Many research and policy-related opportunities exist within the government and nonprofit sectors, allowing our trainees to apply their problem-solving and analytical skills to real-world problems with a common goal of making a difference for the public good.

Government Research

Similar to conducting research at a biotechnology company, some trainees may be interested in working as a researcher within a United States government agency like the National Science Foundation (NSF)—which supports research and education in all nonmedical fields of science and engineering—or its biomedical counterpart, the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NSF has several directorates that specialize in different research areas, including biological sciences; engineering; and social, behavioral, and economic sciences. Their missions include promoting the progress of science; advancing the nation's health, prosperity, and welfare; and national security.

The NIH also divides itself into various centers and institutes, such as the National Cancer Institute, National Institute on Aging, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Their underlying mission is to uncover new knowledge that will lead to better health for everyone. NIH works toward that mission by conducting research in its own laboratories, supporting the research of nonfederal scientists (in universities, medical schools, hospitals, and research institutions in the U.S. and abroad), helping in the training of research investigators, and fostering communication of medical and health-sciences information.

Government Policy

In addition to research opportunities, trainees may be interested in serving as leaders or analysts in all levels of government or as program staff in multilateral organizations. Decisions about federal funding, policy, and ethics surrounding science and medical practice are made both at the state level and within "the beltway" around our nation's capital. Biomedical trainees are employed to inform and shape these important decisions that affect populations locally and globally. Many trainees will enter government policy by participating in the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship.


Our trainees also may be interested in getting involved in foundations, public, and nonprofit sector agencies, which have historically played significant roles in providing healthcare and relief to those who have limited options for securing such care through other means. Those who work in nonprofits also may have identified gaps or areas for improvement within the biosciences enterprise, and they have committed their efforts to support areas of research, education, and healthcare that are in need of additional attention. Some opportunities can be found in the William and Flora Hewlett Packard Foundation, American Heart Association, The Ford Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others.

Desired Skills for Government and Nonprofit

  • Research and applied problem-solving skills: Both strong quantitative and qualitative data-analysis skills are important for being able to solve real-world problems.
  • Communication skills: The abilities to speak clearly in public and negotiate are very valuable. It also is critical to have strong writing skills, as one may be tasked with writing policy memos on short notice.
  • Leadership and teamwork skills: Learning to lead others and work collaboratively is important in managing groups, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations, with the goal of achieving positive social change.

Getting started in the field

Common fellowships include:

  • Christine Mirzanyan Science & Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship Program
  • Presidential Management Fellows Program (PMF)
  • AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships

They are designed to engage their fellows in the analytical process that informs U.S. science and technology policy. Fellows develop basic skills essential to working on science policy at the federal, state, or local levels.

Typical Job Titles

  • Researcher
  • Scientist I-III
  • Policy Analyst
  • Nonprofit Director
  • Program Manager

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