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Training and Development Policy



The purpose of learning and development programs in the federal government is to assist in achieving an agency’s mission and performance objectives by improving employee and organizational performance.

The Government Employees Training Act (GETA), which became law on July 7, 1958, is the governmentwide authority for training federal employees (Title 5, United States Code, Chapter 41).  The Act recognized the importance of federal employees' self development, and found it "necessary and desirable in the public interest that self-education, self-improvement, and self-training by such employees be supplemented and extended by government - sponsored programs."

The basic authority was reinforced by Executive Order 11348 states that it is the policy of the United States "to develop its employees through the establishment and operation of progressive and efficient training programs, thereby improving public service, increasing efficiency and economy, building and retaining a workforce of skilled and efficient employees, and installing and using the best modern practices and techniques in the conduct of government’s business." Executive Order 11491 added the requirement to train personnel and management officials in labor management relations.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Act required the establishment of training and education programs to provide maximum opportunity for employees to advance so as to perform at their highest potential.   The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 addressed the development of candidates for the Senior Executive Service and the continuing development of senior executives.

The March 1994 amendments to GETA broadened the purpose of training, and aligned it with agency performance objectives, making training a management tool responsive to the current and future needs of agencies.  The legislation recognized that human resource development (HRD) has evolved from traditional training activities to include workplace learning, education, career management, organizational development, and performance improvement.

Public Law 106- prohibits use of appropriated funds for training that is offensive to Federal employees and unnecessary in the execution of their official duties.   This includes training associated with religious or quasi-religious and 'new age' belief systems, training that induces high levels of stress unrelated to the employees' work environments, and training meant to change employees' personal values or lifestyle outside the workplace.

The responsibility for performance-based individual and organizational learning is shared by the employees, the supervisor, agency management, and the agency human resource development office.

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Human resource development programs are administered to ensure that the selection of employees for training is made without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or other factors unrelated to the need for learning.  These procedures also guard against the use of facilities which restrict access because of a disabling condition or discriminate on the basis of the above criteria.

Human resource development programs may be authorized to:

  • Orient employees to the federal service, their agencies and organizational assignments, and conditions of employment.
  • Guide new employees to effective performance during their probationary period.
  • Provide knowledge and skills to improve job performance.
  • Prepare employees with demonstrated potential for increased responsibility in meeting future staffing requirements.
  • Provide continuing professional and technical training to avoid knowledge/skill obsolescence (e.g., keeping the skills of scientists, doctors, engineers, lawyers, registered nurses, computer programmers, procurement specialists, plumbers, electricians, and clerical employees current).
  • Implement reorganizations, changing missions, and administration initiatives.
  • Develop the managerial workforce focusing on competencies identified as essential to effective performance at supervisory, managerial, and executive levels (e.g., communication, interpersonal skills, human resource management, technology management, financial management, planning and evaluation, and vision).
  • Provide education leading to an academic degree if necessary to assist in the recruitment or retention of employees in occupations in which there are existing or anticipated shortage of qualified personnel, especially in those areas requiring critical skills.
  • Provide for the career transition, training, and/or retraining of employees displaced by downsizing and restructuring.

Meeting Learning Needs.  Employee's performance-based learning needs may be met by:

  • Planned work experience, details, and developmental assignments.
  • On-the-job-learning and supervised practice.
  • Training and education provided through agency facilities, other government facilities, and nongovernment facilities.
  • Coaching and mentoring.
  • Self-study.

Emphasis is placed on using the most economical means available to satisfy agency needs for performance improvement.  Interagency training is used instead of internal training when this would result in better training, improved service, or savings to the government.  Emerging technologies are used to deliver just-in-time learning and performance support.

Determining Learning Needs and Program Administration.  Each agency is required by law to have a process in place for determining its performance improvement needs and for administering its human resource development program.  A typical process might include the following:

  • Identifying the required or desired performance of the agency, organizational unit, occupational group, or individual employee;
  • Determining the difference between the required or desired performance and the actual or current performance;
  • Exploring the causes or reasons for the performance gap and determining if the required or desired level of performance should be attained through training or other methods, such as modifying systems and work procedures;
  • Evaluating information derived from the assessment of learning needs and using the findings to make decisions about human resource development investments;
  • Involving management and employees at all levels in the planning and implementing human resource development activities; and
  • Integrating performance-based individual and organizational learning with other human resource management functions and operating systems activities, as appropriate.

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Training and Development Information for Employees

Q: How can I learn about developmental opportunities?

A: Your developmental needs should be a regular topic of discussion between you and your supervisor.   Announcements of agency-supported programs are usually provided to supervisors and employees by the HRD office, which also maintains information on interagency and nongovernment training programs.  Periodically you should talk with your supervisor or HRD officer about opportunities available to you to improve your performance.

Q: My agency does not have a HRD officer. Who is responsible for training?

A: Since human resource development is basically a supervisory responsibility, your supervisor should be able to provide you with the necessary guidance on training matters or be able to refer you to appropriate sources.

Q: What are some learning programs generally made available by agencies to their employees?

A: There are a wide variety of basic education, skills development, and career enhancement programs tailored to agency needs and resources.  Some of these are adult basic education programs; the Veterans Readjustment Appointments Program; apprenticeship programs; administrative, technical, and professional career ladder programs; and career transition programs.  Your HRD office is the best source of information on available programs.

Q: Can I receive training leading to promotion?

A: Yes, but only if you were competitively selected for training under your agency's merit promotion program.

Q: May the government pay for my licensing or certification examination?

A: Yes.  Your agency may pay for license and certification examiniations as prescribed in title 5 CFR 5757.

Q: Is it required that training be applicable only to my present job?

A: No.  Although your training must be related to your official duties, your agency can prepare you for anticipated future assignments or to accomplish special agency initiatives.

Q: Can I take courses in basic skills such as typing, math, or English?

A: Yes.  Agencies may provide training in basic job-related skills.  They can also sponsor training courses in local schools under the Adult Basic Education Program.  These courses may be given at government expense either during or after working hours.

Q: Can my normal working hours be readjusted so that I can take courses at my own expense?

A: Yes.  Your supervisor may adjust your customary workweek to allow you to take courses not sponsored by the agency if additional costs to your agency will not be incurred; completion of the course will better equip you for work in the agency; and there will not be appreciable interruption of work.

Q: Can I use my agency's grievance procedure if I feel I am unjustly denied permission to attend training?

A: Yes.  You may use your agency's procedures if the matter cannot be resolved at the supervisory level and your agency has not set up a separate system for this purpose.

Q: I am a union employee union representative.  Can I train myself and other representatives in labor-management relations on agency time?

A: It depends.  If the training is related to the employee's representational duties and is of benefit to the agency, official time for training is permissible.  Situations sometimes arise in the interpretation and administration of bargaining agreements in which training on agency time in areas of mutual concern to labor and management is desirable, such as alternative dispute resolution or clarification of personnel policies and practices.  However, the law provides that internal business of a labor organization must be conducted during the non-duty hours of the employees concerned.

Q: What training expenses can my agency pay?

A: Agencies are authorized to pay, or reimburse you for, all or a part of the necessary expenses of training.  This includes tuition, books, supplies, and travel.  It also means that you can share costs with your agency.  For example, the agency could pay half the cost of a college course, while you pay the other half.  However, the agency may not pay for training that is unrelated to your official government duties.

Q: Can my agency pay for internet courses?

A: Yes.  This type of training can be utilized the same as any other type of training that your agency feels would be beneficial.

Q: May I attend meetings and conferences and be reimbursed for my expenses under the training law?

A: Your agency may approve a meeting or conference as a developmental activity if the content is pertinent to your official functions and activities and it is evident that you will derive developmental benefits by attending.

Q: Do annual and sick leave regulations apply to me during training assignments?

A: Yes, if salary payments continue during the training period, the annual and sick leave regulations apply.  Normal workdays falling within academic recess periods should be charged to leave unless you devote such periods to study or research or unless you are returned to a work status.

Q: What is my pay status while in training?

A: Normally you are in full pay status while participating in agency or interagency training programs.  However, training law prohibits paying overtime to title 5 employees who are in training or while they are traveling to training.

Q: May I get mileage allowance and parking fees for attending training at other than my normal work location outside of regular commuting hours?

A: Yes.  Your agency could pay or reimburse you for such expenses although it is not required to do so by law.

Q: Is the development I receive recorded in official files?

A: Yes. Agencies keep records of approved training in their training files, procurement records, and electronic personnel records. Agencies use their records for planning and evaluation purposes. Some training records are permanently kept in your official personnel file. You should also keep your own record of any significant programs, whether sponsored by your agency or taken on your own.

Q: What is a continued service agreement?

A: When you are assigned to training, your agency may require that you sign an agreement to continue employment in your agency for a period of time.  If you do not complete the agreed service time you may have to repay the agency for your training expenses.

Academic Degree Training

Section 1331 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296), now codified at 5 U.S.C. 4107, gives agencies authority to select and assign an employee to academic degree training and pay or reimburse the costs of academic degree training from appropriated or other available funds if such training meets specific requirements.

This authority expands the payment for academic degrees beyond circumstances necessary to assist in the recruitment or retention of employees in occupations in which the Government had or anticipated a shortage of qualified personnel.

When implementing this authority, an agency shall, consistent with the merit system principles set forth in 5 U.S.C., paragraphs (2) and (7) of section 2301(b), in conformity with the policy of the United States set forth at 5 U.S.C. 7201(b) provide employees effective education and training to improve organizational and individual performance.

Q. What is the purpose of the academic degree training authority?

A. The purpose of the expanded academic degree training authority is to give agencies more flexibility to establish training programs that address agencies' human capital management strategic plan.

Q. What must an agency do prior to implementing an academic degree training program?

A. Prior to using this authority, an agency must establish policy and procedures for an academic degree training program that reflect that the training is part of a planned, systemic, and coordinated agency employee development program linked to accomplishing agency strategic goals.

Q. Are there any restrictions on which facilities may be used to obtain academic degrees?

A. The training must be accredited and provided by a college or university that is accredited by a nationally recognized body, which is a regional, national, or international accrediting organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Q. How will academic degree training programs be funded?

A. Agencies will fund their academic degree programs from existing appropriated or other available funds. There are no additional appropriations for this authority.

Q. What expenses can be paid as part of the academic degree training program?

A. Agencies may pay/reimburse all or part of expenses associated with obtaining an academic degree (5 U.S.C. 4109). An agency may determine and specify in its academic degree training program policy the training expenses it will pay.

Q. Are Continued Service Agreements required for academic degree training?

A. Generally, an agency must require the employee benefiting from academic degree training to enter into a continued service agreement (CSA) before attending the training (5 U.S.C. 4108, 5 CFR 410.309). In accordance with agency CSA policy, an employee must, subject to agency waiver policy, reimburse the paying agency if he or she leaves the agency without completing the period of service time specified in the CSA.

Q. Who is eligible to participate in academic degree training programs?

A. Any employee (as defined in 5 U.S.C. 4101(2)) is eligible, except those employees occupying or seeking to qualify for: (1) appointment to any position that is excepted from the competitive service because of its confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating nature (i.e., Schedule C appointments); or (2) a noncareer appointment in the Senior Executive Service.

Q. Are there any limitations on the use of the academic degree training program?

A. Yes. The academic degree training program implemented must contribute significantly to meeting an identified agency training need, resolving an identified agency staffing problem, or accomplishing goals in the agency strategic plan.

Q. Are agencies required to pay for academic degrees?

A. No. This authority is used at the discretion of the agency to address human capital management challenges. Each agency must develop and publish policy and procedures before implementing an academic degree training program.

Q. Are there record keeping requirements for academic degree training programs?

A. Yes. Agencies must assess and maintain records on the effectiveness of academic degree training programs implemented under this authority (5 CFR 410.308(d)).

Q. How do I apply 5 CFR §410.310 (d) to computing academic degree training period?

A. When an employee is pursuing and academic degree through an agency academic degree program, an agency may compute the length of the academic degree training based on the academic institution's established contact hours. This method establishes an effective minimum commitment for continued service and allows agencies the flexibility to establish required service times above the minimum to address their specific goals in using the academic degree program.


An example of computation of academic degree training service commitment period: minimum commitment required to for a 120 credits degree program (most degree programs are 4 years which require 120 credits). Assuming two 3-credit courses per semester, a 12 week semester, and 20 semesters to complete the degree, the following calculations illustrate computation resulting in a minimum commitment of 108 weeks, which is two years and one month.







courses (6 credits/semester)



weeks (one semester)



contact hours






contact hours



semesters (needed to complete degree)



contact hours






contact hours

Divided by


work hours/week









weeks (training period)



(commitment requirements per 5 U.S.C. 4108)



weeks minimum service commitment

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