Undergraduate and Graduate Opportunities at NSF


How’s your summer going? Too early to start thinking about next summer? What about winter or spring break? We don’t think so! Be sure and share these opportunities with your undergraduates, graduate students, and recent graduates.

Summer Scholars: undergraduate and graduate internships at NSF

NSF hosts about 20 Summer Scholars for 10 weeks during the summer. NSF Program Officers serve as mentors and create a work plan for the student. That work plan is submitted to the NSF Summer Scholars Program for approval and then those internships are advertised through 3 organizations; the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), the Quality Education for Minorities Network (QEM), and the Washington Internships for Native Students (WINS). Students need to apply through one of those three associations, not to NSF.

This internship program is designed to serve under-represented students. The purpose is to give students the opportunity to see what it’s like to serve within the Federal sector as well as encourage students to pursue advanced studies in STEM.

As for compensation, summer scholarships can include housing and stipends for undergraduate and graduate students.

REU Sites: research experiences for undergraduates

If students would rather do research at a University lab than work at a Federal agency, they can apply to an REU Site. REU Sites receive funding from NSF to engage undergraduate students in research. Like the Summer Scholar Program, students don’t apply through NSF but have to contact an REU Site directly and apply with that particular site. A list of REU Sites can be found here.

REU Supplements: research experiences for undergraduates

Investigators currently receiving funding from NSF for awards can apply for REU Supplements. Supplements are designed to give undergraduates a genuine research experience similar to REU Site experiences but instead of being offered through an institution, supplements are managed by NSF-funded investigators. Students must seek out those supplement opportunities through active awards, reaching out to labs and inquiring if they have applied (or are planning to apply) for supplements, or paying attention to their local college or university job board.

Stipends for REU students vary depending on location and project but they generally range between $6,000-8,000 and last between 6-10 weeks.

Special Programs for Undergraduates

Here’s a collection of special programs that provide either direct (i.e., from NSF) or indirect (i.e., from an awardee institution) funding for students interested in training and curricula development. They vary in application processes, stipends, and objectives so read them carefully and don’t hesitate to reach out to the program contacts listed on the program webpages.

Pathways: internships and fellowships at Federal agencies

Maybe Federal service is where your heart is, after all. If that’s the case, you’ll need to apply through the USAJobs portal. Of course, you can apply for any federal government job that you qualify for, but there are specific programs that help students and recent graduates get their foot in the door.

  1. There’s the Pathways Internship Program for current students.
  2. The Recent Graduates Program for, you guessed it, recent graduates.
  3. And the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program for those with an advanced degree (Masters or PhD).

Pathways interns and PMFs earn an annual salary that varies by agency and location. Some Federal agencies may also offer internships outside of the Pathways Program but those are generally unpaid.