The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently announced changes to their Pathways Program.  This initiative significantly enhances opportunities for early career talent in the federal government including:

  • 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.

According to OPM’s 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.”

The Pathways Programs

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

The programs are:


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.

Learn more about these programs at Students and Recent Graduates and Presidential Management Fellows.

Enhanced Recruitment Tools

The final rule for the Pathways Programs expands 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.

Interns under this expanded rule can be converted to a permanent Federal position after completing a minimum of 480 hours in their internship, instead of 640 hours.

Agencies now have additional time to convert interns into permanent positions (up to 180 days from the current 120 days) and agencies can hire Recent Graduates at a GS-11 starting salary instead of being limited to a GS-09 starting salary.

OPM Recruiting Programs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ December 2023 report, “Employment in government increased by 52,000 in December. In 2023, job growth averaged 56,000 per month, more than double the average monthly gain of 23,000 in 2022.” Government continues to account for a large percentage of the total new employment nationwide.

OPM has modified many of their recruiting programs to allow larger numbers of applicants to meet the minimum qualifications for jobs in most occupational groups.

If you are seeking employment, explore the tens of thousands of job vacancies currently posted on USAJOBS.GOV.

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Dennis V. Damp, the creator of and, is a retired federal manager, business owner, career counselor and veteran. Damp is the author of 28 books, his books were featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times and U.S. News & World Report.