University of Wisconsin–Madison

An Intro to the Presidential Management Fellowship

An Intro to the Presidential Management Fellowship
Many students decide to come to law school with hopes of pursuing a government career. While a variety of government agencies hire graduates through their “Honors Attorney” programs, these programs may not be a perfect fit for every graduate with aspirations of a career in public service. Some students come to law school with a stronger interest in public policy than in the traditional practice of law. Some students may not meet the rigorous academic requirements of some of the Honors Attorney programs, but have a resume showing strong leadership skills and commitment to public service. Some students may want to work for the federal government, and are willing to explore multiple paths toward meeting that goal. For all of these people, the Presidential Management Fellowship may be a good fit!

What is the Presidential Management Fellowship?
The Presidential Management Fellowship (“PMF”) is an opportunity for graduates of advanced degree programs to work for two years for a federal agency while getting invaluable leadership training. PMF recipients are salaried employees with federal government benefits, but also receive interactive training and opportunities for four- to six-month “developmental” assignments in agencies other than the one for which they are hired. The Fellowship provides access to multiple government agencies, allowing Fellows to network widely. Fellows are eligible for promotions within the federal grade system and typically have many opportunities open to them at the end of the two-year commitment. The PMF generally does not offer attorney positions, but recipients with JDs may go on to work as attorneys once their two-year commitment concludes. Most PMFs remain with the federal government for years after completing their two-year commitment. In short, the PMF is an amazing way to begin your career in public service!

Who is eligible to apply?
You may apply for PMF if you will obtain an advanced degree, including a JD, by August 31st of the year following your application OR if you obtained an advanced degree during the previous two years from the opening date of the PMF application (typically in September every year). If you have a master’s degree from another discipline, particularly in a STEM field, then you will have to decide which degree to use as your qualifying degree, keeping in mind the timing requirements. 

While the program is not restricted to law school graduates, law graduates typically do very well in the process 

How do you apply?
Applying to be a PMF fellow involves a number of steps and can be time-consuming. However, past PMF fellows will tell you that it is well-worth the effort! In fact, one fellow said that there is “no reason” not to apply if you are interested in federal service.

The PMF application is available on, typically over two weeks in the fall, approximately late-September to mid-October. OCPD will email when the application becomes available and the Fellowship will be posted in Symplicity. You may apply only within the two week window and the deadline is final. No technological or other logistical problems will get you an extension – so apply early!   

Although the application won’t open until late September, you should start preparing your materials in advance. As part of your application, you will need to submit a resume, a transcript with supplemental letter from the Registrar, and supporting documentation for any claims to Indian or veterans’ preference or requests for reasonable accommodation. Once the application opens on, in addition to submitting your materials, you will have to complete an on-line assessment and three essays. PMF administrators recommend allowing at least 3 hours for this process. Certain size and file format requirements must be met when uploading documents, so read the instructions carefully.

Resume: Your resume should be an excepted service federal resume tailored to specifically address the core competencies on which applicants are assessed: Problem Solving; Interpersonal Skills; Oral Communication; Written Communication; Public Service Motivation; Personal Accountability; and Adaptability. Do not be afraid to use these exact words throughout your resume and then provide specific, detailed examples to back up those competencies. Former Fellows also recommend highlighting the following: international experience; entrepreneurial/leadership background; general experience with government/administrative law; desire to serve the community; and, as always, transferable skills. The program is ultimately looking for someone who will be a “good boss” down the road and who has a commitment to public service.

This resume should be more detailed and longer than your typical legal resume. Make sure you run your resume by Emily Kite in OCPD. For a great sample of an excepted service federal resume, you should check out UW-Madison’s Letters & Sciences Career Services’ example:

Transcript: Your GPA is not a factor in the selection process for PMF. However, the application requires a transcript to verify that you are enrolled in or graduated from the degree-granting institution you identify. While you may use an unofficial transcript for your PMF application, the application requires very specific details, some of which are missing from UW Law School’s unofficial transcript. You therefore must request a supplemental letter from Registrar Amy Arntsen. Send Ms. Arntsen ( and email from your email account at least a week before the PMF application deadline. Your email to Ms. Arntsen should contain your name, your class year, the month and year that you intend to graduate, and explain that you are applying for the Presidential Management Fellows program and are requesting a letter on UW Law letterhead confirming your degree program and anticipated graduation date. You will then submit both the transcript and the supplemental letter as part of your application.

On-Line Assessment: PMF applicants must take an un-timed and un-proctored on-line assessment as part of the PMF application. This consists of a situational judgment test, a video-based test where applicants must respond with how they would react in a particular situation; a questionnaire to assess work styles and characteristics; and essay questions, collected during the on-line assessment but factored into the in-person assessment of semi-finalists. The on-line assessment assesses the same competencies applicants should highlight in their resumes: Problem Solving; Interpersonal Skills; Oral Communication; Written Communication; Public Service Motivation; Personal Accountability; and Adaptability.   

The PMF administrators provide an Assessment Guide, which will be available on the following page once it has been updated for 2016:

Letters of references, cover letters, and writing samples are not accepted and will be discarded if submitted.

What's next?
Students selected as semi-finalists will be notified in or around November and invited to Washington, DC for an in-person assessment. The travel is at the applicant’s expense, though you may be eligible for an OCPD travel stipend to help with the costs. The in-person assessment consists of a group exercise with other applicants, a behavioral interview, and written essays.

The PMF program will announce its Finalists in or around February. Finalists are eligible for PMF appointments and may apply to specific agencies through a virtual job fair accessible only to PMF Finalists. The application requirements will depend on the agency. Once you are selected by an agency, you are officially a Presidential Management Fellow. Not every Finalist will become a Fellow, though our recent graduates have had great success. 

You do not necessarily need to have experience in a field to get a position within a particular agency once you are selected as a finalist. For example, one past PMF was hired to be a budget analyst, and the agency funded his finance training. Instead, the agencies are really focused on people who will be leaders within their departments. So you should throw your hat in the ring even if you are aiming for a new direction in your career! 

Want more information?

  • Read the website completely.
  • Schedule a meeting with Emily Kite in OCPD:
  • Attend OCPD's PMF Presentation in September (details in Symplicity).
  • Reach out to UW Law School grads who are past or current Presidential Management Fellows. Contact Emily Kite for more information.

Submitted by OCPD on September 7, 2016

This article appears in the categories: OCPD Articles