Headshot of Andrew Ly
Andrew Ly.

Insider tips from a Music Ph.D. turned Department of Treasury Analyst

Have you recently completed or will you soon finish a graduate degree? Are you interested in working for the federal government? If you answered yes to both of those questions, then mark down October 3-17, 2019 in your calendar, as those are the dates to apply for the 2020 class of the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program.

The process of applying for and entering into the PMF program is somewhat complicated. Read below for insider tips on the process from  Berkeley graduate alumnus Dr. Andrew Ly, who spoke to us about how he went from a Ph.D. program in music composition to his current role as a Management and Program Analyst for the Department of Treasury.

To learn more about opportunities like the PMF:

  • Read Beyond Academia’s interview with Patricia Soler, a Georgetown University PMF Fellow who went from Spanish Ph.D. to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 
  • Read our interview with two Berkeley Ph.D.s from History and Ethnic Studies who were awarded Mellon/ACLS Public Fellowships (deadline: spring 2020). 
  • Make an appointment with the Career Center to learn about more opportunities for Ph.D.s to work in the government, business, and nonprofit sectors.  

Q&A with Andrew Ly, 2019 Presidential Management Fellow

Andrew Ly holds a Ph.D. in Music from UC Berkeley. He now works at the Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service as a Presidential Management Fellow.

What is the Presidential Management Fellows program, and why did you apply? 

The Presidential Management Fellows program is a two-year pathway into a federal career. My interest in the program stemmed from personal reasons. Having spent my life in the arts and academia, I wanted a job that directly contributes to the public good. I also wanted the stability and quality of life that comes with a government job so that I could have energy for personal projects.

In my view, the tangible benefits of the program are as follows: first, it is a more direct way to find government jobs than through the infamously byzantine USAjobs website; second, it includes 80 hours of personal development training per year, to be determined with your supervisor; third, it provides a broad perspective on government work through one 4-6 month rotation to an external agency; and finally, it brings you into a community of fellows who are passionate about public service and recognized for their abilities.

How does the application process work?

The application process involves two major steps. First, current or recently graduated students submit an application in the fall consisting of a resume, transcript, and online assessment. Some parts of the assessment should be familiar to applicants who have undergone standardized testing (i.e., quantitative and verbal reasoning questions, short essay prompts). The more unusual sections involve multiple-choice questions regarding “situational judgement” and “life experience.” My personal view is that one’s answers here should provide a consistent psychological profile that signals integrity and cooperation.

Less than 10% of applicants become finalists, and that’s when the second step begins. Finalists have access to a special website that lists federal job openings specifically designated for this fellowship, and they have up to one year to secure a position. The positions range from extremely specific (e.g., meteorologist, hospitality specialist) to extremely broad (e.g., management and program analyst).

As with any job search, one’s prior work experiences should create a credible bridge to one’s next position. I found this process extremely difficult—I submitted dozens upon dozens of applications, and only received a few interviews. By sheer luck, I met representatives from the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service at the PMF job fair in DC and my background clicked with them.

Do you have any advice for students who become finalists?

My advice for finalists is to apply broadly, and to take every opportunity to have informational chats with agencies that they are interested in. This includes attending the PMF job fair, but also reaching out to current and former fellows for advice (such as on LinkedIn or the PMF Facebook page).

Thank you, and congratulations, Andrew!


David Bratt is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and a Professional Development Liaison in the Graduate Division.


Categories: Professional Development, September 2019