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Service Obligation

As an NIH Undergraduate Scholar, you will incur 1 year (52 weeks) of obligated service at the NIH for each full or partial year of support. The maximum service obligation is 4 years. Scholars are obliged to serve as full-time NIH employees in an NIH research laboratory.

Service obligation

You must begin your service within 60 days of completing the requirements for your undergraduate degree, unless a deferment is granted by the NIH UGSP (see below).

The last day of the service obligation is determined in whole years from the starting date. Adjustments in the ending date may be made by the NIH if the obligation is suspended, interrupted, waived, or otherwise delayed.

Note: The end of your obligated service, of course, does not necessarily mean the end of your employment at the NIH. A primary goal of the program is to attract you to a long-term career at the NIH.


Licensure requirement

Scholars who fulfill their service obligation after completion of a medical degree must meet the requirements for licensure and residency training specific to the NIH program for which they are applying. Federal employees who are medical doctors involved in clinical care are required to be licensed.  Responsibility for obtaining the required license prior to the service start date rests with the scholars.


Position assignments at the NIH

Scholars must fulfill their service obligation in approved positions at NIH intramural research laboratories. These positions may include placement at NIH facilities in the following locations: Bethesda, Poolesville, Frederick, and Baltimore, Maryland; Research Triangle Park, North Carolina; Hamilton, Montana; and Phoenix, Arizona.

You will be advised about seeking a research position at the NIH. If you fail to obtain a placement in one of the listed vacancies by the deadline announced by the NIH, you will be assigned to a position.

The NIH reserves the right to make final decisions on all placements in satisfaction of its statutory requirements for placement of scholars.


Breach of contract

As explained in The Fine Print section on page 19 and in the contract, there are substantial penalties for failing to begin or to complete the service obligations.


Deferments for graduate or medical studies

Scholars will ordinarily begin serving as full-time NIH employees within 60 days after obtaining their undergraduate degrees. Generally, the NIH UGSP will defer the post-graduation service obligation to enable scholars to complete accredited graduate or medical education programs that will lead to careers in biomedical research.


Possible placements

The following should give you an idea of the types of placements that are possible for the post-graduation service obligation. Please note that the salary amounts indicated are those currently in effect. These may change by the time of your service.

If you have a bachelor's degree

If you have a B.S. or a B.A. degree, you may be eligible for entry-level or trainee research positions at $30,000 to $33,000 as of May 2009, dependent upon academic achievement and experience. Potential positions could include biologist, microbiologist, chemist, or computer specialist.

If you have a doctoral degree

If you have received a deferment and have obtained a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or M.D.), you may be eligible for a post-doctoral fellowship to fulfill the post-graduation service obligation. Post-doctoral training positions, depending upon education and experience, may start at $52,000 to $59,000 as of May 2009. These positions are available in two pathways:

Laboratory Research Pathway.

You will engage in pure laboratory research. Applicants for this training pathway must have either a graduate doctoral degree (e.g., Ph.D. or M.D./ Ph.D.) or a professional degree (e.g., M.D., D.O., D.D.S., D.M.D., Pharm.D., or D.V.M.), accompanied by previous research laboratory experience.

Combined Clinical and Research Pathway.

You will receive clinical subspecialty training at the NIH as well as training in clinical and/or basic research. To qualify for this pathway, you must possess a degree in medicine or dentistry.