Skip to main content

Career Planning for Trainees and Fellows

Credit: iStock

To help you make the most of your training experience, the NCI and NIH offer a number resources for trainees to gain experience in both their technical and professional skills required for a successful career. While the skills below are listed in separate career tracks, knowledge and experience gained by each of these opportunities is transferable and can build a foundation for success in any field.

Career Planning at NCI and NIH

The Center for Cancer Training supports training and career development for cancer researchers working nationwide and in the NIH intramural program:

  • Develop and conduct training courses and career development workshops
  • Provide trainees with mentoring opportunities and collaborative interactions
  • Assist trainees as they transition into academic positions or alternative career paths

The Office of Intramural Training Education (OITE) enhances the training experience of students and fellows on all the NIH campuses. Career Services focuses on meeting the career development needs of trainees across all Institutes and Centers at the NIH. A summary of the topics and areas that Career Services focuses on can be found below.

In each section below, you will find training opportunities that will help you either obtain or hone both the core competencies and additional related skills. The National Postdoctoral Association’s (NPA) identifies six core competencies that contribute to a successful career: 1) discipline-specific conceptual knowledge, 2) research skill development, 3) communication skills, 4) professionalism, 5) leadership and management skills, and 6) responsible conduct of research. These six areas serve as a basis for self-evaluation, as well as a basis for developing training opportunities. In each section below, you will find training opportunities that will help you either obtain or hone both the core competencies and additional related skills.

Academic Careers

Interested in a career in academia? There are a number of resources to prepare you for tenure track. Evaluating your readiness for a career as an independent scientist using the Academic Career Readiness Assessment is a great way to begin determining where your skills could be improved, and preparing an Individual Development Plan can help you to begin setting specific goals.

There are a number of opportunities here at NIH to help you attain skills that will prepare you for academic careers.

Communication Skills

NCI Fellows Seminar Series

Fellows PASS (Presentation Skills Seminar) – Bethesda
PASS (Presentation and Seminar Skills) is a 2-part monthly series that is open to all CCR scientists. Participants are given the opportunity to both practice and polish their presentation skills.  For more information or to sign up, contact Sarwat Naz.

Postdoc Seminar Series – Frederick
The Frederick National Lab Postdoc Seminar Series is a bi-weekly series that provides fellows the opportunity to hone their scientific communication skills while receiving constructive feedback on their science and presentation from their peers and from principal investigators. For more information contact Kathy Easterday.

You should also present your work at branch meetings, scientific meetings, and conferences such as

NIH Fellows Editorial Board Submissions

The NIH Fellows Editorial Board offers a free, confidential scientific document-editing service for any current NIH or FDA fellow. The all-volunteer Editorial Board of fellows and other professionals edit fellows’ scientific documents—typically manuscripts and grant applications—for grammar, form, and clarity.

Writing and Publishing a Scientific Paper Workshop

This four-week, writing-intensive workshop is designed for NIH trainees and biomedical scientists at all levels. Participants will write a draft of a research paper based on data generated from their current or previous study for publication in a peer-reviewed science journal.

Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) English Language Resources
If you need help learning to master the English language, there are a number resources that can assist you. It is essential for scientists and clinicians to improve their communication skills to move forward in their careers. Please visit the OITE website on U.S. English and culture for a list of opportunities.

Leadership and Management

Sallie Rosen Kaplan Postdoctoral Fellowship (SRK)
The SRK Fellowship is a highly competitive, unpaid, annual, one-year program that provides additional mentoring opportunities, networking, seminars, and workshops to help prepare NCI’s female postdoctoral fellows for the competitive nature of the job market and help them to transition to independent research careers.

Diversity Career Development Program
The Diversity Career Development Program (DCDP) was designed to provide NCI intramural postdoctoral trainees from underrepresented groups leadership skills and tools to meet with success in independent research careers. Acceptance into DCDP is based on mentor nomination, as the program requires approximately two-hours a week over the course of 10 months.

Scientific Management Training
The Scientific Management Training course, offered by CCT, focuses on personnel and project management. The goal of this course is to help you develop the skills you need to successfully lead a scientific research laboratory.

Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) Leadership and Management Training
The OITE has developed a set of workshops and resources to help you be a better leader and manager, deal with conflicts, and thrive in a team environment. The topics have all been developed with a focus on science, using examples taken straight from research groups. Trainees who complete all sessions are eligible for a certificate of completion.

Grant and Award Opportunities

There are several opportunities for fellows to obtain grant writing experience. Both NCI and OTE provide workshops on grant writing, which are communicated via email, so be sure to sign up for the appropriate listservs. The opportunities listed below either provide funding for travel or assist in the transition to an independent career.  For information on grants and the CCR approval process, please consult:  For DCEG approval process, please contact Jackie Lavigne (

NCI Director’s Intramural Innovation Award Program
The NCI Director’s Intramural Innovation Award Program is designed to support development of highly innovative approaches and technology aimed at significant problems from across the CCR portfolio. Proposals are encouraged which explore novel concepts with the potential for high impact, have the potential to generate new intellectual property or technology, are considered too high-risk or preliminary to pursue within the base budget allocation, or focus on health disparities research.

Fellows Award for Research (FARE)
The FARE award is sponsored by the NIH Fellows Committee, Scientific Directors, and the NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education, and is funded by the Scientific Directors. Fellows submit an abstract of their research, which is peer reviewed in a blind study section competition. FARE applications are accepted every year in February and March. The authors of the 25% of abstracts that receive the highest scores are recognized as FARE winners. Winners of FARE awards will each receive a $1000 stipend to attend a scientific meeting at which they will present their abstract, either as a poster or an oral presentation.

Career Transition Award (K22)
The K22 award provides support to outstanding newly trained basic or clinical investigators to develop their independent research skills through a two-phase program; an initial period involving and intramural appointment at the NIH and a final period of support at an extramural institution.

NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00)
The K99/R00 award helps outstanding postdoctoral researchers complete needed mentored training and transition to independent, tenure-track or equivalent faculty positions in a timely manner.

Careers in Industry or Government

Want a career at the bench, but prefer industry over academia? Many jobs in industry require some previous experience in the field or additional training. You may want to consider obtaining additional training or taking business/industry related courses at the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences (FAES).


Business of Science for Scientists
This SciPhD certificate program help you get business-ready by teaching skills valued by professional organizations. The skills taught during the course are specific to teach business and social skills necessary to be competitive and successful in the professional marketplace.

Project Management Training for Scientists
This training workshop, offered by BioTech at FAES focuses on techniques used routinely in industries and government/contract research laboratories. Go in-dephth about scientific management and project management, learning skills for government and industry labs.

FAES Course Catalog
Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences (FAES) has a variety of courses to help you to expand your knowledge and gain experience in areas relevant to the business world. Below are some examples of courses offered.

CHEM 327 The Art of Drug Design and Discovery
TECH 565 Biomedical Business Development for Scientists
TECH 566 Building a Biotech Company: Business Leadership and Management Strategies

Regulatory Affairs

Would you like to stay in government? Are you interested in pursuing a career at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)? There are several ways you can get regulatory experience while at the NIH.

Interagency Oncology Task Force (IOTF) Fellowship
The Interagency Oncology Task Force Fellowship program trains scientists in research and research-related regulatory review, policies, and regulations to develop a skill set that bridges the two disparate processes.

Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences (FAES) has courses that provide insight into the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory affairs and drug evaluation. Some examples are listed below.

PHAR 328 FDA Perspective on Drug Development
TECH 495 The FDA: Science, Health Policy, and Regulation in an Uncertain Environment
TECH 508 Regulatory Affairs and FDA Regulation
TECH 588 FDA Regulatory Strategy in Medical Product Development
TECH 525 Legal and Ethical Issues in Public Health and Biomedical Sciences
TECH 528 Preclinical Evaluation of Novel Drugs and Beyond

Careers Away from the Bench

Interested in pursuing a career away from the bench? If you are unsure about the opportunities that are available, there are several programs that provide information and opportunities for networking with individuals in a variety of fields. OITE also offers career counseling that can help guide you along this process, from identifying the best career for you to helping you negotiate your offer. To schedule an appointment, please visit the OITE Career Services page.

NCI Explore On Site (EXPOSE) Program (NIH credentials needed)
The NCI Explore On Site (EXPOSE) program provides tools and resources to enable fellows to identify a career(s) that matches their skills, interests, and values, while providing opportunities to visit local employers. The program combines preparatory workshops with external site visits to local companies and organizations spanning multiple sectors over the course of two months in the spring and summer.  This program is for current NCI intramural postdoctoral fellows only.

NCI Non-Academic Jobs for Fellows in Law Firms, Patent and Trademark Office and Scientific Intellectual Property (NJFLF)
This workshop helps CCR fellows and staff scientists learn about and better position themselves for potential job opportunities at law firms, patent and trademark, and intellectual property protection across the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.

NCI Preparing for Science Based Non-Traditional Careers
This weekly workshop aims to help participants learn about the various career opportunities that lie outside of independent academic research. Given these may include unfamiliar roles outside of traditional bench science, we invite guest speakers from various science-based backgrounds to provide information and insight that will help inform decisions about potential future endeavors.

NIH Detail Assignments
NIH offers a mechanism called a detail, in which you can explore non-bench careers in any government agency in areas such as science administration, science policy, science writing, and technology transfer. A detail can be part-time or full-time, but you must have the full support of your PI, and an agreement between your PI and the hosting office, as your PI typically pays for your salary during this time. For additional information about obtaining a detail, please read “Details, Details, Details: Leaving the Bench, but Staying in Science” by Ben Porter.

Many detail assignments arise informally, either through networking or informational interviews. However, there are several offices that routinely offer details and have information for specific opportunities readily available in the NIH Sourcebook.

NIH Fellowships
These NIH fellowships provide a way for scientists to gain skills in tech transfer, science policy, science administration and other careers.

CCR Fellows and Young Investigators (FYI) Colloquium
The CCR-FYI Colloquium is held every spring at the NCI Shady Grove Campus in Rockville, MD. The FYI Colloquium is open to all NCI fellows and trainees, including postdoctoral fellows, clinical fellows, post- baccalaureate fellows, and graduate students. Registration and awards are generously funded by the CCR Office of the Director.

OITE Career Symposium
The Annual NIH Career Symposium aims to highlight the diversity of career choices available to your generation of biomedical researchers. Whether you are a new graduate student, postdoc, or clinical fellow just beginning to consider career options or a senior student/fellow ready to look for a job, the NIH Career Symposium is for you.

Communication Skills

NCI CCR-FYI Newsletter
Gain experience in writing communication for non-academic audiences by submitting an article for publication in the quarterly CCR-FYI newsletter. For more details, contact Manasi Apte.

Writing Resources at NIH
Are you interested in improving your scientific writing skills or gaining experience in writing communication for non-academic audiences? There are several NIH resources available to trainees to improve and enhance writing skills. Trainees are encouraged to take advantage of these resources.


NIH Scientific Interest Groups (SIGs) are assemblies of scientists with common research interests. Joining a SIG is a great way to network with other NIH scientists and investigators from outside institutions while coming together to discuss science. Visit the Get Involved! page to learn more about these networking opportunities at NIH.

Jobs Boards

Visit the OITE jobs page for updated listings
Check out job listings at Science Careers
Check out CancerCareers, powered by AACR
Check out job postings on the National Postdoctoral Association jobs board

BHI is a Rockville, MD-based innovation intermediary that translates market-relevant research into commercial success by connecting management, funding, and markets. BHI also hosts a jobs board, compiling numerous employment opportunities at a number of companies in the DMV area.  

Additional Career Development Resources

  • Updated:

If you would like to reproduce some or all of this content, see Reuse of NCI Information for guidance about copyright and permissions. In the case of permitted digital reproduction, please credit the National Cancer Institute as the source and link to the original NCI product using the original product's title; e.g., “Career Planning for Trainees and Fellows was originally published by the National Cancer Institute.”