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OPM Rule Makes It Easier to Hire Recent College Grads

Under a new hiring authority, federal job applicants who graduated with a bachelor’s or master’s degree within the last two years can be hired outside of the competitive process at up to a GS-11 salary.

The Office of Personnel Management is moving forward with regulations that would make it easier for federal agencies to hire recent college graduates.

In an interim rule slated for publication Friday in the Federal Register, OPM wrote that agencies will be able to hire job applicants who have earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree within the last two years outside of the competitive process to positions that pay up to a GS-11 salary.

The regulations come a month after OPM Director Kiran Ahuja met with college students to encourage them to become the next generation of federal employees, and following a separate set of regulations devised to improve federal agencies’ use of internship programs as a pipeline to federal employment.

“This new hiring authority will allow federal agencies to welcome recent college graduates into professional and administrative positions that pay as much as $72,000 a year,” Ahuja wrote in a blog post announcing the regulations. “It creates dedicated pathways into federal employment for rising professionals who may not have an extensive resume to point to yet. Civil servants enjoy fulfilling careers that offer great benefits, the opportunity for a secure retirement and the chance to tackle some of America’s most pressing challenges.”

The rule stems from a provision of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, signed in 2018 by former President Trump. It also allows agencies to post associated job opportunities to their own websites, rather than USAJOBS.

Job applicants hired under this authority still must meet OPM-approved or OPM-approved agency-specific minimum qualifications for the position they are seeking, OPM wrote in the filing. Agencies also are not required to give priority to federal workers who are part of agency career transition assistance plans or interagency career transition assistance plans.

OPM wrote that in order to be eligible, job applicants must submit their candidacies for a position within two years of receiving their degree, although there are some exceptions.

“The two-year eligibility period begins on the date the degree is received, not the date of the graduation ceremony,” OPM wrote. “An agency may accept applications from applicants prior to the applicant receiving a degree. If such an applicant is selected, the applicant may not be appointed until after the degree is completed. An applicant who has applied for a specific position within the two-year eligibility period may be appointed to that position after the two-year eligibility period expires.”

Additionally, job applicants who have completed at least four years in the military after receiving a college degree can start their two-year eligibility window on the date of their discharge from the armed services, provided that their time in the military began within what would have been their original two-year window to apply for a federal job under this hiring authority.

In a statement, Ahuja said the new regulations, which are effective Dec. 5, will aid in the Biden administration’s efforts to rebuild the federal workforce.

“OPM is working hard to reinvigorate the federal workforce, and early career professionals offer fresh perspectives and skillsets to meet America’s needs both now and in the future,” she said. “This hiring authority creates exciting pathways into federal service for recent college graduates and allows agencies across the government to more easily access talent pools. It’s one more way we’re aiming to ensure the federal workforce draws from the top talent and diverse lived experiences of the American people and is best equipped to deliver on its critical work for the American people.”