NSF CAREER Grant for Assistant Professors

The NSF CAREER grant opportunity, which is available to tenure-track Assistant Professors, presents distinct advantages for PIs that also consider pursuing funding via “core” (or standard) NSF research awards:

  • CAREER applicants that are not successful on their first attempt generally enjoy higher award rates if they continue to revise and resubmit their applications. For example, in the Directorate for Environmental Biology (DEB), PIs see award rates of 5 to 14% on their first and second submissions. Submissions on third attempts, however, are awarded at rates of 25% to 30%. In marked contrast, resubmissions in DEB for core research grants do not see such an increase in funding rates on third submissions.

  • Some NSF directorates award CAREER proposals at higher rates than others. Check with your program officer.

  • If you secure a CAREER award, you can establish a track record for integrated research and education activities that will help you set a foundation for highly competitive core NSF grants in the years to come.

If you are a UCSC researcher who is considering or committed to applying for the CAREER grant, please see our tools below developed specifically for your use. They will require a username and password, which you can obtain by contacting the Broader Impacts Office staff. We also encourage you to work closely with the Broader Impacts Office staff.

  • Guide to Preparing Your Application for the NSF CAREER Award:
    • Background information on NSF’s goals for CAREER awards,
    • Advice on developing the research and educational plans you will put in your proposal,
    • Example sections of successful proposals, and
    • Detailed suggestions (e.g., goals, assessment strategies, educational literature, partner organizations) for the most common types of education activities included in CAREER proposals.
  • Proposal Template for NSF CAREER Award: a detailed framework for drafting your proposal, including the project summary, project description (introduction, research plan, education plan, and more), and supplementary documents

CAREER grant applications have distinct differences compared to core NSF research grants:

  • CAREER applications call for more robust and detailed education activities.

  • Applicants may submit a maximum of three applications for a CAREER award. There are no such limits for resubmitting core NSF grants.

    • Generally, PIs that seek CAREER awards in their third, fourth, or fifth years as faculty members see higher rates of success.  

What should be in a CAREER proposal?

  • A compelling research plan that an NSF program officer has signaled as an area of interest to that directorate.

    • The research must go beyond the promise of incremental progress and pose the potential to vertically advance your field.

    • Preliminary data and results that support your research goals and indicate that you are ready to take your research to the next level.

  • Innovative education plan that should be more substantial than typically seen from Assistant Professors in your field, but not interfere with the primary focus of managing a research lab.

    • Builds upon your successful track record as an educator.

  • Draw from successful models of pedagogy and other CAREER proposals.

    • Apply ideas and findings from the educational literature to support your proposed educational activities.

  • Evaluation of the education plan is essential.

  • Strategies to effectively integrate research and education activities such as:

    • Engaging others (students, teachers, members of the public) to your research activities

    • Collaborating with science outreach or science training programs, especially to engage underrepresented groups in STEM fields.

    • Suggesting new ways to disseminate your research to non-academic audiences.