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Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award (Postbac IRTA/CRTA)

Please note the revised eligibility requirements (below).

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


COVID-19 Update: In mid-March of 2020, all NIH employees, contractors, and trainees, with the exception of those conducting research on the coronavirus and COVID-19 and those caring for patients (Group 0), were assigned to mandatory telework. In June, 2020, those whose work cannot be completed remotely (Group A), were allowed to begin returning to on-site work. However, the return was limited. Safe distancing was required, in addition to mask wearing and strict disinfection measures, with the result that most scientists were permitted only part-time or shift work. Those whose work is difficult to complete via telework (Group B) were allowed to join Group A in July, 2020, still with safe distancing required. Group C, individuals who can telework effectively, are still working remotely. That situation continues (revised 10/13/21)

Trainees, including postbacs, who work in groups that conduct laboratory research, are included in Group B and now conduct in-person research on a limited basis.

Most NIH science is still conducted remotely. Lab meetings and IC seminar series are virtual. In addition, all career and professional development activities remain virtual, as do wellness activities, meetings of trainee groups, and major events such as Postbac Poster Day and the Graduate & Professional School Fair. Similarly meetings with career counselors and OITE staff are virtual.


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 in 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; wellness activities; a Graduate & Professional School Fair; and Postbac Poster Day. The NIH provides a wealth of additional scientific seminars.

Postbac Subprogram

One of the goals of the NIH is to build a highly diverse and inclusive scientific workforce. Toward that end, the NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education welcomes applications for a special postbac subprogram, the OITE Postbac Enrichment Program (OITE-PEP). You can read more about this subprogram at the end of this page or go directly to the OITE-PEP webpage.

Eligibility:


The Postbac IRTA/CRTA Program is for individuals who meet 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 (regardless of whether they subsequently completed a master's degree), OR
  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. individuals who meet criterion (1) and/or (2) 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 (if they have not already been accepted).

All postbacs will also be expected to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Background Check:

In order to be approved for logical and physical access to NIH facilities and systems, candidates must be able to pass a Federal background check, using Standard Form-85 (read SF-85). NOTE: Section 14 of the form asks “In the last year, have you used, possessed, supplied, or manufactured illegal drugs?” The question pertains to the illegal use of drugs or controlled substances in accordance with Federal laws, even though permissible under state laws.    

Stipend Information:

The stipends for trainees are adjusted yearly; the level depends on 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 six to nine 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 QuestionsVisit the OITE YouTube channel to find

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 a 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 permanent resident (green) card.

The OITE Postbac Enrichment Program

The OITE-PEP is designed to encourage candidates from diverse backgrounds and experiences to perform biomedical research at the NIH while developing their scientific, leadership, and professional skills in preparation for careers in health care and biomedical research. OITE-PEP fellows should be committed to pursuing a career in biomedical science and be planning to attend graduate and/or professional (medical/dental/pharmacy/nursing, etc.) school. NIH encourages applications from students in all science disciplines.

Students with disabilities; students who are Pell Grant-eligible; students who are enrolled in Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, or Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); students who identify as LGBTQ; and individuals disadvantaged by circumstances that have negatively impacted their educational and research opportunities, including recent natural disasters, are encouraged to apply.

Interested in health disparities? Read more about the new NIH Academy.