In Ronald Reagan's second presidential term, the conservative movement's unceasing effort to transform itself into a governing elite has followed two paths. First, conservatives have continued to seek top appointments in the administration. And second, they have begun to concentrate on nurturing a new generation of youthful cadres.

"The credentialing of a new generation is the most important achievement of this administration," said Burton Yale Pines, a vice president of the Heritage Foundation. Like other movement conservatives, Pines hopes that the impact of the "Reagan Revolution" will continue to be felt long after Ronald Reagan has left the White House.

In the short run, however, the effort to place conservatives in key positions for the second Reagan term was complicated by yet another change at the White House personnel office.

When its director, John S. Herrington, was elevated to the position of secretary of energy early this year, his deputy, the devoted movement conservative Becky Norton Dunlop, was subjected to a kind of internal exile in the Old Executive Office Building until she joined Attorney General Edwin Meese III's staff. With her departure, the conservatives no longer had a movement loyalist in place in White House personnel.

The Heritage Foundation pushed "a candidate of our own" to run the office, according to an official there. That was T. Kenneth Cribb, Meese's right-hand man, who declined the movement's suggested nomination, preferring to accept his mentor's offer to become counselor to the attorney general.

The man selected for the White House personnel job was Robert Tuttle, whose rise is an ironic commentary on the conservative elite's history. Tuttle is the son of Holmes Tuttle, a wealthy car dealer, one of Reagan's oldest political supporters. Tuttle is a Reagan supporter by virtue of family tradition, but he is not a movement conservative.

"He's never marched with us," said a Heritage official. "He's a very nice guy. Whether he's ideologically committed, I have no idea. My assumption is that if I have no idea, then he isn't."

Tuttle has brought a new team into the office. His deputy assistant is Elizabeth S. Pickens, daughter of T. Boone Pickens, the corporate stock trader and raider. And Tuttle's special assistant is Nancy E. Perot, daughter of H. Ross Perot, the Texas tycoon. (Tuttle's wife, Donna, has been appointed undersecretary of commerce for travel and tourism.)

"It's the new populism," said a disgruntled conservative administration official involved in personnel decisions.

Though Tuttle is not a movement figure, he has not hindered the movement's plans. "He is certainly someone we can work with," said Edwin Feulner, the Heritage Foundation president.

According to another Heritage source, Tuttle "has sought the advice and counsel of the appropriate people."

And in August, he appointed a new associate director, Susan Phillips, formerly the director of the Institute of Museum Services, but, more important, the sister of Howard Phillips, chairman of the Conservative Caucus, a New Right group. She was once research director of the Conservative Caucus' foundation.

At the start of Reagan's second term, Michael Horowitz, the neoconservative general counsel at the Office of Management and Budget, had a plan to overwhelm Senate confirmation hearings with a flood of new appointees.

"Mike talked to me about a list of 30 or 40 people he had who should have appointments in the second term," said a conservative administration official. "But I didn't see a list."

The first months of the second term were not a triumphal parade.

Eileen Gardner, a Heritage Foundation researcher, a special assistant to the secretary of education, was revealed to espouse the belief that the physically handicapped have "summoned" their fate from God.

Abruptly, after two days on the job, she resigned under pressure and found herself back at her old desk at Heritage. Marianne Mele Hall, nominated and confirmed as chairman of the Copyright Royalty Tribunal, was exposed as an editor of a tract discussing minorities' "jungle freedoms."

Gardner's nomination was promptly terminated, and Hall promptly resigned under pressure.

Gardner and Hall, however, were minor and fungible players.

The failure of Donald J. Devine to be reappointed director of the Office of Personnel Management and William Bradford Reynolds to be confirmed as associate attorney general were more serious blows to the conservative cause.

Devine had helped supervise the replacement of career officials with political appointees throughout the government. Under his aegis at OPM, for example, the number of career professionals fell 18 percent, while the political cadres increased 169 percent, according to the House subcommittee on civil service.

Reynolds, from the Wilmington, Del., du Pont family and a Washington lawyer who had tried to get a job in 1977 in Jimmy Carter's Justice Department, hardly had the credentials of a movement conservative. But as assistant attorney general for civil rights, he had won a place in the movement's galaxy of stars. His defeat in the Judiciary Committee was a particularly painful rebuke.

These recent conservative failures at confirmation hearings have not thoroughly disappointed the faithful. Paradoxically, they have affirmed conservative ideology. From the conservatives' standpoint, these episodes highlight the nature of their enemies and heighten their militance.

The opposition to Gardner, Devine and Reynolds from Republican senators Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (Conn.), Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (Md.) and Arlen Specter (Pa.) demonstrated, once again, that the Liberal Establishment spans both of the nation's political parties.

"There are plenty of left-wingers in Congress, including in our own party, who want to find some blemish," said Morton Blackwell, a prominent movement conservative figure.

The fissures between the Reagan White House and the Senate's Republican leadership over a host of issues, ranging from conservative appointments to the budget, reflect a historic antagonism that has fractured the GOP since the Goldwater campaign of 1964.

To conservatives, the Republican opposition to Devine and Reynolds represents an attempt to prevent the movement from becoming a governing class, a conservative elite that will supplant the old Republican elite.

"It just intensifies conservative feelings and determination," said Anthony Dolan, the conservative chief presidential speechwriter. "To that extent conservatives are not part of the Washington frame of mind. Conservatives are still quite lean and hungry." The Leanest and Hungriest

The leanest and hungriest are frequently the youngest, who have spent their political lives within the movement. They are being recruited to take beginning jobs in order to acquire the credentials that will advance them in post-Reagan Republican administrations.

"We have a whole pool of people in the lower ranks of government who could head up agencies," said Ben Hart, who directs the Third Generation program for young conservatives at the Heritage Foundation. At its monthly meetings, attended by more than 100 activists, many in administration posts, Hart announces job openings, in conservative groups and in government. He said that administration officials "often call for resumes."

Before Reagan's election, a young conservative arriving without a job in Washington did not encounter the kind of Welcome Wagon that greets him today.

He might make inquiries with James Hinish, known to conservatives as "The Mayor of Capitol Hill," a former leader of the right-wing Young Americans for Freedom, who hired assistants for Senate Republicans. Beyond that, the marketplace was limited.

After Reagan's election, the Heritage Foundation was a natural magnet for young conservatives' resumes. But the foundation's leaders, consulting with other movement leaders, decided that the masses of young jobseekers could best be served by setting up a new organization.

Now, most of the resumes that arrive at Heritage are siphoned to the Leadership Institute, directed by Morton Blackwell, who left his job as a presidential assistant to build for the future. "My Leadership Institute," he claims, "in 1984 helped over 200 people get placed."

Blackwell enlists youthful applicants by means of seminars, mailings and advertisements in conservative publications. Using a computer he attempts to match their characteristics to the available jobs.

He manages to place some with conservative groups, some on Capitol Hill, and others in the administration. "I have lists of people I know who've helped conservatives get placed in the past," he said.

"We are overwhelmingly successful . . . . That's a big shift from when I moved to Washington 20 years ago."

The old right, which was the only right 20 years ago, still manages to exercise personal and organizational influence in creating young conservatives and winning jobs for them.

Peter Robinson, for example, was a student intern working in 1977 for Patrick J. Buchanan, an old right stalwart, syndicated columnist and now White House communications director.

Then, following in the conservative mode of ideological journalism by writing for a right-wing student publication, The Dartmouth Review, "I became known to Bill Buckley," Robinson said. When Buckley's son, Chris, left as Vice President Bush's chief speechwriter, Buckley recommended Robinson as a replacement.

After a year's stint, in 1983, Robinson moved on to the president's speechwriting staff.

In order to become an enduring governing class, the conservatives must produce a surfeit of young cadres -- young people who are both committed and competent. In 1982, an organization materialized that precisely provides what the nascent conservative new class requires, the Federalist Society, composed of law students and young lawyers.

In just three years the society claims to have expanded to about 30 campus chapters, many at premier law schools such as Chicago, Yale and Harvard. Federalist members bring the discipline of law to the passion of ideology.

The society is comfortably supported by conservative foundations, the Institute for Educational Affairs under Irving Kristol, neoconservative "godfather," and the Olin Foundation, under the aegis of William E. Simon, former secretary of the treasury. It is aided by a job placement service maintained for its members by a new think tank, the Center for Judicial Studies, directed by James McClellan, former legislative assistant to Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.).

"Since the establishment of this service in the fall of 1983, the center has successfully placed every applicant interviewed for a position," according to its annual report.

"The Federalist Society," said a conservative administration official, "is a rich source of special assistants." The Justice Department, according to a source there, regularly calls the society in search of job candidates.

So far, about a half-dozen Federalist alumni have been selected, and several others have found positions with U.S. attorneys.

"The society," said Gene Meyer, its Washington director, "hopes to continue growing quite a bit."

Lee Lieberman is a special assistant to Richard Willard, the assistant attorney general running the civil division at the Justice Department.

She is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, a crucible of conservative legal thinking. She is also a founder of the Federalist Society.

"A friend of mine and I thought it would be a good thing to have a student organization interested in free market concepts," she said. "I had a friend at Yale. We found there was a group of people interested in these ideas at Harvard."

Funding was quickly secured from the Institute for Educational Affairs, which she said "put us in touch with the Olin Foundation." And a Chicago professor, Antonin Scalia, volunteered to act as the faculty adviser.

When Scalia was appointed to the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia circuit he appointed Lieberman as his clerk. In the meantime, Michael Horowitz, the neoconservative OMB general counsel, a roving talent scout, began attending Federalist Society meetings. He discovered Lieberman, directing her toward the Justice Department, where he prepared her way with recommendations.

The pattern she has established -- Federalist Society, clerkship for a Reagan-appointed judge, Justice Department -- is being followed by others.

For example, Steve Calabrese, a Federalist Society member, served as a clerk for the prominent conservative jurist Robert H. Bork, who sits on the D.C. circuit court with Scalia. Upon completing this apprenticeship, he became a special assistant to the attorney general.

"It's an incremental process, not a great master stroke," Blackwell said. "Each young conservative you place is an incremental gain . . . . The next time we elect a conservative as president the administration will be much more homogeneous. We now have a heterogeneous administration. There are many people in this administration who don't give a hoot about the president's policies. Next time we will have a pool from which we can fill every top slot with movement conservatives. A lot of us are looking forward to that day."

"This is boot camp for the real battle," said a young conservative, currently serving the administration, eager for the coming struggle.

Buchanan, a role model to the new generation of conservatives, has suggestively remarked that the Reagan years will eventually be seen as the "silver age" of conservatism. The golden age of the Washington conservative establishment, then, must lie in the future.

But in order to cross the distance between dream and reality, the conservative elite will have to pass a series of tests. Their fate in Washington, they point out, depends on their mastery of the post-Reagan succession.

In a candidate-centered era, they must find a replacement for the peerless Reagan, who has granted them whatever influence they exercise today.

At the same time, many conservatives say, they will have to learn to expand a coalition on the right, while preventing the movement from splintering into ideological parts. "Within the movement, it is widely recognized that that's a danger," said David Carmen, a conservative political consultant.

Conservatives must then maintain control of the delegates to the Republican convention, and go on to prove that there is an electoral shift to the right that will endure beyond Reagan. "The conservative movement must be a significant part of the next Republican president's coalition," said a prominent conservative. "He cannot be elected without the movement. And I'm talking about the general election, not just the primaries."

And even if everything works out perfectly, the conservatives will still depend on the next Republican president to appoint them to the jobs they covet. "When Reagan came in," said a prominent conservative, "we were in office, but not in power. Now there are many movement people trained to govern. They are part of the pool any Republican president must choose from. The question is how deep the old wing of the Republican Party is to take away those positions. They'll be older. And the younger people, who will be there in January 1989, are movement people."

But the next transition to power may not be as effortless as some conservatives wish. While many will boast Reagan-era credentials, "their ranks are thin," said a Republican political strategist. And, after all their labors, they continue to have few experienced people to fill the crucial posts in places like the State Department.

"There will still be a big split" between the movement and the traditional Republicans, insisted a leading conservative congressman, who noted that the movement has a marginal influence "within the corporate world, the source of most moderate Republicans."

In the end, the conservatives' hopes for future power may depend upon their metamorphosis into something they have always opposed: the permanent Washington establishment.

"It's a fear everyone has, but it's resisted," said a movement figure. Yet, if their dream comes closer to realization, new and unforeseen tensions may arise. Will the conservatives be able to maintain their "populist" appeal when it is contradicated by their Washington careerism?

"I get the feeling that we'll end up ruling the world," said Anthony Dolan, the chief presidential speechwriter. "I wonder if I'm wrong."