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Presidential Management Fellows Program

Congratulations 2013 PMF finalists! For current PMF positions with the Forest Service, see our Opportunities Page.

The Presidential Management Fellows Program “Leaders Growing Leaders”

Unique among federal agencies, the Forest Service cultivates future leaders through a comprehensive leadership development program largely run by the future leaders themselves. We recruit and hire new talent through the federal Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program, and then welcome our future leaders with an extensive network of peers, direct engagement with agency leadership, challenging high-level assignments, and exposure to diverse parts of the agency.

Since 1982, the Forest Service has recruited new leaders through the PMF program, with more than 140 hired in the last 10 years. These new employees include recent Masters, JD, and PhD graduates from a variety of disciplines -- including public policy, business management and economics, biology, forestry, natural resource management, landscape architecture, and law. In recent years, the Forest Service has averaged 12 to 15 new PMF hires per year.

Current PMFs and alumni hold a variety of positions within the agency and are stationed all across the country. The PMFs have proven themselves with demonstrated leadership, creative thinking, and passion that is helping the agency address challenging mission-related issues such as climate change, rising wildfire costs, emerging ecosystem service markets, and urbanization.

FS Innovations within the PMF Program

The FS PMF Program, in its current form, was established in 2002 and has earned a strong reputation for recruiting excellent talent. Thus, hiring managers across the agency compete to hire PMFs. PMF positions are filled at the GS-9 level or higher, and are aimed at hiring top-notch recent graduates.

Partnering with Colleges and Universities. FS PMFs help sustain and expand the program by maintaining relationships with their colleges and universities. This helps potential candidates get more information about the program from current PMFs and get questions answered by those currently in the program. The skills new employees gain through engaging in recruitment will be carried with them as they move into leadership roles within the agency.

High-Level Leadership Involvement. The PMF Advisory Board is unique in that it includes high-level FS leaders, such as the Associate Chief, in addition to former PMFs. The Advisory Board also plays a role in mentoring. Additionally, the Chief of the Forest Service directly supports the program by allocating funding for several PMF positions each year.

Mentoring. The FS PMF Program has garnered a high level of respect for its systematic support of new hires. Newly hired PMFs entering into the FS are immediately assigned a mentor from the previous year's PMF graduates, and have the opportunity to learn and grow with the help of advisory board and senior leader mentors.

Trust Right From the Start. Each fall, the PMFs host an orientation that provides new PMFs the chance to connect with one another and develop a community of trust.

Self-Governing. The success of the FS PMF Program primarily stems from an autonomous and systematic organization run entirely by members. Each new participant who joins the Agency also joins one or more committees dedicated to ensuring the sustainability of the program. Committees include: Recruitment, Orientation, Chief's Funding, Communications, Mentoring, and Retention.

Impacts of the PMF program in the Forest Service

The program aims to break down cultural norms and challenge the agency's perception of leadership in order to help keep the organization relevant in a changing world. Effective leadership by current and former PMFs—deputy forest supervisors, district safety officers, project managers, district rangers, advisers to the Chief—demonstrates that people with skills, talent, common sense, a good work ethic, and commitment are good investments despite their fewer years working with the agency.

How the program works

Presidential Management Fellows (PMFs) are identified by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) through a national competitive process that includes nomination by the graduate's academic institution. OPM gauges competency in critical thinking, interpersonal skills, and commitment to public service. These core competencies are built upon throughout the fellowship. A typical PMF fellowship consists of the following elements, but can vary somewhat with each individual's experience and qualifications:

Two-year, excepted service appointment at the GS-9 level, with promotion after the first year to GS-11, and conversion at the GS-11 or GS-12 level.*

  • Rotation assignments to other staffs, federal agencies, and/or outside organizations.
  • Developmental assignments and at least 80 hours of formal training per year.
  • OPM-sponsored orientation.

The Forest Service goes well beyond the required elements of the PMF program and also provides new employees with:

  • An extensive and cohesive network of peers to give support and guidance.
  • Direct leadership and management experience through stewardship of the program.
  • Access to and mentorship from top executives and other current leaders.
  • High-level, challenging assignments and leadership opportunities.
  • Continued career support and mentorship for program alumni.

Through a unique innovation, the Forest Service PMF program was largely created, developed, and is implemented by the fellows themselves. We put future leaders in charge of their own development program with advice and counsel as needed from current leadership. The program is continually expanding and evolving to meet the needs of PMFs, helping these new employees quickly assume leadership roles in the organization and fully capitalizing on their fresh ideas, creativity, and passion. Together each year, current and PMF alums:

  • Organize the agency's PMF orientation and training sessions.
  • Coordinate and manage an executive-level advisory committee.
  • Run a competitive process within the agency to select and fund new positions.
  • Provide mentoring for their peers.
  • Recruit new employees.
  • Collaborate on tackling and soliciting priority assignments from top executives.

“What sold me on the Forest Service was the opportunity to work for an agency that could immediately utilize my skills and knowledge, and the opportunity to work for an agency whose mission I strongly appreciated.” – Grants Policy Analyst, Class of 2004, Christopher Coppenbarger

Rules and Regulations

Office of Personnel Management PMF Homepage

5 C.F.R. 362

*The typical promotion progression is GS-9 during the first year of the Fellowship, GS-11 during the second year, and conversion at GS-11 or GS-12. The Forest Service PMF Advisory Board has established policy for hiring PMFs at above a GS-9 level in rare cases.

Become a Forest Service PMF

  • USDA Forest Service & the PMF Program Quick Questions

  • Forest Service PMF Program Information Sheet

  • Current PMFs in Action brochure

  • Events and Updates

    2013 PMF Finalists!

    For more information on working with the Forest Service in one of our 2013 PMF positions,
    or for rotational openings,
    visit our opportunities page.

    Interested in becoming a 2014 PMF? Check the OPM website for information on the 2014 application period.

    The Forest Service, Future Leaders Growing Future Leaders, was selected as one of the Top 50 programs for the Harvard Innovations in Government Award in 2008.

    Search Forest Service and OPM websites for additional information



    USDA Forest Service
    Last modified April 9, 2014