Interested in a Civil Service Career? What to Know About the Pathways Program

Interested in a Civil Service Career? What to Know About the Pathways Program

By Stefanie Grodman

Published on August 4, 2021

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Current students and recent graduates looking to launch their careerscan find development opportunities in federal agency settings. Through student and graduate Pathways Programs, individuals can pursue diverse roles that correspond with their academic and/or professional backgrounds.

Overall, Pathways participants report largely positive experiences. For example, 79% of program appointees who responded to a 2016 Office of Personnel Management survey reported feeling satisfied with their Pathways training program. Additionally, 93% of respondents hoped to continue working for their current agency and/or the federal government.

What Are Pathways Programs?

In a competitive job market that prioritizes proven industry experience, students and recent graduates entering the workforce are often at a disadvantage. In 2010, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to help funnel talented and qualified students and recent graduates into public sector positions.

Many Pathways positions offer pay, benefits, and opportunities for upward mobility into higher-level federal positions. When looking for job opportunities, job-seekers participating in Pathways Programs can select specific hiring paths designated for their priority groups. Each program is designated for candidates with different levels of education.

What Is the Pathways Internship Program?

Internships can provide current students with the experience and credentials needed to access more competitive positions as they begin their careers. The Pathways Internship Programallows students from qualifying high schools, colleges, universities, and trade schools to pursue internship opportunities at federal agencies.

In this program, students can find paid internships that align with their academic and career goals. Because many federal agencies list available jobs online, qualifying applicants can search for specific fields, agencies, roles, and positions.

Interns can find full-time, part-time, and seasonal positions, as well as remote opportunities.

Students can participate in either the Internship Experience Program (IEP) or the Internship Temporary Program (ITEP), which allows students to work seasonally or during semester breaks. Many agencies allow students to pursue part-time and full-time work. Individuals can also pursue remote work positions, allowing for additional flexibility.

Depending on school-specific policies, students can earn credit for these internship experiences. Unlike many internships, Pathways positions typically pay salaries, though exact rates vary by position and organization. These programs also offer benefits for interns who complete a qualifying number of hours.

Eligibility

To be eligible for the Pathways Internship Program, students must meet several basic requirements:

  • Candidates must be U.S. citizens over 16 years of age.
  • Candidates must pass routine drug screenings and maintain security clearances.
  • Candidates must be enrolled in an accredited secondary, postsecondary, or technical institution on at least a half-time schedule. Some roles may require candidates to hold a high school degree.
  • Candidates must have a minimum 2.0 GPA. (Use this tool to calculate your GPA.) However, certain agencies require a higher GPA. NASA, for example, requires that candidates have a minimum 2.9 GPA.

What Is the Pathways Recent Graduates Program?

The Recent Graduates Program helps professionals who earned an associate, bachelor's, vocational, or technical degree within the last two years find appropriate development positions at federal agencies. Additionally, veterans may apply within six years of completing their education. Working professionals who hold a graduate degree may qualify for some of these positions, although they may be more interested in the Presidential Management Fellows Program.

The Pathways Recent Graduates program places qualified applicants into yearlong career development roles, which help early-career professionals develop the fundamental competencies needed to find federal employment. This program is prestigious, and the experience can boost employability on the public and private sector job markets.

This learning-centered opportunity emphasizes professional training and skill acquisition. Under the supervision of the appropriate bureau, participants must complete at least 40 hours of interactive training through a Master Training and Development Plan. This process typically consists of formal classroom training, on-the-job training, and rotational assignments. Participants also have the chance to expand their professional network and find mentorship opportunities.

Eligibility

To be eligible for the Recent Graduates Program, candidates must meet the following basic requirements:

  • Candidates must be U.S. citizens.
  • Candidates must have graduated from an approved postsecondary institution within the previous two years.
  • Candidates must pass routine drug screenings and maintain security clearances before and during their service.

Can I Get a Job Through the Pathways Program?

Pathways Programs can be excellent avenues for students or graduates looking for employment after graduation. Many private sector internships and entry-level positions lack the upward mobility, training, and compensation opportunities that Pathways positions offer. The Internship and Recent Graduates Programs can help qualifying students and professionals find long-term positions at various federal agencies through conversion.

Individuals enrolled in the Pathways Internship Program can qualify for permanent federal positions within 120 days of completing the program. Participants must complete a 640-hour internship and meet all agency-specific requirements to qualify for conversion. Those who demonstrate exceptional work can have up to 320 of their required hours waived.

Job placement is not guaranteed for Pathways Program participants, but many high-performing individuals qualify for conversion into a full-time position.

Professionals enrolled in the Recent Graduates Program must also meet specific requirements to convert to permanent or long-term positions. They must complete 40 training hours and earn a satisfactory rating according to an agency-specific appraisal system. They must also receive a supervisor's recommendation.

Even if participants choose not to convert to a long-term role, many hiring managers from public and private sector organizations view Pathways experiences favorably.

What Is the Pathways Presidential Management Fellows Program?

The Presidential Management Fellows Program is designated for candidates who have recently earned graduate or professional degrees. The program provides these individuals with avenues to pursue leadership roles at participating federal agencies.

Graduates who wish to participate in this leadership development program must complete a comprehensive application and assessment process. Candidates must take an online assessment consisting of four timed sections that evaluate judgment, experience, problem-solving, and writing skills. They must also submit their resumes and academic transcripts.

Select finalists can become fellows and apply to designated positions on USAJOBS during an allotted two-week application period. Qualifying professionals can pursue a variety of entry-level roles, such as information technology specialist, financial management analyst, foreign affairs officer, and public affairs specialist.

While serving in the Pathways Presidential Management Fellows Program, individuals must complete 160 hours of interactive training and a developmental assignment that lasts 4-6 months over the course of two years. During this time, individuals build invaluable networksand receive feedback on their work performance. After completing all program requirements, participants can become eligible for conversion to long-term positions.

Eligibility

To be eligible for the Presidential Management Fellows Program, candidates must meet the following requirements:

  • Candidates must be U.S. citizens.
  • Candidates should hold professional or graduate degrees.
  • Some individuals who have not yet received an advanced degree but have successfully defended a thesis or dissertation may be eligible to apply, though requirements vary.

Can I Get a Job Through the Presidential Management Fellows Program?

For some participants, successful completion of the Pathways Presidential Management Fellows Program can result in employment. Although there is no way to guarantee conversion to a full-time position, participants who complete all agency-specific requirements and demonstrate high-quality work can be recommended for permanent positions.

Professionals in the Presidential Management Fellows Program must complete at least 80 hours of documented, on-the-job training. Under close supervision, participants build skills related to their desired long-term employment, as well as leadership and management capabilities. Participants must also complete at least one assignment of 4-6 months during their two-year fellowship.

Supervisors and agency executives must attest to participants' competence and job performance. Using a specialized performance appraisal system, the corresponding Executive Resource Board assesses whether participants should receive certification and subsequent conversion.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Pathways Program

Do Pathways interns get benefits?

Pathways interns are eligible to receive benefits. IEP interns can receive benefits like health insurance, paid sick time, and retirement. ITEP interns may receive benefits as well, but they must work at least 130 hours per month for at least 90 days to qualify.

Which Pathways Program is designed to employ current students?

The Pathways Internship Program is designated for current secondary and postsecondary students. Pathways internships can help participants gain experience at federal agencies in a variety of paid roles.

What is the DOJ Pathways Program?

Like many federal agencies, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) offers Pathways internships, graduate programs, and Presidential Management Fellowships. The Office of Personnel Management supervises the functions and operation of Pathways Programs within the agency. A participant can uphold the DOJ mission by demonstrating competencies in fields like information technology, budget analysis, and financial management.

How much do Pathways interns get paid?

Pathways internships are paid positions. However, exact compensation depends on an individual's experience, education, job title, and agency protocols. The Federal Housing and Finance Agency, for example, typically pays interns $16-$20 per hour, while the Department of Agriculture pays agricultural research interns $16-$21 per hour.

Is Pathways a competitive service?

Competitive service positions, in which applicants are protected by a series of civil service laws, require candidates to undergo a competitive assessment process. Although Pathways Programs themselves are not competitive positions, many Pathways participants aim to convert to competitive service roles upon program completion. In some cases, the work hours and credentials that participants earn in their Pathways Program apply to competitive service requirements.

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