Career Opportunities at NSF

NSF offers excellent job opportunities in a variety of office support, administrative, professional and scientific fields. Some positions involve working in program offices with scientists, engineers and educators, while others are in offices concerned with management support, e.g., human resources, computer operations, budget and finance and other administrative services. Our work is challenging and it provides many opportunities for growth and advancement.

Following is a brief Overview of some of the entry-level career opportunities at the National Science Foundation.

Office Support Position

    Office Automation Clerk, GS-2/3/4. Employees perform a variety of general office duties, e.g., perform word-processing and computer data entry; sort and distribute mail; screen telephone callers and visitors; and maintain office records and files.

    Program Clerk (Office Automation), GS-2/3/4. Employees maintain computerized data files; assemble material for mailing; perform word processing; assist telephone callers and office visitors; prepare travel documents; and assist in the processing of grant proposals.

    Program Assistant (Office Automation), GS-5/6. Employees assist program managers by personally handling the technician work associated with a research grant program. Employees process grant awards, declinations and withdrawals, e.g., review, verify, monitor and track proposal activities; examine budgets for adjustments; prepare grant packages; coordinate panel meetings; maintain grant files; generate computerized reports; perform data entry; assist callers; prepare travel documents; and prepare word-processing assignments.

    Secretary (Office Automation), GS-4/5/6. Employees serve as personal assistants and perform a variety of general office work, e.g., maintain the supervisor's calendar; review and control incoming and outgoing correspondence; establish and maintain office files; greet and screen callers and visitors; coordinate meetings and make travel arrangements; draft and type a variety of correspondence; and perform liaison functions.

Qualification Requirements

The following table shows the minimum eligibility requirements for office support positions at grades GS-2 to GS-6.

Grade Experience
OR Education
General Specialized
GS-2 3 months None High school graduation or equivalent
GS-3 6 months None 1 year above high school
GS-4 1 year None 2 years above high school
GS-5 None 1 year 4 years above high school
GS-6+ None 1 year Generally, not applicable

General experience is progressively responsible clerical, office, or other work that indicates ability to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to perform the duties of the position.

Specialized experience is experience in or related to the position that equipped you with the knowledge and skills to successfully perform the duties of the position. Specialized experience must have been equivalent to the next lower grade level. Equivalent combinations of post-high school education and experience may be used to meet total requirements at grades GS-5 and below. The civil service written test is generally required for appointments at grades GS-4 and below. Call our personnel office, 703-306-1182, for testing locations. All applicants must be able to type at least 40 words per minute, based on a 5-minute sample, with no more than 3 errors.

Office support positions usually have promotion potential to grade GS-6. Other opportunities at GS-7 and above (e.g., Senior Program Assistant, Personnel Assistant, Computer Assistant, etc.) are periodically available and are normally filled by internal competition.

Administrative and Professional Positions

    Administration and Management. NSF policies, practices, and programs are constantly being refined to meet new challenges. Work involves developing, analyzing, evaluating, advising on and improving the effectiveness of work methods, procedures and programs.

    Typical jobs: Management and Program Analyst, Program Specialist, Support Services Specialist

    Accounting and Finance. Fiscal responsibility and accountability are extremely important in NSF programs. Working for NSF, you may have the opportunity to develop and improve accounting systems, develop budgets, collect and disburse funds, examine and audit expenditures.

    Typical jobs: Budget Analyst, Accountant, Auditor

    Business and Contract Administration. NSF conducts much of its business through the award of grants, contracts and interagency agreements. You may help to manage this activity, or work in negotiating contracts and agreements for a wide variety of goods and services.

    Typical jobs: Grant and Agreement Specialist, Contract Specialist

    Management Information Systems. As one of the leading agencies in technology advancement, NSF accomplishes much of its work processes by using computers. You may perform a variety of analysis, design, programming, troubleshooting, maintenance and report generating tasks.

    Typical jobs: Computer Specialist, LAN Manager

    Personnel Management. Employees in this field provide NSF's scientific, administrative, clerical and technical staff with a wide variety of services relating to recruitment, placement, position classification, position management, employee development and employee relations.

    Typical jobs: Personnel Staffing and Classification Specialist, Employee Relations Specialist, Employee Development Specialist.

    Public Affairs/Legislative Affairs. NSF has an ongoing responsibility to communicate its mission and accomplishments to the public. The format of this communication can be written or visual -- portable exhibits, brochures, films, videos or other publications.

    Typical jobs: Public Affairs Specialist, Writer-Editor, Legislative Specialist

    Science, Mathematics and Engineering. As the premier Federal agency responsible for the well-being of the basic sciences, NSF each year distributes nearly three billion dollars in grants to fund research and education in science and engineering. You may provide scientific assistance to the Program Officers in all phases of the proposal review process. A bachelor's degree, or higher, in a scientific, mathematics or engineering field is required.

    Typical jobs: Science Education Assistant, Science Assistant, Assistant Program Manager, Science Policy Analyst

Qualifications Required

The table below shows the total minimum eligibility requirements for administrative and professional positions at grades GS-5 to GS-9.

Grade Education or Experience*
GS-5, or equivalent Bachelor's degree OR equivalent combination of education and directly related experience.
GS-7, or equivalent Bachelor's degree, plus 1 year of directly related experience OR one year of graduate-level education OR bachelor's degree with superior academic achievement OR one year of directly related experience equivalent to at least GS-5.
GS-9, or equivalent Two full years of graduate education OR master's degree or equivalent graduate degree OR one year of directly related experience equivalent to at least GS-7.

Some positions may require specific amounts of course-work in certain fields for eligibility. Entry level positions are filled at the GS-5, GS-7 or GS-9 grade level (or equivalent) and usually have career ladder promotion potential to GS-11 or GS-12 (or equivalent).

How to Apply

While some positions are limited to applicants with civil service status, most positions are open to only qualified citizens and nationals of the United States. Citizens of countries with a mutual security alliance with the United States and proper work documents may apply for consideration for science, mathematics and engineering positions. Positions are advertised when they become available. To apply, applicants must submit the following:

  • Resume or Optional Application for Federal Employment (OF 612), or any other application format;
  • College transcript (if substituting college education for experience); and,
  • Other documentation required by the vacancy announcement.

Application packages may be mailed or hand delivered to:

National Science Foundation
Division of Human Resource Management
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 315
Arlington, VA 22230

For additional information concerning employment opportunities or the application procedures, you may call our Vacancy Hotline, 703-306-0080. If you are outside the Arlington, VA calling area, you may call our toll free number, 1-800-628-1487. Hearing impaired individuals may call 703-306-0189. You may also visit the NSF Home Page on World Wide Web at:

Competitive Salaries

Salaries are based on the Federal Government's General Schedule pay scales, which include a locality pay rate for the Washington, DC area. The grade level at which you qualify depends on the specific position and your qualifications. As you advance in responsibility, your pay will reflect your additional contributions. Hiring and advancement in the Foundation are based on qualifications and performance regardless of race, color, creed, religion, sex, age, national origin or disability.


The National Science Foundation is an Equal Opportunity Employer committed to employing a highly qualified staff that reflects the diversity of our nation.

Photo Credits

National Science Foundation

Arlington, VA 22230

NSF 97-17

(Replaces NSF 95-135)