior employees outside their department and/or agency, interagency training experiences, executive level development assignments, and mentoring.

The combination of these experiences should enhance participants’ executive competencies and increase their understanding of Government-wide programs and issues beyond their individual agency and profession.  SESCDPs address the five Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) that embody the leadership skills needed to succeed in the SES. OPM's Guide to Senior Executive Service Qualifications describes these leadership skills (competencies) and the behaviors associated with the ECQs.

In addition, SESCDPs advance the goal of a "corporate SES," a diverse corps of career executives who share a Government-wide perspective. They are well positioned to lead change both within their agencies and throughout Government.

Agencies must obtain OPM approval of their SESCDP before they conduct their next SESCDP and whenever there are substantial changes to the program. Agencies must seek re-approval every five years thereafter.

SESCDP Notification

All SESCDPs are announced via USAJOBS.  To be notified of future programs, you can set a search on
To create a saved search: 

  1.  Login to
  2. Go to My Account/Saved Searches/Create New Search
  3. Enter Candidate Development Program in the Title Search field
  4. Select the appropriate Yes or No response under the Applicant Eligibility field
  5. Enter a name for your saved search in the Name Your Saved Search field
  6. Select how often you want to receive email notifications (i.e., daily or weekly)


Please note that SESCDPs are required to be open a minimum of 14 days

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