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 17-537, and OSP strongly recommends that proposers read the entire solicitation. 

Eligibility & Restrictions

  • Applicants must be in a tenure-track position with an Assistant Professor appointment as of October 1, 2019
  • Hold a doctoral degree and be engaged in a field supported by the NSF
  • Be untenured as of October 1, 2019
  • Have not previously received a CAREER award (other non-duplicative NSF or other federal awards are allowed)
  • Investigators are limited to 1 application per annual cycle, and 3 applications overall.

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:

  • Submission deadlines range from July 17-19 depending on research area; check solicitation for details
  • Title must begin with “CAREER:”
  • No Co-PIs are permitted. 
  • The minimum budget is $400,000 including indirect costs. Proposals to the Biological Sciences, Engineering, 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
  • 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. OSP 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