Students and entry-level jobseekers - Find your fit in the federal government - Go Government
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Students and entry-level jobseekers

Entry-level talent provides government with skilled individuals essential to revitalizing the federal workforce, meeting key competencies and directly filling mission-critical positions.

The federal government provides competitive pay, flexible work schedules, opportunities to give back and other benefits, which makes them an ideal employer for students and recent graduates.

Pathways Programs

The Pathways Programs, a result of Executive Order 13562, offer clear paths into federal service for high school, undergraduate and graduate students in adiition to recent graduates through federal internships or full-time careers.

The Programs provide meaningful training, mentoring and career development opportunities for individuals who are new to a federal agency. There are different kinds of programs depending on where you are in your academic and professional career. Each avenue can give you a taste of what working for the federal sector could entail with the added bonus of potentially converting to an entry-level, full-time position at the end of your term. Begin your career in the federal government by choosing the program that best fits you:

The Internship Program

This program provides current high school, college and graduate students with paid opportunities to work in federal agencies while still in school. The intern’s work is related to their field of study or career goals. Each agency decides how many interns they will hire. Upon successful completion of an internship, participants may be eligible for conversion to full-time federal employment.

The Recent Graduates Program

This opportunity 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 have up to six years to apply due to their military obligations. Participants in the Recent Graduates Program receive training and professional development, complete an individual development plan and are assigned a mentor. Each agency determines how many recent graduates they will hire. Recent graduates may also be eligible for conversion to full-time federal employment after their completion of the program.

The Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program

The PMF Program is the federal government’s premier leadership development program for advanced degree candidates. Individuals who received a qualifying advanced degree within the preceding two years are eligible to apply and are not required to be nominated by their school. Presidential Management Fellows participate in an orientation program, receive training and professional development, complete an individual development plan, are assigned a mentor, and have at least one rotational or developmental assignment.

This year, the Office of Personnel Management has released a new track specifically for those interested in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). As STEM Presidential Management Fellows, individuals engage in meaningful work on high-visibility federal research and development projects. These assignments will allow PMF’s to network with STEM professionals in different fields and locations as well as to travel to locations where innovative STEM personnel solve national problems.

The application window for the PMF program this year is October 1-October 15.

As a jobseeker, here are the top three things to keep in mind when considering the Pathways Programs:

1. The Pathways Programs are a great way to see if government is for you.

  • The application process is a two way street. You need to like where you work as much as they need to like you as an employee. The fact that all of these programs are for set predetermined periods of timetime periods makes it a great way to test out the public sector and see if it works for youis a good fit for you.

2. The Pathways Programs are highly competitive but worth it.

  • Yes, a lot of people apply for these positions but there is a reason for that—they are fantastic opportunities. These programs place a strong emphasis on professional development and the teaching of essential workforce skills while still providing you with the opportunity to be paid.

3. The Pathways Programs are government’s way of saying they want you.

  • In the past, the federal government has struggled to compete against the private sector for top talent. These programs are the government’s way of reaching out to get you in the door and to bring your innovative thoughts tions in to their agencies.

To search for these positions, simply type “Pathways,” “Recent Graduate” or “Internship” into the keyword search on USAJOBS.gov or visit an agency’s webpage to begin applying!

Volunteer opportunities

Many federal agencies and departments offer unpaid training opportunities to students currently enrolled in an academic program. As a student volunteer, you will gain valuable work experience in the federal government as it relates to your field. If you are interested in becoming a student volunteer with the federal government you should contact the personnel office at the federal agency or department of your choice. Use the “information by agency” links to the right to find links to specific agency career pages. Most will include basic contact information for the personnel office. There is no central listing of student volunteer opportunities.

Other internship programs

Many schools have co-op arrangements with federal agencies that provide academic credit for an internship, particularly in engineering and the sciences. Find out if your school offers any special programs for students seeking employment with the federal government. In addition, a number of organizations assist in placing students in internships with federal agencies.

The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities National Internship Program (HNIP)

Places undergraduate and graduate students in federal agency internships across the country.

The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) Internship Program

Committed to placing students in federal agencies where the needs of the students and of the agencies can be most effectively met.

Washington Internships for Native Students (WINS)

Offers students the opportunity to build leadership skills while they intern with federal agencies in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Affairs

Places students in internships in the private, public and nonprofit sectors, with over a third going to federal agency positions.

Resources

University Career Services and Alumni Groups

As a current student, your career service advisors and counselors are great resources to launch you into federal employment. In addition to their assistance, networking with alumni and professors can help connect you with people that may be able to further assist you on your path to federal employment.

Student Resources on USAJOBS.gov

If you are not sure where to start, the federal jobs by college major guide from USAJOBS.gov allows you to search by professional field or subject of study to determine what types of positions federal agencies are looking for and what you may be interested in doing with your degree. You can then look for these keywords as you do research on agency websites or search for job announcements on USAJOBS.gov.

Professional associations

GovLoop is the premier online community connecting nearly 50,000 government innovators from federal, state and local government. The community is a great resource for all people in and around government, whether you are looking to connect with peers, collaborate on projects or discover career-building opportunities.

Young Government Leaders (YGL) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit professional organization founded by, and led by, young government employees. YGL works towards actively building a community of leadership for young public servants across the country, through professional development activities, networking opportunities, social events, seminars, fellowships and scholarships.

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Fast facts

In 2010 and 2011 the federal government hired about 106,540 people into entry-level positions.

The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs employ the largest number of entry-level employees.