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Applying to the PMF Program: Does the Type of Degree You Received Matter?

Last week, the Robertson Foundation for Government and GovLoop launched PathtoPMF.com – a new website and guide designed to assist potential applicants to the prestigious Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program. The program has expanded over time, including significant changes to the eligible requirements to ensure that the broadest possible number of prospects would consider applying for the program.
As a result of those changes, there has been an increasing number of students beyond the more traditional public administration or public affairs graduate degree programs that have successfully applied and gained Finalist status in recent years – mostly due to a shifting job market. In fact, the two graphs below illustrate this trend.
That’s good news for students who come from a variety of backgrounds as the government is seeking to hire students with expertise and education in physical and social sciences, information technology, health, security and environmental studies, to name a few. The graph below reveals the diversity of backgrounds when it comes to Finalist fields of study.
Even more good news is that a traditional public administration or public affairs graduates is still a great way to prepare for a career in government – and a stint as a PMF! In fact, college and university career directors reported in 2010 and 2011 that PMF applicants from schools of public affairs (MPA, MPP, etc.) and international affairs (MIA, MA in international relations, etc) had higher “conversion” rates from nominee to semi-finalist, and from semi-finalist to finalist, than applicants overall. One out of four nominees (26%) from these programs were selected for the semi-finalist in-person assessment, compared to 21% of all applicants. The difference for selection as a finalist was even larger with 72% of semi-finalists from MPA/MPP/MIA schools being named finalists, compared to 56% overall.
What’s the bottom line?
Regardless of your degree, you should apply for the program!
Please go to PathtoPMF.com to gain insights and perspectives from dozens of past and present finalists, career directors and federal agency program coordinators.

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David Dean


You have listed “good new.” You failed to mention veterans preference, and the effect veterans preference will have on applications and hiring. An appeal has been filed with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) to vetted the hiring process. An Administrative Judge has been assigned and the appeal is in the initial decision stage. The final anaylsis and application of the PMF program is far from over. It is only a matter of time until the other Pathways programs are subjected to the vetting process by the MSPB and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The Pathways programs and veterans preference have a long ways to go before the process is final. These non-profits that you tout rely on federal funds. The so called Outstanding Scholar Program and the Federal Career Intern Program slipped under the radar. This latest attempt to evade veterans preference will not. There is going to be a judicial and quasi-judicial record made in the public forum.