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Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award (Postbac IRTA/CRTA)

Please note the revised eligibility requirements (below).

IMPORTANT: Watch the new videocast - Applying to the NIH Postbac Program

Program Description:  The NIH Postbac IRTA program (CRTA, Cancer Research Training Award, in the National Cancer Institute) provides recent college graduates who are planning to apply to graduate or professional (medical/dental/pharmacy/nursing/veterinary, etc.) school an opportunity to spend one or two years performing full-time research at the NIH. Postbac IRTAs/CRTAs work side-by-side with some of the leading scientists in the world, in an environment devoted exclusively to biomedical research. The NIH consists of the 240-bed Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center and more than 1100 laboratories/research projects, located on the main campus in Bethesda, MD and the surrounding area as well as in Baltimore and Frederick, MD; Research Triangle Park, NC; Hamilton, MT; Framingham, MA; Phoenix, AZ; and Detroit, MI.

You can identify NIH investigators with projects that interest you by searching the NIH Intramural Annual Reports. Use the text search feature to find project descriptions that contain the key words you enter.  Alternatively, the Intramural Research Program Web page presents investigators sorted by research topic. You can then find contact information for the investigators in the NIH Enterprise Directory.

Each postbac has a scientific "home" in the NIH Institute or Center (IC) of his/her principal investigator (PI).  The IC manages all of the administrative details of the postbac appointment and the IC training office provides a variety of scientific and career enrichment activities.  The NIH-wide Office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE) sponsors a wide range of career and professional development activities for postbacs, including skills workshops on topics such as oral and poster presentations and improving mentoring relationships; workshops on getting to graduate school and getting to professional school; career exploration sessions; a Graduate & Professional School Fair; and Postbac Poster Day. The NIH provides a wealth of additional scientific seminars.

Eligibility: The Postbac IRTA/CRTA Program is for individuals who meet any ONE of the following criteria:

  1. college graduates who received their bachelor's degrees less than THREE years prior to the date they begin the program,
  2. individuals who are more than 3 years past the receipt of their bachelor's degree but received a master's degree less than SIX MONTHS before they begin the program, OR
  3. students who have been accepted into graduate, other doctoral, or medical school programs and who have written permission from their school to delay entrance for up to one year to pursue a biomedical research project at the NIH.

To be eligible, candidates must also be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. In addition, they must intend to apply to graduate or professional school during their tenure at the NIH.

Stipend Information: The stipends for trainees are adjusted yearly; the level depends on prior experience acquired AFTER completion of the bachelor's degree. For details, see the Trainee Stipends page.

Application Procedure: Prospective candidates must apply online. Interested individuals are encouraged to apply three to six months before they wish to begin their training at the NIH.  The program has no fixed start date.  The application requires submission of

  • a curriculum vitae or resume,
  • a list of coursework and grades,
  • a cover letter describing the applicant's research interests and career goals,and
  • the names and contact information for three references.

Candidates may also specify keywords that define their research interests.  These can be particular diseases or conditions, techniques, or general subject areas.

Selection:  Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis year round by scientists in the Institutes and Centers of the NIH.  Individual scientists select their own postbacs and provide the funding to support them; there is no centralized selection process.  For suggestions on how to increase your chances of being offered a position, please read the Postbac IRTA Program Frequently Asked Questions. You can find a YouTube video entitled Finding an NIH Mentor, which demonstrates how to use NIH investigator databases, on the OITE YouTube page.

Applications are archived (and are no longer accessible to NIH investigators) one year after their submission or when an applicant is no longer eligible to participate in the postbac program, whichever comes first.

The decision to come to the NIH as  postbac is an important one.  You are commiting a year or two of your life to an in-depth research experience.  Please take the time to review our guidelines on choosing a mentor before making this decision.   The document discusses questions you should ask a potential mentor, questions you might ask other students in the research group, and recommendations regarding identifying what you need from a mentor and evaluating your options.

Candidates will be informed of their selection by the hiring Institute. Successful candidates will be required to submit the following documentation to their Institute or Center prior to beginning their training:

  • Official college transcript(s)
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status. U.S. citizens may submit a copy of their birth certificate or passport. Permanent residents will need to provide a copy of their alien registration card.

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