Skip to main content

New to NCI: Information for New Trainees and Fellows

Credit: iStock

Welcome to NCI - we're excited that you are here. These materials support your NCI fellowship orientation.

Trainee Orientations

To welcome you to the NIH, trainee orientations are held monthly on both the Bethesda and Frederick campuses, usually once per quarter. 

To register, ask your Administrator Officer (AO) to sign you up for the orientation. Administrative information is required on the registration site. You will receive a confirmation email with logistical information the week before the orientation.

The general orientation session presents an overview of the NCI organizational structure/policies and NCI computer services. Orientation for fellows whose lab is on the Bethesda campus (Bethesda Fellows) is held in conjunction with the general NCI Orientation. Orientation for fellows whose lab is on the Frederick campus (Frederick Fellows) addresses fellow-specific topics and includes an FYI Committee presentation.                          

Each orientation will provide you with information on Fellowship awards (including stipends, taxes, and benefits), non-FTE policies, and information about the CCR Fellows and Young Investigators (FYI) Committee members activities/training opportunities.

Navigating Your Career Workshop 

To help you maximize your time at the NCI and ensure you are prepared for your next career stage, you can attend the bi-annual Navigating Your Career Workshop.  During this session, you will have an opportunity to speak with representatives from the Training office and gain insight into scientific and training resources that can support your career goals.   You can also use this as an opportunity get clarity on any outstanding training questions.

Rules and Regulations

Most fellows who come to NIH are familiar with working in a university setting. However, working for the federal government is different in many ways, and oftentimes, fellows may not realize that all government employees, including non-FTE trainees, are required to abide by ethical guidelines regarding leave, awards, travel, and outside activities. Please see the current Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA) manual for more information, including stipends.  The NIH Visiting Fellow Program (VFP) is a separate fellowship with distinct policies administered by the NIH Division of International Services.  Please see the NIH Intramural Visiting Fellow Program Policies for more information.  Many outside employment or participation in outside activities must be approved by your Supervisor.  Please review the NIH Guidelines for non-FTEs and the Ethics Outside Activity Chart for more detailed information.

See Ethics Outside Activity Chart for more details.

Trainee Benefits

Health, dental, and vision insurance (either an individual or family plan) are provided by the NCI to trainees with appointments greater than 60 days.  The current health insurance provider is AETNA Signature PPO and the current vision/dental insurance provider is MetLife.  Both plans are administered by the Foundation for the Advanced Education in Science (FAES) – located on the First Floor in Building 10 in room 1N241.  You must enroll in the provided plan (or show proof of alternative coverage) within the first 30 days of your appointment.  Since this is bundled coverage, there is no option to opt out of any one portion of the plan.  To learn more about the enrollment process and complete your form, please visit the enrollment page on the FAES website.

See FAES Election Form for more details.

Retirement Benefits

Fellows are not considered government employees, and therefore, are not eligible for Federal retirement benefits.

Excused Absences (applies to both CRTA Fellows and Visiting Fellows)

  • Vacation/Sick Leave: Fellows are not employees and so they do not earn annual or sick leave. However, at the discretion of the mentor, a Fellow may be excused for the following: 1) Federal holidays, 2) illness, 3) personal emergencies, and 4) vacations when awards are for more than 90 days.  Fellows should receive a minimum of two weeks excused absence annually for vacations.  For Visiting Fellows, DIS must be notified and concur with extended absences of over five weeks in order to avoid violation of immigration.
  • Travel: Payment of travel to attend scientific meetings or to train at a remote site is at the discretion of the NCI and is subject to availability of funds.  This process generally takes several months of advance planning and requires approval by your advisor.
  • Maternity Leave: Fellows will be granted paid leave, full time, excused absence for the birth or adoption of a child, with flexibility being determined by the mentor.  See CRTA manual for details.

Additional NIH Amenities

NIH offers many amenities that are available to trainees, such as a parking permit OR metro benefits, campus shuttles, and several child and family programs that assist with child or adult care.  Visit the Division of Amenities and Transportation Services to learn more about these and other programs.

See Child and Family Programs flyer for more details.

Electronic Individual Development Plan (eIDP)

To assist you along your career path, you are required to complete an Individual Development Plan (IDP). NCI has implemented an electronic Individual Development Plan (eIDP), which has replaced the paper training plan.  The eIDP is designed to help you to organize and summarize your research projects and related deliverables (like manuscripts and talks), set training goals and expectations based on your research and career aspirations, and track your progress throughout your fellowship.  You will receive an automated email from the eIDP system when it is time to complete your training plan. 

For additional information about the eIDP, please refer to the FAQs, at-a-glance overview, or the eIDP User Guide.  A Brief Guide for completing your initial eIDP will help you get started.  If you have any questions, please contact one of the eIDP coordinators at

Stipend and Tax Information

Fellows are paid monthly through the Fellowship Payment System (FPS), always on the first business day of the month. Stipends are set in accordance with the stipend categories, which can be found in Appendix 1 of the Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA) manual.

Federal and state taxes are not withheld from your stipends; you are required to file quarterly estimated tax payments to the IRS and to the specific state in which you reside while you are working at NIH. The procedures for filing quarterly estimated Federal taxes can be found using Publication 505 (2018), Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax. A 1099G tax form will be distributed to you by late January/early February.  IRS Publication 17 can also provide useful introductory information about Federal Taxes.  The procedures for filing estimated state taxes can be found by visiting the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C tax websites.

For Visiting Fellows, Federal taxes are withheld unless your home country is exempted by a tax treaty with the US. However, state taxes are not withheld from your stipends, so you are required to file quarterly estimated tax payments to the state. A 1042S tax form will be distributed to you by mid-March. To learn more about tax exemptions and learn which countries have treaties, visit the NIH Division of International Services section on United States Income Taxes.

Links to Additional 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., “New to NCI: Information for New Trainees and Fellows was originally published by the National Cancer Institute.”