The Presidential Management Fellowship Internship Program

by Darrell Norman Burrell

The Presidential Management Fellowship Internship Program:
Graduate Student Loan Repayment and a Fast Track to Senior Management

For many graduate students, completing the degree is just the first step in a maze of planning their future careers. As many consider career options with Fortune 500 companies in the corporate world, career options in government service are often overlooked. In the aftermath of 9/11 and the events of Hurricane Katrina, the need for people with advanced degrees and fresh ideas has never been more important in the management ranks of government.

A little known option for getting into government on a fast-track to senior management jobs are paid government internship programs. The most prestigious paid government internship program is the Presidential Management Fellowship program (PMF), www.pmf.gov which has an application period this year from September 15, 2006 to October 15, 2006. For more than 27 years, the PMF internship program and its predecessor the Presidential Management Internship (PMI) have been used as recruiting tools to attract, hire, and develop graduate students with Master's, professional, and doctoral degrees in all disciplines. The program is ideal for masters' or doctoral students who have completed their degree in the last year or will complete their degree in the next 12 months.

Opportunities Abound

The PMF program provides paid interns with an opportunity to apply knowledge gained in graduate study and to work in a paid two-year assignment. This could involve national security affairs, training, human resources management, finance, public health, disaster management, logistics, contracting, marketing, budgeting, technology, and many other areas that support the business of government. At the end of two years, PMFs are offered permanent jobs at their agency or have the option to explore a permanent position at any agency that participates in the program. Starting salaries, based on work experience and education level, range from $38,000 (GS-9 grade) to $71,000 (GS-12 grade). Many of the agencies also pay back up to $60,000 ($10,000 per year) of student loans for a PMF intern and also offer financial support for an additional degree at the doctoral level. PMFs are guaranteed promotions over the two years during the period of internship. While the majority of PMF job assignments are based in metro Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles there are many opportunities across the United States.

As members of the "Baby Boom" generation continue to retire, more senior level leadership jobs will become available in the federal government. At some agencies, 60% of the senior leadership is eligible to retire in the next 3-5 years. As these positions open, former PMF interns could be selected to fill the positions.

The Application Process

Federal Resume

The resume used to apply for a federal job is different from one used for a private sector job. A federal resume is much longer and more detailed. An ideal resource is a book entitled Government Job Applications and Federal Resumes: Federal Resumes, KSAs, Forms 171 and 612, and Postal Applications (by Anne McKinney). The book can be purchased for a nominal fee at local bookstores, or online. It provides resume writing techniques and other tools that are critical for applying for the Presidential Management Fellowship.

Online application

Applicants must identify a member of the faculty, admissions staff, student services staff, or program director from their graduate program to complete the online nomination form. Applicants should select individuals who can respond quickly with an endorsement. The request for nomination is sent by email from The Office of Personnel Management to the faculty member or program director upon applicants' completion of the online application. The application includes a resume and three questions that relate to situations in which applicants have demonstrated skills in teamwork, leadership, and customer service. Applicants are encouraged to answer these questions in detail, providing examples of actual work or academic situations that were complex, unique, and challenging. Applicants should ensure that all answers are thoroughly proofread by a second party before submitting the application.

Formal interview

Applicants are asked to respond to three separate employee or organizational problem case studies. The goal is to assess applicants' writing skills, public speaking skills, and ability to be a leader, follower, and team-player.

PMF Job Fair

Once they make it to this stage, applicants are considered finalists. Despite their selection as finalists, applicants are not guaranteed positions as PMFs. Prior to the PMF job fair, held in Washington, D.C., applicants must contact interviewers by email and provide them with a cover letter and resume requesting a PMF internship job interview. This permits applicants the chance to self-market as potential interns before the hiring process begins. Once applicants become finalists, the goal is to obtain multiple PMF job offers from different agencies.

Some of the agencies that hire interns are the US State Department, The FBI, The Secret Service, The Department of Homeland Security, and The Centers for Disease Control, and The Department of Education. Different government agencies have different levels of funding, which means some agencies have more flexibility than others in offering higher starting salaries, payment for relocation, financial assistance for doctoral study, and student loan repayment up to $60,000. During the interview process applicants are encouraged to inquire about the availability of those benefits.

Credit review

When offered a PMF internship opportunity, applicants are subjected to a background and clearance process. Applicants should review their credit report in advance and make every effort to resolve outstanding debts that could negatively impact the decision making. All government agencies will check applicants' credit with Transunion and run a police record background check with the FBI. Charge offs, credit accounts more than 90 days delinquent, and unpaid judgments more than $3,500 dollars on a credit report could prevent applicants from passing the clearance process, resulting in ineligibility for the PMF program.

To learn more about the PMF Program visit www.pmf.gov

Other Federal Government Internship Opportunities

The CIA Internship programs:

The National Institutes of Health Management Internship Program

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The State Department

Darrell Burrell is an adjunct faculty member with Averett University at Quantico VA. He has over 15 years of management experience in private industry and academia. He has completed graduate degrees in Management, Human Resources, and Education. Mr. Burrell is a 2006 Presidential Management Fellowship Intern working at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He can be reached at darrell.burrell@yahoo.com

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