USAID Science for Development Fellowships 2024-26. Apply Now!

USAID Science for Development Fellowships

Welcome to the USAID Science for Development Fellowships online application.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has established the USAID Science for Development Fellowships program 2024-26 (SDF), as a new two-year experiential professional development opportunity for American scientists and engineers to work at USAID and apply their expertise and research skills to inform the U.S. government’s international development activities and support their success. The inaugural cohort of SDF Fellows will begin October 2024.

USAID is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results. USAID leads international development and humanitarian efforts to save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance, and help people progress beyond assistance. Learn more about USAID at https://www.usaid.gov.

USmax Corporation (USmax) manages the SDF program on behalf of USAID. Please send questions to the SDF staff at USAID-SDF-INFO@usmax.com.

Register to Apply for the Inaugural 2024-2026 Class!

If interested in applying, it’s important to be aware of, fully understand, and be prepared to accept the requirements and obligations of being a Science for Development Fellow. Please carefully review this website for details regarding program elements, eligibility, application components, selection process and scoring, mandatory U.S. citizenship, selective service registration, and security clearance requirements. This information is provided to help interested individuals determine whether the fellowship is a good fit (now or in the future) and to support the development of a competitive application.

Fellowship Program Goals

Expanding and improving capacity for the application of science, technology, and innovation across USAID’s development sectors is vital to achieving the Agency’s broad and ambitious global development objectives. The Science for Development Fellowships (SDF) program is designed to accomplish this through three strategies:

  1. Increasing direct application of S&T knowledge and expertise at USAID by engaging Science for Development Fellows across the programming of the Agency.
  2. Strengthening the professional capabilities of participating scientists and engineers to inform, develop, and advance evidence-based practices and policies that improve international development activities and results.
  3. Establishing a network of higher education institutions (HEIs) committed to advancing STEMM education that contributes to creating solutions to global challenges, and supports SDF to leverage the experience and skills of their STEMM graduate students, postdocs, and faculty.

Two-Year Commitment

SDF provides a two-year immersive experience with expectation for commitment to and completion of the full 24 months. Fellows are assigned to specific USAID offices for the two years. Fellows who complete the two-year period in good standing may have the opportunity to continue for a full third year at USAID as an Advisory Fellow.

Washington, DC-Based

As an immersive S&T workforce augmentation and professional development initiative, SDF is Washington, DC-based. Fellows are assigned to in-person placements with offices at USAID, and all fellows must be located in the DC area (relocation support is provided). Fellows will operate on the schedule of their assigned office; USAID generally operates on a hybrid, three-day in office and two-day remote work week.

Career Stage

The program is generally focused on early- to mid-career scientists and engineers, from those completing a qualifying degree by the start of the fellowship up to approximately 10 years beyond receipt of a qualifying degree.

International Development Experience

Applicants are not required to have prior experience in international development. However, it is important to clarify through the personal statement (and interview if selected as a semi-finalist) genuine interest in applying science and technical skills at USAID and to international development efforts.

Qualifying Disciplines

The SDF program is open to individuals who hold a qualifying doctorate degree or master’s in engineering across a broad range of STEMM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, math, medicine), including social sciences. Degrees in disciplines within the following broad academic fields are eligible:

  • Computer and Data Sciences (including artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, cybersecurity, data analytics)
  • Engineering (for example, civil engineering, biomedical engineering, atmospheric sciences, environmental engineering, materials sciences)
  • Interdisciplinary Sciences (such as climate science, environmental science, geography, international relations, oceanography, urban policy or planning)
  • Life Sciences (including agriculture, biology, botany, ecology)
  • Mathematical Sciences (for example, astronomy, pure and applied mathematics, statistics)
  • Physical Sciences (such as chemistry, earth sciences, hydrology, physics)
  • Public Health and Medicine (including dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, veterinary medicine)
  • Social Sciences (for example anthropology, economics, linguistics, political science, psychology, sociology)

The qualifying degree must be completed by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on June 1, 2024. This includes any elements required for completion of the degree, such as submission of final thesis text and sign-off from doctoral committee members. Proof of completion is required.

U.S. Citizenship

Applicants must hold U.S. Citizenship (permanent residency and green card status does not qualify). SDF welcomes applicants with dual citizenship. It is important to understand that dual citizenship may lead to security clearance delays. Security clearance delays may affect the ability to begin a fellowship placement.

Security Clearance

To begin and remain in the fellowship program, all finalists who are offered and accept a fellowship position must be able to obtain and maintain either a Public Trust background investigation approval (also known as a Facility Access), or a Security Clearance, which is dependent on the level designated for their USAID fellowship host office. Fellowships will begin on October 1, 2024, only after a finalist secures either a designated Public Trust/Facility Clearance or an interim Security Clearance by September 15, 2024. Fellows may not defer if a significant investigation delay is encountered.

Selective Service Registration (male applicants only)

All male fellowship applicants must confirm that they have registered for selective service, as required of male citizens of the U.S. Government. Failure to meet the selective service requirement will result in disqualification from the SDF program. For information about selective service registration, go to: https://www.sss.gov/#:~:text=Federal%20Law%20requires%20nearly%20all,25%2C%20register%20with%20Selective%20Service. 

SDF Inclusion Commitment, Disability Policy, and Diversity Statement

The Science for Development Fellowships program is committed to upholding USAID’s GenderInclusive Development PolicyDisability Policy, and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Strategy through its design and execution across all operations. SDF strives for diversity in its many forms in the fellowship classes and in all processes and partnerships (including an emphasis on Minority Serving Institutions in the HEI Network). SDF applies monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) data to enable and enhance equity, inclusion and accessibility to the opportunities of the fellowship.

Application Components and Steps

A complete application for a USAID Science for Development Fellowship includes the following components and steps. Applications that do not include all components below will be designated as ineligible.

  1. Registration with Contact Information
  2. Eligibility Confirmations
  3. Applicant Profile Details
  4. Education History and Qualifying Degree (applicant must request degree verification documentation from university and upload to application by the deadline)
  5. Experience, Employment, and Professional Record (submission of maximum 5-page Curriculum Vitae)
  6. Brief Bio (250 word-limit)
  7. Personal Statement (800-word limit)
  8. Additional Skills/Languages
  9. Recommendations (three letters must be submitted directly by designated references via the online SDF application portal)
  10. Demographic Data (optional)
  11. Verifications of Commitment and Availability, Ethics Statements and Guidelines and Conflict of Interest Acknowledgement, Understanding of Fellowship Employment Status, Application Accuracy
  12. Final Review
  13. Submit

Helpful Tips

  • Create and save electronic copies of the brief bio, Curriculum Vitae (CV), and personal statement (instead of only typing them directly into the online application), so they may be accessed in case of any technical challenges.
  • Write the bio and personal statement in a separate document using a plain text application, such as Notepad or Rich Text Format (RTF). Then copy/paste the text into the available boxes in the application. Using a plain text application will avoid carryover of embedded formatting that may create layout problems and/or increase word count.
  • Remove double spacing between sentences and use only one space between sentences and paragraphs to avoid spaces adding to the word count.
  • Save the CV as a PDF once completed and formatted and upload it as a PDF to maintain its appearance and format.
  • Contact three references and confirm the best email for them to receive instructions and reminders from the SDF online application system.Provide references with a copy of the brief bio, CV, and personal statement well in advance of the application deadline so that references will have complete information to compose and submit a supportive letter of recommendation. Reference letters will be accepted only via the online system. Letters mailed or emailed separately will not be accepted.

Selection Process

The SDF program seeks highly skilled scientists and engineers who are interested in direct application of their expertise to address global development challenges and wish to broaden their experience and circles of influence through a challenging and rewarding term of engagement in the federal government at the U.S. Agency for International Development in Washington, DC.

While fellows will be drawn from different disciplines and backgrounds, common characteristics that define Science for Development Fellows as a whole include scientific/technical curiosity and creativity, a spirit of collaboration and interdisciplinary connectivity to tackle challenges and achieve goals, and a determination to make a difference.

The selection process involves the following steps:

  1. Initial Review: All applications submitted by the deadline are reviewed by SDF staff to confirm eligibility.
  2. Scoring: All eligible applications are read and scored by independent Selection Panels (each application will be reviewed and scored by a minimum of three panelists using designated selection criteria and scoring structure).
  3. Z-score Ranking: A Z-score formula is applied following application scoring to rank order candidates.
  4. Semi-finalist Designation: The 60 top-scoring applicants are designated as semi-finalists, and each is invited to participate in a 30-minute online interview with a Selection Panel (generally eight panelists). Semi-finalists are informed of the interview structure and provided guidance and tips for successful online interviews.
  5. Selection Interview: To determine the pool of finalists to move forward to the placement process, panelists first interview, then score again, and rank semi-finalists using the designated selection criteria and scoring structure.
  6. Finalist Notification: Finalists are notified and provided dates, information, and guidance on participation in the placement interview process, including a list of USAID offices participating to host fellows.

Criteria and Scoring

The following criteria and scoring system across three areas will be used to evaluate eligible applications. These should be considered in crafting the brief bio and personal statement. References will be informed of the selection criteria and scoring to inform development of letters of recommendation. A perfect score is 100 points.

Record of Accomplishment

40 points maximum

Academic/S&T Achievement (1-30 points)

Demonstrated scientific/technical achievement of the highest quality, analytical skill, and problem-solving ability appropriate to career stage.

Scientific/Technical Curiosity (1-10 points)

Evidence of intellectual curiosity, creative energy, and inventive, resourceful approaches to research and projects.

Fellowship Match

30 points maximum

Programmatic Alignment (1-15 points)

Alignment between personal and professional goals and the SDF objectives and opportunities, with clear rationale for applying to the fellowship. Capacity to make connections between science and technology and broader economic, social, political contexts and issues with ability to translate and apply theoretical concepts into practice to address challenges and forge solutions.

Collaboration and Communication (1-15 points)

Confidence, maturity, and self-direction with the capacity, initiative, and flexibility to work well independently and in interdisciplinary groups, communicate clearly and persuasively, and be receptive and respectfully responsive to others’ input.

Leadership and Service

30 points maximum

Focus on Contribution (1-15 points)

Initiative to apply personal talents and S&T acumen to catalyze positive change for society, and to advance international development results.

Character and Leadership (1-15 points)

Sincere and demonstrated capacity for S&T leadership; self-awareness, empathy, and flexibility to tackle issues beyond areas of expertise, establish realistic expectations, and work with a range of non-scientific stakeholders; open-minded and motivated to take advantage of emerging opportunities, persevere through challenges, and operate with integrity.

The demonstration of ability in these three areas is through academic and employment record, research grants and projects, publications, and honors and awards detailed in the CV; and through examples of engagement in extracurricular activities at academic institutions, in employment or beyond, and the roles and accomplishments in those efforts highlighted in the brief bio, personal statement, and summary of professional/leadership activities. For example, involvement in university governance, with community groups, professional associations, advisory and editorial committees, nonprofit organizations, or outreach and teaching to non-scientific audiences. Achievement and potential across all three of these criteria areas also will be ascertained through letters of recommendation.

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ALSO CHECK: Applications are now open for the McDonnell International Scholars Academy Fellowship Program 2024-25 (fully-funded to USA)!

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