MIT Guidance Regarding the NSF CAREER Program


The CAREER Program is a NSF-wide activity that provides 5 year awards to tenure-track Assistant Professors, and is one of the most popular and prestigious opportunities offered by the Foundation. Proposers are encouraged to communicate with the cognizant CAREER Program officer for their research area to discuss their CAREER proposal well in advance of the submission deadline. The current CAREER solicitation is NSF 20-525, and RAS strongly recommends that proposers read the entire solicitation. 

Eligibility and Restrictions

  • Applicants must hold a doctoral degree in a field supported by NSF
  • Be engaged in research in an area of science, engineering, or education supported by NSF
  • Hold at least a 50% tenure-track (or tenure-track-equivalent) position as an assistant professor (or equivalent title);
  • Please note that the eligibility requirements specified in the solicitation remain unchanged, and proposers must meet all of the eligibility requirements as of the original deadline of July 27, 2020. The Departmental Letter that must be submitted by the Department Chair (or equivalent) must use July 27, 2020 to determine eligibility, regardless of whether the CAREER proposal is submitted before, on, or after July 27, 2020. 
  • An untenured assistant professor on July 27, 2020 is eligible to submit a CAREER proposal even if the Principal Investigator is tenured/promoted in the fall.
  •  A new faculty member who starts on July 28, 2020 or later is not eligible to submit a CAREER proposal this year.
  • Have not previously received a CAREER award. (Prior or concurrent Federal support for other types of awards for nonduplicative research does not preclude eligibility.)

Special Proposal Preparation Requirements

CAREER proposals are subject to all of the standard requirements for proposals described in the MIT's NSF Proposal Preparation Checklist.  Please also note the following additional requirements:

  • NSF is extending the upcoming proposal deadline for the Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) until 5:00 p.m. submitter's local time on Tuesday, August 11, 2020.
  • In order to ensure timely proposal review and decision making, NSF strongly encourages submission of CAREER proposals on or before the original deadline of July 27, 2020
  • Title must begin with “CAREER:”
  • No Co-PIs are permitted.
  • The minimum budget is $400,000 including indirect costs. Proposals to the Biological SciencesEngineering, or Polar Programs areas have a minimum budget of $500,000. Most NSF programs only award CAREER budgets close to the minimum amount.
  • The proposal must include well integrated research and educational components.
  • Provide References Cited in support of both research and education aspects of the CAREER proposal.
  • The Biographical Sketch should include both research and education activities and accomplishments.
  • A letter from the applicant’s department head must be included.

Departmental Letter Requirements

Please note, if a CAREER award is transferred to MIT from another organization, MIT must provide a new Departmental Letter to the NSF with the transfer request. 

  • Page limit is 2 pages
  • Must include statement confirming PI eligibility. RAS recommends including a statement similar to the following in the opening paragraph: “I confirm that [Name] holds a tenure-track, Assistant Professor Appointment as of [date], has not previously received a CAREER award, and is eligible for the CAREER program.”
  • Must indicate that proposed activities are supported by and advance the educational and research goals of the department
  • Must indicate department’s commitment to support and professional development of PI. This often includes narrative description of discretionary and leave policies, but please note this should not include quantifiable financial information.
  • Must describe the relationship between proposed project, PIs career goals and job responsibilities, and the department/organizational mission
  • Must describe how the department head will ensure appropriate mentoring of the PI throughout the award and beyond