General Information

Fellows accept one-year assignments to work in of the offices or bureaus of the U.S. Department of State. Fellows are not “employees” of IEEE, but they are considered employees of the State Department under under 5 USC 3109. Fellows are treated as the equivalent of regular staff in terms of assignments and responsibilities. The fellow independently – but while working with State Department staff during a week in mid-April of every year – seeks out and determines who he/she will work for based upon personal preferences and the opportunities available.

In addition to supporting its own fellowships, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) hosts an umbrella congressional science and engineering fellowship program as a collaboration of approximately 25-30 professional scientific and engineering societies.  The program includes a two-week fellowship orientation in September, as well as opportunities for networking and educational meetings throughout the fellowship year.

Because of the way the two programs are publicized, applicants and fellows are often confused about the distinctions. To clarify, IEEE-USA awards and supports IEEE-USA fellowships.  IEEE-USA has different selection criteria than the AAAS fellowships (including a requirement that the applicant must be an IEEE member in good standing), and an applicant must apply for the IEEE-USA fellowship separately from the AAAS fellowship programs.

Fellows are not employees of IEEE/IEEE-USA and do not receive a salary per se. Fellows do receive a stipend from IEEE-USA (varies depending upon experience and education) to reimburse expenses, plus a relocation allowance of $5,000.  Costs associated with the fellow’s required attendance at the annual interview week in April and the AAAS orientation in September are reimbursed by IEEE-USA independently of the stipend.

IEEE-USA does not provide benefits, including health benefits. The State Department provides some benefits such as transit reimbursements. Many employers find the Washington experience to be of value and will continue providing benefits.  If you do not have benefits from an employer, you may wish to retain your own. A number of options are available to IEEE members through IEEE Member Discounts.

The fellowship agreement supports a one-year assignment. A fellow may negotiate changes in the fellowship duration with the Government Fellows Committee on a case by case basis. If necessary and requested by the host, fellowships may be lengthened or shortened. Although if lengthened, no additional financial contribution is available from IEEE-USA. If shortened, stipends will be adjusted. If agreed upon by the State Department, and resources permitting, fellows could be offered the opportunity to renew for a second year.

No. The Government Fellows Committee looks favorably at applicants who have relevant experience or can demonstrate an understanding of the policy-making process. However, the primary purpose of IEEE-USA’s fellowship is to provide a unique educational experience for the fellow. Our hope is that fellows will use that experience to become more involved and to help educate their colleagues and others about the policy process and how individuals can effectively contribute.  IEEE-USA also expects that fellows will be an effective source of advice and assistance to their sponsor.

IEEE-USA does not recruit fellows from specific technical backgrounds.  However, in evaluating a fellowship application, IEEE-USA will consider the fellow’s technical experience.

The fellowship year runs for one year, beginning in September.

Application Process

Yes, you must be a U.S. citizen.

To be considered for an IEEE-USA Engineering & Diplomacy Fellowship, applicants must submit an application confirming the following basic eligibility requirements:

  • Applicants must be a Member of IEEE (which includes those in graduate student membership status) in good standing at the time of application.
  • Applicants must possess a Ph.D. by the time the fellowship starts, or a Masters Degree plus five (5) years of relevant professional experience. The degree must be granted by a recognized program in a subject field that falls with the science, engineering, computer, or allied disciplines eligible for IEEE membership. In exceptional cases, the Masters or Ph.D. requirement may be waived by the Government Fellowship Committee for candidates with compensating experience. Work experience must consist of relevant professional employment and does not include internships or student-related employment.
  • An applicant must be a U.S. citizen at the time of application or, at the latest, prior to selection.
  • Applicant must possess or be able to obtain a security clearance prior to the beginning of the fellowship.

In addition to these basic eligibility criteria, the Government Fellows Committee considers the following factors when evaluating fellowship applications:

  • Education
  • Professional/Business Experience
  • Public Service/Public Policy Experience
  • IEEE Volunteer Activities
  • Communication Skills
  • Fellowship Goal/Objective
  • Overall Suitability for fellowship (flexibility, adaptability, open-mindedness, confidence, maturity, professionalism, etc.)

These are not weighted criteria, but are part of a holistic review and evaluation of the candidate based on the written application and interview.

IEEE-USA does not restrict applications by IEEE U.S. members who are Federal employees. Employees should note however, that many government agencies (including branches of the military services) have policies and programs in place regarding fellowships and may not support participation in non-governmental fellowship programs. Over the years, IEEE-USA has had a number of applicants from military backgrounds who were denied permission to participate by their military superiors at very late stages of the application process. For that reason, IEEE-USA prefers that federal employees investigate their organization’s policies and processes before applying for an IEEE-USA fellowship.

The Government Fellows Committee, which is comprised of six volunteers selected for their knowledge of Washington and the public policy/legislative process, at least three of whom are former fellows.

The Fellows Committee reviews the written applications and then selects a number (typically 3-5 for each available fellowship) of finalists for face-to-face interviews. At our expense, IEEE-USA brings the finalists to Washington for an interview with the Government fellows Committee. Finalists must be able to attend the interview in person.  Rescheduling the face-to-face interview is not an option.

Based on the application and interview and immediately following the interviews, the Government Fellows Committee recommends candidates for the fellowships and presents the names to the IEEE-USA Board for final approval.  A fellowship offer is then made.

After the fellow accepts the offer, a fellowship agreement is finalized so that the fellow can attend a week of interviews and meetings at State Department in mid-April, and begin to prepare for a move to DC and the 2-week AAAS fellowship orientation in early September.

Following your interview, you will know almost immediately whether or not you have a fellowship offer. Thus, you will need to begin preparing for a move to Washington. In mid-April, you will spend approximately a week in DC, interviewing and meeting with State Department offices.

Each fellow is required to participate in a two-week orientation organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in September.  The AAAS orientation introduces the fellow to the legislative process, the federal budget, important S&T policy issues, the nature of the fellowship experience, and the resources available to fellows. Following orientation, you will immediately begin your fellowship year.

After the Fellowship

Although there is no service obligation, IEEE-USA encourages fellowship alumni to join IEEE-USA public policy committees.   IEEE-USA hopes to benefit from the knowledge and interests of the fellows alumni.  And many alumni find volunteering to be a rewarding way to continue pursuing their interest in public policy and legislative issues.

Fellows who are from academic backgrounds mostly return to their universities and use their fellowship experience to enrich their classrooms.

Mid-career fellows may be at a point of career transition. Some return to their company, others transition to new positions in their companies (some have been assigned to the corporation’s Washington office or detailed to work with related trade associations), and others move on to new employers. A few accept permanent staff positions in Congress or executive branch agencies. One IEEE-USA Congressional fellow served for a number of years as Staff Director of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee (now called the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs). Another fellow joined the staff of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Research and Development after his fellowship, before transitioning to a post with Congress’ U.S. Government Accountability Office. A State Department Fellow was offered a permanent position at the agency before his fellowship year had completed.

In surveys of the fellows alumni, many report that the fellowship experience provided a stepping stone to a more fulfilling and rewarding career path. Even those that return to their previous engineering career paths agree that the experience helped enhance their careers. Most cite the skills learned (writing, briefing non-engineers on S&T matters, communicating, knowledge of the legislative process), as well as the usefulness of contacts made while in Washington.

Staff Contact

Erica Wissolik
Program Manager, Government Activities
Phone: 202-530-8347