Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can you provide a brief overview of the FDA Commissioner’s Fellowship Program?
Answer: The Fellowship combines graduate-level training and a mentored regulatory science research project. For more information please visit the FDA Commissioner's Fellowship Program website.
2. How long is the FDA Commissioner’s Fellowship Program?
Answer: The FDA Commissioner’s Fellowship is a two-year program. Fellows are hired as term FDA employees whose appointment cannot exceed two years.
3. Is it a full-time program?
Answer: Yes, this is a full-time program.
4. What is the start date?
Answer: Fellows will start in October of each year.
5. Can an applicant be offered a Fellowship, but defer for a year?
6. What are the locations for the Fellowship Program?
Answer: Most of the Fellows will be located in White Oak, Maryland. Other Fellows will be placed at FDA campuses in Rockville, College Park, or Laurel, Maryland. Fellows working on projects at the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) will work in Jefferson, Arkansas. The specific location for each project is posted with the description. Many of the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) projects are located outside the DC metro area.
7. Can Preceptors in addition to those posted on the website accept Commissioner’s Fellows?
Answer: No, only those Preceptors found on this website are eligible to receive a Commissioner’s Fellow.
8. How are Preceptors selected?
Answer: Preceptors are chosen by their respective Centers/Offices based on the science priorities of the Agency, as well as the Preceptors’ commitment and ability to mentor a Fellow, among other things.
9. How often are alternate Preceptors matched with a Fellow?
Answer: Applicants will be placed with an alternate Preceptor if a primary project fails to elicit a match. It is advised that applicants rank primary projects ahead of alternate projects within the online application.
10. Upon completion of the Commissioner’s Fellowship Program, can a former Fellow apply to become a Preceptor?
Answer: Yes, if the Fellow has the support of their Center/Office they may apply to become a Preceptor. The potential Preceptor’s entire professional history will be considered.
11. Once selected, can a Fellow change Preceptors? What if we do not get along with our Preceptor?
Answer: If you encounter problems with your Preceptor, you can work with the Fellowship program staff to help resolve those issues. FDA has employee resources available to help resolve such conflicts. In general, Fellows are not permitted to change Preceptors.
12. Can Fellows switch projects?
Answer: No. You can not switch projects. However, the projects are not set in stone but are dynamic. Your proposals are living documents that will change and be modified as the project progresses. You will work with your Preceptor to develop a project that suits both your needs and the needs of the Agency.
13. If I can not finish the project, is there an extension?
Answer: There is no option to extend the Fellowship beyond the two years. Project proposals are evaluated by a review committee early in the program and they will ensure that the project has a reasonable likelihood of being completed in the two-year timeframe.
14. Can Fellows publish within FDA?
Answer: Yes, Fellows will have many opportunities to publish if they so desire and it fits with their project’s goals.
15. Can Fellows join and retain scientific memberships while at FDA?
Answer: Yes. You are able to join and maintain your memberships in scientific and professional organization. However, the Agency will not pay for membership dues or other fees.
16. Is there a chance to go on a developmental assignment if needed? (i.e. work in a different FDA Center)
Answer: While developmental assignments are not considered part of the fellowship program, if working in another Office or Center would benefit your project and your Preceptor agrees, a developmental assignment may be arranged.
17. How are Fellows evaluated?
Answer: Fellows will undergo a formal performance evaluation once every six months. This evaluation will be similar to the performance evaluation that all FDA employees undergo, but tailored to the unique aspects of the Fellowship. This performance evaluation will be conducted by the Preceptor and Fellowship Program Office.
18. Can Fellows be fired?
Answer: Yes. Fellows are considered temporary federal employees and must follow all applicable federal and Agency laws, rules, and policies for employees. Failure to do so will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination from employment.
19. Do FDA Commissioner's Fellows have to abide by Agency-wide conflict of interest or ethics rules?
Answer: Fellows will be subject to all of FDA's conflict of interest and ethics rules. Applicants will be required to complete FDA financial disclosure forms, abide by FDA non-disclosure and confidentiality rules, and attend FDA staff orientation. If the applicant, his/her spouse, and/or minor children have stock in Significantly Regulated Organizations, such as pharmaceutical or medical device companies, or the applicant has grants from such entities, the ability to participate in this Fellowship may be compromised. Under FDA regulations, stock in such entities generally must be divested within 120 days of joining the agency. For more information, please refer to the FDA Ethics Program website.
20. What are examples of experiences offered by the program that I cannot get working elsewhere at FDA?
Answer: Unlike most new employees in the FDA, Commissioner’s Fellow’s have the opportunity to learn about all of the FDA, not just the Center that they work in. Fellows are given a generous training budget that allows them to attend conferences and additional courses. Fellows also interact with senior leaders across the Agency.
21. What is the potential for being hired at the FDA after the Fellowship?
Answer: The purpose of this Fellowship is to provide an opportunity for the best and the brightest to learn about FDA regulatory science. The FDA expects to retain many Fellows from each class; however, there are no guaranteed positions. From the inaugural class of Fellows, 78 percent stayed with the Agency. Fellows not remaining with the FDA will be well-qualified for employment in industry or academia where the knowledge and perspective they gained at FDA will prove invaluable. From the inaugural class of Fellows, 12 percent found positions is academia or industry.
22. Where can I get more information about the program?
Answer: For more information please visit the FDA Commissioner's Fellowship Program website.
23. Who is eligible to apply?
Answer: Applicants cannot be current FDA employees, FDA contractors (such as ORISE Fellows), or commissioned officers of the Public Health Service. Applicants must have a Doctoral level degree (M.D., D.O., D.V.M., D.D.S., D.P.M., Pharm. D., Dr.P.h., or Ph.D.) to be eligible. Applicants with a Bachelor’s degree in an engineering discipline are also eligible to apply. Applicants must have received their doctoral degree within 7 years of the start date. Applicants who have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in an engineering discipline may also apply, and applicants must have received their degree within 7 years of the start date. NOTE: All degree requirements (including thesis defense) must be complete before applying.
24. What are the citizenship requirements?
Answer: Applicants must be U.S. Citizens, non-citizen nationals of the U.S., or have been admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence and have a valid green card number before applying to the program.
25. I will complete all the requirements for my Doctoral level degree a few months after the scheduled program start date. Can I still apply?
Answer: No, all degree requirements (including thesis defense) must be complete before applying.
26. Do M.D.s have to be licensed?
27. Must M.D.s have completed a residency program?
Answer: No, it is not a requirement that M.D.s have completed a residency program.
28. Do individuals with foreign degrees need any special accreditation?
Answer: Yes, with your application materials please provide a copy of the degree verification. More information can be found at http://www.opm.gov/qualifications/sec-ii/s2-e6.asp.
29. How do I apply?
Answer: Please visit the FDA Commissioner's Fellowship Program website for the most up-to-date application instructions.
30. What is the deadline to apply?
Answer: Please refer to the “Key Dates” section on our website for application deadlines.
31. Will there be an interview process?
Answer: Yes, potential Fellows will be contacted for on-site interviews. Interviews will occur in the summer prior to the program start date. Again, please view the key dates section for a more specific timeline.
32. Will references be contacted?
Answer: Yes, we will contact references and provide guidance regarding letter of recommendation submission. Please note, three letters of reference are required in order to be considered for the program.
33. Who makes the final decisions, and on what criteria are they based?
Answer: Selections will be made by the Preceptors, the Fellowship Advisory Board, and the Fellowship Program staff based on submitted recommendations, applications, and the interview. The decisions will be based on past professional and academic experience, commitment to furthering the FDA’s mission, the FDA’s current or emerging Agency priorities, and leadership potential.
34. May I contact a Preceptor if I need more information regarding their proposed research project?
Answer: Yes, you may contact a Preceptor if you need clarification on their proposed project. Please note that all official program correspondence will originate from the Fellowship Program Office. Preceptors cannot make offers to potential Fellows, nor can they provide status updates.
35. When will Applicants be notified?
Answer: All applicants will be notified via email when all reference letters have been successfully uploaded into their application. Applicants will also be notified of their status on a rolling basis. All applicants will be notified by August 31.
36. Can current Fellows be contacted by applicants?
Answer: Yes, applicants may contact current Fellows. Please note that all official program correspondence will originate from the Fellowship Program Office.
37. What is the stipend/pay?
Answer: Salaries will be determined based on the applicants background (education, experience, area of expertise, etc.) and will be equal to others in the FDA with similar backgrounds. Exact salary amounts will only be provided to those applicants who receive tentative offer letters.
38. Will Fellows receive benefits?
Answer: Fellows will receive an excellent benefits package including health insurance, retirement investment options, and vacation leave. Applications for benefits, such as health insurance, are submitted during orientation and are processed within two weeks. Health insurance is not effective until the required forms have been processed. For more information, please visit the Working at FDA website.
39. Is their an additional budget for training/equipment purchases while participating in the fellowship?
Answer: Fellows are allocated a supply stipend each year for equipment, training, travel, and laboratory supplies. Use of these funds must have prior approval of your Preceptor.
40. How much travel is required as part of the Fellowship?
Answer: The amount of travel varies depending on the project. This could include both local and long-distance travel. You and your Preceptor will develop a plan for your training and travel that fits within your budget. You will have the opportunity to attend conferences related to your project.
41. Is there a housing allowance or relocation assistance?
42. Can I work from home?
Answer: The FDA has a Flexible Workplace Arrangements Program (FWAP) that allows employees to work from home. Employees need approval to work from home and approval is granted on a case-by-case basis. Each Center/Office/Division has its own FWAP policies. Thus, the ability to work from home will depend on the type of work you will be doing, the policy of your workplace, and your Preceptor.
43. Is there a student loan repayment program?
Answer: No, however, the FDA Commissioner's Fellowship may qualify as a valid fellowship for those who have Direct Federal Medical School Loans and want to apply for the loan deferment program.