USAID Democracy Fellows and Grants Program | About the Fellows Program

The Fellows Program

Fellowships offered through USAID’s Democracy Fellows and Grants Program place experienced technical specialists within USAID to support USAID’s policy and programs in the democracy, human rights, and governance fields. Fellowships become available according to USAID’s needs and are advertised on the DFG website. To be notified of new Fellowships, interested applicants are encouraged to join the DFG Mailing List.

Democracy Fellows represent a wide range of technical specialties and academic and professional skills, in areas as diverse as transitional justice, disability rights, social media, impact evaluation, and more. Visit the Current Fellows page to learn more about current Fellows and their work on the DFG program.

The DFG program offers different types of Democracy Fellowships: full-time, part-time, and short-term. The type of Fellowship depends on USAID’s specific needs, and is published with each Fellowship opportunity. Full-time Democracy Fellows are hired as salaried IIE staff with benefits; initial appointment is generally for one or two years, with the possibility of extension dependent on performance and funding. Most short-term or part-time Fellows are hired as consultants, allowing scholars or students with long-term commitments to other academic and research institutions to contribute to building USAID’s technical leadership in democracy promotion. 

Each Democracy Fellowship has its own set of specific qualifications, published with the Fellowship opportunity. General eligibility criteria for all Democracy Fellows include:

  • US citizenship or US Permanent Resident status (provided there are no security restrictions).
  • Ability to receive a US national security clearance, as required.
  • A completed advanced degree (Masters, JD, or PhD) in a relevant field.
  • Applicants for full-time Fellowships must not have worked inside USAID as a technical professional (Direct-Hire, Non-Direct Hire, PSC) for more than five years, cumulatively, prior to starting a fellowship.
  • Applicants must not have worked as a fellow on any USAID-funded fellowship program for a cumulative total of four years.
  • Fellowships become available according to USAID’s needs and will be advertised on the DFG website. To be notified of new Fellowships, interested applicants are encouraged to join the DFG Mailing List.
  • Applicants will be contacted only if they are shortlisted to a specific Fellowship, typically one to three weeks after the application deadline. Shortlisted candidates can expect at least two rounds of interviews with IIE and the sponsoring USAID unit before a final selection is made.
  • IIE nominates and USAID selects candidates who best meet the qualifications for specific Fellowships. Selection is based on the needs of the sponsoring USAID unit.
  • In most cases, a proposed Fellow must be granted eligibility for a security clearance before starting his or her Fellowship. The DFG team will guide and support Fellows through the process of obtaining a clearance, but IIE does not approve clearances. The process may take anywhere from one to eight weeks, or more, after the submission of paperwork.  

Full-time Democracy Fellows are hired as salaried IIE staff with benefits.

Salary is based on documented salary history and is subject to US Government restrictions.

Benefits: Full-time or part-time Fellows who are engaged as IIE employees may elect medical, dental, life, and total disability coverage and are eligible for paid time off. They will also have access to professional development funds .  After one year of service, Fellows are eligible for retirement benefits and student loan assistance programs .

Short-term and part-time Fellows who are engaged as IIE consultants are not eligible for benefits or paid time off.

I applied to a Fellowship. Will I be notified of my status?

I applied to the Applicant Pool. Is my application still valid?

I have special Federal employment hiring status. Will this be considered?


Q. I applied to a Fellowship. Will I be notified of my status?

A: Only those who are shortlisted for a specific Fellowship will be contacted.

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Q. I applied to the Applicant Pool. Is my application still valid?

A: We are no longer accepting applications to the Applicant Pool. However, if you were already accepted, your application remains valid for one year from the date of submission. You will be automatically considered for future Fellowships and will be notified if you are shortlisted.

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Q. I have special Federal employment hiring status. Will this be considered?

A: Democracy Fellows are hired as IIE employees, not as US government personnel. Therefore, special hiring status/privileges are not considered.

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