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Fellowship Obligations

Obligations and details related to the Pickering Fellowship.

Obligations and details related to the Pickering Fellowship.

Upon accepting the fellowship, you will sign an agreement that outlines your benefits and responsibilities as a Fellow.  Fellows must meet and maintain all Foreign Service entry requirements including security, medical and suitability requirements in order to remain in the program.  Fellows also agree to a minimum five-year service commitment in the Department of State’s Foreign Service.  The five-year service commitment begins upon entry into the Foreign Service.  Failure to meet the obligations outlined in the fellowship agreement, including obtaining and maintaining required security and suitability clearances and meeting the minimum medical qualification standard may result in your disqualification from the fellowship program and repayment to the U.S. Government of financial assistance received related to your education.

Pickering Fellowship 2024 Timeline

Application DeadlineSeptember 21, 2023
Notification of FinalistsNovember 02, 2023
Finalist InterviewsNovember 13-16, 2023
Fellowship OrientationJune 03, 2024 – June 7, 2024
Begin First Year of Graduate SchoolFall 2024
Domestic InternshipSummer 2025
Begin Second Year of Graduate SchoolFall 2025
Overseas InternshipSummer 2026 (post-graduation)
Entrance into A-100Late 2026

Security Clearance Process

When individuals are selected for the fellowship, the Department of State requests that they complete and submit a security clearance application..  The time needed for security clearance determination varies depending on several factors.  The security clearance process involves a comprehensive background investigation, conducted by the U.S. Department of State in cooperation with other federal, state, and local agencies.  This investigation provides the information necessary to determine a candidate’s suitability for appointment to the Foreign Service and for a Top Secret security clearance.  The process considers such factors as: failure to repay a U.S. Government guaranteed loan or meet tax obligations; failure to register for the Selective Service; past problems with credit or bankruptcy; unsatisfactory employment records; a criminal record or other violations of the law; drug or alcohol abuse; and less than honorable discharge from the armed forces.

Candidates who hold dual citizenship, have had extensive travel, education, residence and/or employment overseas, or who have foreign contacts, a foreign-born spouse, immediate family members or relatives who are not citizens of the United States, should be aware that the clearance process will take longer to complete.  The background investigation includes interviews with current and previous contacts, supervisors, and coworkers.  

Fellows must be able to obtain and maintain a Top Secret security clearance to remain in the program.

Minimum Medical Qualification Process

Pickering Fellows must meet the Department of State’s minimal medical qualification standard. After a fellow undergoes a pre-employment medical examination, the Bureau of Medical Services of the Department of State determines whether a fellow is medically qualified for hire as a Foreign Service Officer.  The purpose of a medical review is to identify specific health needs and medical conditions that may require specialty management, follow-up, or monitoring.

Fellows must be able to meet the minimal medical qualification standard to remain in the program.

Suitability Review Clearance Process

Upon completion of the background investigation and medical examination, a State Department Suitability Review Panel will examine your file (minus any privileged medical information) to determine your suitability for employment with the Foreign Service.

The attainment of U.S. foreign policy objectives depends substantially on the confidence of the public (both American and foreign) in the individuals selected to serve in the Foreign Service. The Department of State, therefore, requires the highest standards of conduct by employees of the Foreign Service, including an especially high degree of integrity, reliability, and prudence. Given the representational nature of employment in the Foreign Service, employees must observe proper standards at all times. The purpose of the suitability review is to determine, from the candidate’s total record, whether the candidate is indeed suitable to represent the United States. The Suitability Review Panel has the authority to terminate a candidacy.

In evaluating suitability, the Suitability Review Panel takes into consideration the following factors:

  • Misconduct in prior employment, including marginal performance or inability to interact effectively with others.
  • Criminal, dishonest, or disgraceful conduct.
  • Misrepresentation, including deception or fraud, in the application process.
  • Repeated or habitual use to excess of intoxicating beverages affecting the ability to perform the duties and responsibilities of the employee’s position.
  • Trafficking in or abuse of narcotics or controlled substances.
  • Reasonable doubt as to loyalty to the U.S. Government.
  • Conduct which clearly shows poor judgment and or lack of discretion which may reasonably affect an individual or the agency’s ability to fulfill its responsibilities or mission.
  • Financial irresponsibility, including a history of not meeting financial obligations or an inability to satisfy debts.

Fellows must be able to obtain and maintain a suitability clearance to remain in the program.

More details about the suitability and security clearances and the minimum medical qualification standard can be found on the U.S. Department of State website (  Potential candidates who believe they may have issues that could affect receiving the required clearances and/or meeting the minimum medical qualification standard should consider whether to move forward with their application at this time.