Franklin Fellows Program

My success = new challenges + new CULTURES

About the Franklin Fellows Program

“I’m directing members of my administration to find new ways of tapping the knowledge and experience of ordinary Americans — scientists and civic leaders, educators and entrepreneurs — because the way to solve the problem of our time is — the way to solve the problems of our time, as one nation, is by involving the American people in shaping the policies that affect their lives.”

The Franklin Fellows Program is a unique and innovative program that taps citizens’ knowledge and enables approved organizations to promote public service by their professionals. Mid-career and more senior Franklin Fellows work on issues of vital importance to the United States, such as trade and financial policy, entrepreneurship, counterterrorism, regional issues, human rights, and trans-national diseases. Fellows are not compensated by the Department of State. Rather, their employers or other organization sponsor them, or they sponsor themselves. They return to their home organizations and communities with a much-enhanced knowledge of foreign and development policy and government operations and culture. If your organization has an international focus, allowing your employees to spend a sabbatical year as a Franklin Fellow can be an ideal way to develop their talent and position your organization to excel.

Franklin Fellows are senior and mid-level professionals who serve a one-year unpaid fellowship at the Department of State or at USAID.

Working as experts and consultants on a wide range of issues and subjects, Franklin Fellows contribute their knowledge, experience, and specialized skills. While at State or USAID, Franklin Fellows gain first-hand insight into the world of foreign policy and development.

Franklin Fellows must be American citizens, with a minimum five years’ experience, and able to get a security clearance.

The Franklin Fellowship is not a path to employment at the Department of State or USAID.

After their year in Government, most “sponsored” Fellows return to their academic institutions, private-sector companies, and non-governmental organizations. The Franklin Fellowship is ideal as a sabbatical year for academics, or as an executive development program for the private sector, NGOs, and state and local government.

Some Fellows are “self-nominated” who use the Fellowship as an investment in their future, developing skills and rounding out their experience.

Franklin Fellows bring creative new thinking and ideas, and deep substantive knowledge and experience to the Department of State and USAID. Franklin Fellows often work in areas of new and emerging concern where the Department and USAID lack in-house expertise. On issues where State and USAID are already working, the Fellows bring years of experience to bear, helping their colleagues to form deeper understanding of the issues. The following examples show both roles.

  • A university professor working with the State’s Bureau of African Affairs cataloged U.S. Government programs addressing desertification in Africa.
  • An investment banker from a large international bank was instrumental in crafting and launching U.S.-ASEAN Connect, the new U.S. strategic economic framework in Southeast Asia.
  • A university professor helped the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs understand the impact of Islamophobia in the European migration crisis.
  • At USAID, a professor of finance outlined innovative approaches to private capital development financing.
  • As Senior Advisor in State’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs, a university professor worked to engage religious actors on climate change and global environmental issues.
  • A manager from the NGO community developed a systematic approach to monitor and evaluate international programs to combat trafficking in persons and modern slavery.
  • A retired public service executive helped to establish the State Department’s office for public-private partnership programs.
  • A business school dean helped streamline the complex financial processes that support embassies and consulates around the world.
  • An environmental lawyer worked on policies to protect endangered species in Southeast Asia.
  • A Fellow with legislative experience led the development of the Department of State’s first International Cyberspace Policy Strategy.
Franklin Fellows must be American citizens, able to get a security clearance, with a minimum five years’ experience that qualifies them as:

  • An expert — a person who is specially qualified by education and experience to perform difficult and challenging tasks in a particular field beyond the usual range of achievement of competent persons in that field. An expert is regarded by other persons in the field as an authority or practitioner of unusual competence and skill in a professional, scientific, technical or other activity.
  • A consultant — a person who can provide valuable and pertinent advice generally drawn from a high degree of broad administrative, professional, or technical knowledge or experience. When an agency requires public advisory participation, a consultant also may be a person who is affected by a particular program and can provide useful views from personal experience.

Generally new PhD recipients will qualify, as will well-qualified and experienced Master’s degree recipients. However, there is no specific requirement for a degree — occasionally an applicant qualifies by virtue of experience alone. The Franklin Fellows program is not a career-entry vehicle. The Fellowship does not lead to employment with the Department of State or with USAID.

Vacancy announcements for the Franklin Fellows program are issued several times per year via USAJOBs. The vacancy announcement spells out the qualifications, the applications process, and the deadlines for submission.

Once the vacancy announcement closes, the Franklin Fellows program managers review applications and select a pool of candidates for the Fellowship. The program managers will reach out to applicants to inform them of their selection, and to confirm interest and eligibility. Unsuccessful applicants are also informed.

The program managers then circulate the Fellowship applications to prospective bureaus and offices in the State Department and USAID. The managers of those offices will contact applicants to arrange interviews, typically by phone.

When there is a “match” of interest and qualifications, the State Department or USAID office or bureau will send the applicant a “handshake” e-mail, offering the Fellowship and describing the agreed project / portfolio. When the Fellowship applicant accepts the handshake, the Franklin Fellows program managers initiate the security clearance process.

The length of time to process the security clearance varies, but on average takes 3 – 6 months, and sometimes longer. When the security clearance is granted, the Franklin Fellows program managers arrange the “on-boarding” date for the Fellow to begin his or her one-year Fellowship.

Fellowship applicants are able to contact the Franklin Fellows program managers throughout the application process for guidance and advice.

From your first day as a Franklin Fellow, you are a member of the State Department or USAID team. As an “uncompensated employee” you have many of the same privileges and responsibilities as a career employee. You will become familiar with regulations guiding ethics and accountability; you will receive training and orientation on security practices and IT systems. You are eligible for a transit subsidy, and to participate in official travel with per diem. Franklin Fellows can receive awards. You will meet with your officemates, establish specific work objectives, and learn to become a valuable, contributing member of the Department and USAID.

The Franklin Fellows program managers will help guide you and answer your questions. Franklin Fellows organizing monthly lunches and many events throughout the year to bring together Fellows from the Department and USAID (there are typically about 20 Fellows serving at any given time). Franklin Fellows are sought after speakers for a variety of audiences. While the Fellowship is not a research position per se, Fellows are permitted to write, speak, and publish in accordance with public affairs guidelines.

Because the Fellowship is not compensated, it is important for each Fellow to arrange their support. Many Fellows are supported by their university, their employer, or a sponsoring organization. In every instance, support arrangements are the individual responsibility of the Fellow – neither the State Department nor USAID provides or arranges support.

The normal length of a Fellowship is one year. Occasionally Fellows do extend for a second year.

There are over 200 Franklin Fellows alumni, and the Franklin Fellows program managers provide periodic updates to the alumni community.

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U.S. Department of State: Franklin Fellows

Meet the Franklin Fellows


Franklin Fellows Fact Sheet
Vacancy Description
Franklin Fellows

March 20, 2017

The Franklin Fellows Program is open to mid- and senior-level professionals from both private sector and non-profit entities, including NGOs, academia, foundations, and associations.