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FAQ about S&T Policy Fellowships

The STPF Program


Application Process

Questions about the Program

Q: What are the benefits of being a fellow?

As a coveted asset in the federal government, fellows gain hands-on policy experience in a challenging environment. Current and alumni fellows form a highly respected and widely recognized network of policy-savvy scientists and engineers. Click here for other benefits of being a fellow.

Q: What impact have fellowships had on the career paths of alumni?

In the year immediately following their fellowship, approximately 40-50% of fellows continue working in the policy realm (not necessarily in federal government); 20-25% return to the sector in which they worked previously; and 20-25% use the experience as a stepping stone to a new opportunity.

Q: What is the STPF applicant acceptance rate?

The ratio of applicants to fellowships awarded is different in each of the fellowship program areas. We urge you not to consider "the odds," but to apply to the areas that fit best with your interests and scientific/technical expertise. It is in those areas that you will be most competitive. AAAS awards more than 130 first year fellowships annually. In addition, approximately 35 congressional and 10 executive branch fellowships are selected and awarded by our science and engineering partner societies

Q: If awarded a fellowship, how do I prepare for the experience?

In early September, AAAS hosts a mandatory two-week orientation program on the workings of the federal government that provides exposure to some of the issues, institutions, and individuals involved in federal policymaking. Prior to orientation, we provide a variety of resources to help fellows prepare for their year in Washington, D.C. 

Q: How long is a fellowship?

The fellowship is a 12-month learning experience beginning on September 1 and ending on August 31. Individuals accepting a fellowship must sign an agreement acknowledging this yearlong commitment. Some executive branch fellowships may be renewed for a second year at the mutual agreement of the host office, the fellow, and AAAS. 

Q: Are fellowships available every year?

Yes. The STPF fellowships have been operating annually since 1973. The number and size of the fellowship program areas has changed over the years and continues to evolve. 

Q: May I opt for a shorter fellowship?

No. The Science & Technology Policy Fellowships are available only as a 12-month commitment in the first year of an assignment. Second year assignments may be for shorter durations at the mutual agreement of the host office, the fellow, and AAAS. 

Q: Where are fellowships located?

All Science & Technology Policy Fellowships are based in Washington, D.C. in the first year of an assignment. At the mutual agreement of the host office, the fellow, and AAAS, executive branch assignments may move to a different operating base in the second (renewal) year. 

Q: Who funds the fellowships?

Most executive branch fellowships are funded by the agencies and offices where fellows are placed. Congressional fellowships are funded by science and engineering partner societies that recruit and select those fellows.

Q: Is a security clearance required?

Depending upon the agencies that you are interested in, you may need a security clearance before your fellowship assignment commences and before the stipend starts. Sometimes, this process can be quite lengthy. STPF staff are available to offer guidance on the clearance process, but are not involved in processing or approving clearances. Fellows are responsible for submitting information and for following up with appropriate parties to ensure that a security clearance is obtained.

Eligibility Questions

Q: Do I need to have a Ph.D.?

For scientists in the biological, physical, health/medical, or social sciences, you are required to have a terminal scientific degree (Ph.D., Sc.D., M.D, D.V.M., etc.). For engineers, you do not need a Ph.D, but must have at least a master's degree in any field of engineering plus a minimum of three years of professional engineering experience (not including further academic studies).

Q: Is my science degree eligible?

For non-engineer applicants, you must have a terminal scientific degree (Ph.D., Sc.D., M.D, D.V.M., etc.) in the social or behavioral sciences; medical or health sciences; biological, physical or earth sciences; or computational sciences or mathematics. Degrees other than those noted here may also qualify and are determined on a case-by-case basis.

Q: How do eligibility requirements differ for judicial fellowship applicants?

You must have a minimum of three years of post-doctoral professional experience to be eligible for a judicial fellowship.

Q: Who is the ideal candidate for an STPF fellowship? 

Fellows come from many different disciplines in science and engineering; they arrive from academia, industry, and the nonprofit sector; and they represent a broad range of career stages, from recently graduated postdocs to mid-career professionals and faculty on sabbatical, to retired individuals.

Q: Is previous experience in public policy necessary?

No, but it is important to convey an understanding of the societal impacts of science in your application materials and during an interview. You should also be prepared to speak about how your specific scientific specialty relates to policy issues and how it can be applied in government decision-making.

Q: How do I complete the verification process?

This application step verifies your education status, citizenship, and eligibility for the program. All applicants must complete this step. This step is processed by an external organization and requires a nominal fee paid by you directly to the verification vendor (not to AAAS). AAAS staff then review and make a final determination.

  1. Log into your application at
  2. Click "in progress" next to your application. You only have to do this for one application, even if you are applying to two program areas.
  3. Click "continue" at the bottom of the page to move to step 2 and write down your applicant ID number.
  4. Click "verify your eligibility" to move to the application verification web portal.
  5. Enter your ID number in the [App Reference Number] field on the first screen and click "NEXT" to verify your eligibility.
  6. Continue to provide the requested information and upload a digital copy of your citizenship documentation.
  7. Upon submitting payment, the Thank You page will direct you to close the new window.
  8. At this point, you will be taken back to the fellowship application Web portal. Click "Continue application" to move on to the next step and complete your application to the fellowship program.
Q: I am completing my doctorate after the application deadline but before the fellowship year starts. Can I still apply? 

No. The degree requirements must be met by November 1. If that is your situation, we hope that you will consider applying next year. NOTE: Our partner scientific and engineering societies sponsoring congressional and executive branch fellowships have different application deadlines and selection criteria. For a list of these societies, please click here.

Q: What if I have completed all of my requirements for my doctorate, but my degree will not be conferred until after November 1?  

You may be eligible. All degree requirements must be completed by November 1, including dissertation defense and any revisions. In addition, your committee chair or equivalent appropriate official must submit a letter verifying that you have satisfied all requirements for the PhD or equivalent degree. The letter must state the official date the degree will be conferred.

Q: May I apply with permanent resident status even though I am not a U.S. citizen?

U.S. citizenship is required to apply for a fellowship via AAAS. A few of our partner societies do accept applications from non-U.S. citizens. To check the requirements of partner societies, click here.

Q: May I apply if I expect to have my citizenship before the fellowship year begins?

Applicants to AAAS must have U.S. citizenship at the time of application. A few of our partner societies do accept applications from non-U.S.citizens. To check the requirements of partner societies, click here

Q: Does AAAS have any fellowship programs for undergraduate or graduate students?

Yes. AAAS also administers the AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellows Program, which places undergraduate and graduate students in media organizations throughout the U.S. for a science journalism experience each summer. 

Q: Why are federal employees not eligible?

The STPF Fellowships are designed to educate about the policy process, and to bring additional scientific knowledge and external perspectives to government decision-making. Federal employees are often already involved in the policy process, and they would not bring external perspectives. Those not in policy-related positions have the opportunity to seek such positions from within the government system. There also are other options for federal employees to arrange exchanges that provide an experience in another agency or on Capitol Hill, such as an IPA (inter-agency personnel agreement). Also, the executive branch fellowships are funded by the hosting agencies and they seek individuals who cannot easily move into the system without a fellowship. NOTE: Some partner societies that sponsor congressional and executive branch fellowships do accept applications from federal employees. 

Q: Are post-docs at federal agencies or national labs eligible?

Yes, except those who hold Title 42 positions. This category conveys the privileges of federal employment, and therefore is not eligible for the STPF Fellowships. Applicants who hold a temporary/term-limited fellowship or post-doc with a federal agency are considered eligible, as are post-docs at national labs who are funded by a federal agency.

Q: I currently work for Congress; am I considered a federal employee?

Yes. Anyone working in a full-time, paid, permanent position at the federal level of government (including the executive, judicial and legislative branches) is considered a federal employee for eligibility purposes.

Q: Are members of the military eligible to apply?

No, members of the active duty military are federal employees and are therefore not eligible. Applicants who have completed their military service and/or are retired from the military are eligible, provided they meet the other eligibility criteria.

Application Questions

Q: What is the application deadline?

The deadline to submit a complete application is November 1 by 11:59 p.m. ET.

Q: How do I prepare a competitive application?

Applicants can improve their chances of gaining a fellowship by reading all sections of this website to ensure an understanding of the fellowship program areas, the eligibility requirements, and the application instructions. Applicants should allow enough time to develop a comprehensive, well-presented, and error-free candidate statement and other documents. It is critical to contact references early to provide them time to prepare thoughtful letters of recommendation. Do not submit documents that exceed the mandated page or word limit. If invited for an interview, prepare to articulate your interests and background, and be able to discuss how your science relates to policy.

Q: May I apply to more than one fellowship program area?

You may apply to up to two fellowship areas via AAAS. Keep in mind that each fellowship area is distinct from the others, with a unique focus and requirements. It is necessary to submit a separate application for each fellowship area. Click here for more information about the program areas. Note: Additional fellowships are available via our science and engineering partner societies

Q: What happens if one or more of my recommendations arrive late or not at all?

All required information must be received by the November 1 deadline. Applications with fewer than three letters are ineligible and will not be forwarded for review.

Q: When will I be notified about the status of my application?

Applicants are notified by email of their status at several points throughout the application and selection processes.

Q: When do selection interviews take place?

Semi-finalists are interviewed in late February-early March by Selection Committees who determine the finalists. Candidates must be available for interviews; there are no exceptions or deferrals.

Q: After selection interviews, if I am eligible for a fellowship, do I have a voice in where I am placed?

Yes. Placements in all the fellowship program areas are joint decisions between the finalist, the interested host office, and AAAS. 

Q: Does AAAS pay travel costs for selection or placement interviews?

Travel is not required for selection interviews -- they are conducted remotely online.

AAAS pays travel, lodging and meal costs for finalists invited for placement interviews. In-person participation in placement interviews is a mandatory requirement to participate in the fellowship program.

Q: Can I reapply for an STPF fellowship?

Yes. AAAS does not impose limits on the number of times a candidate may apply. There are fellows who were selected upon their second or third application.

Q. May I receive feedback on my application or interview?

AAAS does not provide written or verbal feedback on applications or interviews.