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FAQ for Smithsonian Fellowship and Internships

Applying

How do I apply for internships and fellowships?

You can apply to most internships and fellowships using our online application system – SOLAA.

Where do I start to find the best internship for me?

There are more than 60 Smithsonian internship opportunities, to find the best one for you visit this page and read more about them.

Can I apply to more than one internship and/or fellowship?

Yes! In fact, we encourage you to!

What is the minimum age for an internship or fellowship?

Smithsonian accepts applicants from the ages of fourteen and older. If an applicant is fourteen or older but less than eighteen he/she must attach the parental consent form to the application unless he/she is applying through SOLAA.

How does the general internship pool work?

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis as opportunities become available. Please know that if an internship does not become available that fits your interests and timeframe, you will not be contacted. If you have a specific interest, you are encouraged to apply for a specific appointment as well. 

Can international students apply for internships or fellowships?

Some Internship and Fellowship programs do accept international students. It is up to the particular program. That information can be obtained by contacting the program coordinators listed on our website. 

Can I get academic credit for my internship?

Yes, but it is your responsibility to arrange to receive credit with your university before arriving.

How competitive are Smithsonian internships and fellowships?

Smithsonian internships and fellowships are very competitive; the Smithsonian receives thousands of applications each year – but don’t let that discourage you from applying.

We work to make sure Smithsonian internships are prestigious, but not exclusive.  

How do I know when my internship or fellowship application has been accepted?

If you are selected for an appointment you will receive an award letter in your email.

How long should it take to find out if I received an internship or fellowship?

How long until you receive a response depends on a lot of things: which internship you applied for, the time of year, as well as how many other applicants there are so it is hard to say how long it will take to receive a response.

After Applying

How does the ID process work?

All academic appointees in residence for 30 days or longer should have received paperwork from the museum unit for a background clearance to be sent or delivered to the Office of Protection Services (OPS) Personnel Security and ID Office.  The intern/fellow should make an appointment with OPS using the OPS appointment scheduler. 

How do I find housing?

To find housing you can consult our housing guide here!

After Arrival

How do I get to my internship or fellowship on a daily basis?

You can use the WMATA to get to your internship or the Smithsonian shuttle service. More information about transportation is available in the Academic Appointment Handbook.

What do I wear to my internship/fellowship?

All offices have different dress codes so ask your intern/fellow coordinator before arriving.

What are the perks/discounts associated with my academic appointment?

  • 20% discount at all Smithsonian Museum Stores
  • 20% discount at the National Gallery of Art Museum Stores
  • Reduced rate at selected Smithsonian public food facilities
  • Reduced rate at the National Gallery of Art public food facilities
  • Use of Smithsonian staff food facilities (food served is already discounted)
  • One free IMAX, Planetarium or Butterfly Pavilion ticket/week, subject to availability (does not include
  • special feature-length commercial movies), and additional tickets at a reduced rate
  • Free weekday parking after 3p.m. and weekend parking at NASM and NMNH
  • Free parking at NASM’s Udvar-Hazy Center
  • Use of the physical fitness facility at NASM
  • Smithsonian Library card
  • Free membership in the Agricultural Federal Credit Union (visit the branch in the basement of the
  • Smithsonian Castle)
  • Scholarship applications to selected TSA courses, seminars and lectures
  • Free admission to other non-Smithsonian museum who have reciprocity with the Smithsonian

If I am awarded an internship or fellowship, will that guarantee me a job when the appointment is over?

No. You will gain excellent knowledge and experience by participating in the appointment. Information on employment at the Smithsonian Institution can be found online at here.

Should interns check in with OFI on arrival?

Check-ins for interns are optional, but all interns are strongly encourage to attend an OFI New Academic Appointee Orientation. Find out when the next one is happening here.

Should our fellows check in with OFI on arrival?

Yes. All fellows should schedule an appointment with their OFI liaison. Not sure who that is? Call 202-63-7070.

An intern/fellow is a non-U.S. Citizen. Does the intern/fellow need to check in with the Office of International Relations?

Foreign interns and fellows should check in with Office of International Relations after they arrive.

I have an incoming international intern/fellow, which visa type should they choose?

Visas are very case dependent. There are many variables that are taken into consideration. This includes previous entry into the US, paid vs. unpaid appointment, length of stay, and country of residence. Reach out to Office of International Relations (OIR) for further guidance. Their email is global@si.edu.

How does the ID process work?

All academic appointees in residence for 30 days or longer should have received paperwork from the museum unit for a background clearance to be sent or delivered to the Office of Protection Services (OPS) Personnel Security and ID Office.  The intern/fellow should make an appointment with OPS using the OPS appointment scheduler.

Are Interns or Fellows eligible for Workers' Compensation for on-the-job injuries?

If a fellow is injured or becomes ill during the appointment, he/she is generally not eligible for workers’ comp. If an intern is injured or becomes ill during the internship, he/she may be eligible for workers’ comp, depending on the circumstances.

Do academic appointees hold copyright for their work at the Smithsonian?

Fellows and Research Associates hold the first right of publication of their works for at least 3 years after the end of their appointment, unless there is a written agreement that provides otherwise. Copyright to intern works belong to the Smithsonian.

How can I request a reasonable accommodation for my Intern/Fellow with a disability?

Reasonable accommodations can be requested orally or in writing from:

  • Intern Coordinators
  • Sponsor or supervisor
  • Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator in OEEMA
  • Accessibility Program Managers

Contacts for reasonable accommodations are:

  • Carol Gover, OEEMA
  • Krista Flores, AP    

Stipends

Do all Internships or Fellowship have stipends?

Each internship and fellowship is different. To find out which programs provide a stipend go to our website http://www.smithsonianofi.com.  For more information you may contact the intern or fellow coordinator listed with each program. 

Do interns/fellows receive IRS Form W-2’s or Form 1099’s?

Since interns/fellows are stipend recipients and not contractors or employees, they do not receive a W-2. They will, however, receive a Financial Statement if they are a U.S. Resident and a 1042S if they are a non-U.S. resident. Recipients will be notified by mail around February or March.

Do interns/fellows receive pay stubs?

Since the IRS does not consider interns, fellows, and other stipend recipients to be employees of the Smithsonian, we do not provide pay stubs.

Do interns and fellow have to report stipends to the IRS?

It is the responsibility of interns and fellows to report their stipend earnings to the IRS. OFI cannot offer any specific guidance on how to file taxes, since we are not tax experts. However, we recommend you refer to the IRS website for specific instruction. See here and for more, here.

If I’m receiving a stipend when will I get payments?

Stipend payments are released on the 10th and 25th of each month. The frequency of your payments will be explained in your award letter.

Why are there limits on SI stipend award amounts, especially compared to other agencies?

At the Smithsonian academic appointees are not considered employees and SI stipends are issued not as compensation but to defray living expenses during the tenure of the appointment. As such, SI stipend levels are set to be comparable with other organizations that issue stipends in a similar way. Some agencies outside SI offer fellowships as a form of salaried employment. Those that do are able to set their fellow payments with market wage rates, but are also obligated to pay full benefits, withhold taxes, etc…as with any other job. Because the Smithsonian handles stipends not as salary, but more as a grant or form of scholarship, or stipend levels cannot compete with market wages but can be offered to defray living expenses during the tenure of an internship or fellowship.

Can fellows use unit funds to purchase non-SI health insurance?

Yes, unit funds can be used to purchase non-SI health insurance, but the unit must include a note on the AAF indicating that funds are to be released to fellow for that purpose.

Our unit has received some additional funds, so we would like to provide our unpaid intern with a stipend. Can we do this?

Yes, as long as you allow six weeks for processing the stipend, and total payment does not exceed stipend cap levels. Please note that however that payments cannot be made retroactively.

The intern/fellow is a non-U.S. Citizen. When will he/she receive their initial payment?

All non-U.S. Citizens should contact OFI to schedule an appointment to check-in, verify their visa status, and complete the necessary tax forms associated with their appointment. An electronic pre-check in is available to begin the process before arrival in DC. Initial payments generally received within four weeks after the date of their check-in appointment with OFI if all the required visa and tax forms are provided.

What is the maximum stipend for Interns and Fellows?

The maximum stipend for interns is $600/week, and may include a one-time travel allowance. The maximum stipend for predoctoral fellows is generally $32,700/year and for postdoctoral fellows is, $48,000/year.  For fellowships in Conservatory Science, Earth Science or Space Science add $5,000.  

Health Insurance

Definition: Primary Care Provider (PCP)

A primary contact for the insured person. With some plans, a referral from your PCP will be needed to see a specialist. 

Definition: Coinsurance

A form of medical cost sharing that requires the insured person to pay a stated percentage of medical expenses after the deductible amount.

Definition: Copay

Payment required at the time of service.

Definition: Deductible

A fixed dollar amount that the insured person will pay for health costs during a specific time period (usually one year) before the insurance company will begin to pay for covered expenses.

Definition: Premium

Fees paid on a monthly basis for coverage in a health insurance plan.

Definition: Maximum out of pocket

The maximum dollar amount an insured person is required to spend on medical costs during a year.

Who is eligible to enroll?

Fellows who are here for three months or longer are eligible to enroll in an SI offered health insurance plan.

Do I have to enroll in SI health insurance?

No, you are more than welcome to find a health insurance plan outside SI.

Where do I go to find outside insurance?

To find out more information about health insurance offered outside of SI, you can visit www.healthcare.gov . As these are non-SI health insurance plans, OFI cannot provide you with any assistance.

Why can’t OFI provide me with more information about outside health insurance?

We understand that the healthcare system can be quite confusing and difficult to maneuver. However, we can only provide guidance about the plans we are responsible for. We will try to provide as much general information about health insurance as possible, but we encourage our fellows to research policies and practices on their own.

Where can I find more information about the plans offered by SI?

An informational packet including monthly premiums and a summary of benefits for the plans offered can be found here.

Can I get insurance for my spouse and/or dependents?

Yes, you can choose to enroll in a Family plan.

How do I know specifically what is covered under each plan?

The informational packet (see above) has a lot of information about what is covered and what you will be required to pay. If you need additional information about a specific circumstance, please contact OFI and we will do our best to assist you.

How much will I pay for each plan?

Monthly premiums will be deducted each month from your stipend. The premium amounts can be found on the third page here.

How long do I have to make a decision?

Fellows have 60 days from the start of their appointment to log in to Secova and enroll in an SI plan. However, since your decision affects how your stipend payments are scheduled, we recommend that you inform OFI of your decision as soon as possible.

What do I do when I decide?

Please email Emily Murphy at murphye@si.edu once you have made your decision. If you would like to enroll, you will need to wait until the Wednesday after your start date to log in to Secova.

How do I enroll?

Click the link for a walkthrough on how to enroll – Health Insurance Screenshots

SI is currently using an online self-enrollment portal named Secova. You can find instructions for logging in here. Please be aware: Secova was created for employees, and therefore contains information that does not apply to fellows. Secova will show a much lower premium amount than the information provided to you – unfortunately, there is nothing OFI can do to reflect the correct premiums for fellows in Secova.

If you do not have an SSN, you will be assigned a placeholder number which can be used to log into Secova. If you are not contacted with that number, please contact OFI.

I forgot my password, what do I do? I tried logging in, but an error message appears. What do I do?

Secova has a technical support call center for log in issues. You should call (877)698-9781 if you are locked out or cannot remember your password.

Why does it have a much lower price in the Secova system?

Secova was created for and is used by SI staff. Since fellows are not staff, much of the information will not apply. Unfortunately, OFI cannot manipulate Secova to reflect accurate information for fellows.

When will I get my health insurance card?

Health insurance enrollment cards are mailed to the U.S. address provided and will generally arrive in 2-3 weeks.

When is my insurance effective?

Regardless of when you enroll within your first 60 days, your health insurance will be effective on your start date. You will be covered retroactively and will be responsible for the premiums.

What if I need to go to the doctor before I receive my enrollment card?

Generally after a week the insurance company will have your information, and you can call them to get your ID number. If you need your ID number immediately, please contact OFI. You can also pay out of pocket and submit a claim once your information is in the system.

Will I be covered while I’m traveling?

The only plan offered that will cover you while traveling is the CareFirst PPO plan.

What is a PCP and how do I choose one?

Your Primary Care Physician is your main point of contact for health concerns. With many plans you must obtain a referral from your PCP before seeing a specialist. You can find a list of PCPs on the insurance carrier’s website.

Can I change or cancel my plan? If so, when and how?

There are three instances where you are eligible to enroll, cancel, or change plans:

  • Within 60 days of the start of the fellowship, but not before the first Wednesday after your fellowship begins because updates to Secova are done on Tuesday of each week.  Please note that health insurance will be effective on the first day of the fellowship.
  • During open‐enrollment season which takes place mid‐Nov through mid‐Dec of each year.  Fellows may also change or terminate their coverage during this period, as well.  However, these enrollments/changes/terminations are not effective until Jan 1 of the following year.
  • Within 30 days of a Qualifying Life Event (QLE). Some of the most popular QLEs are purchasing non‐Smithsonian health insurance, recently married and now on spouse’s coverage, or lost prior coverage.  Fellows may enroll or terminate coverage due to a QLE, but must do so in Secova and must provide supporting documentation to support this claim. Please note that travel insurance is not health insurance so does not qualify for a QLE.

If you wish to change your enrollment during one of these times, please contact OFI for assistance.

Will my premiums ever increase?

Yes, premiums increase at the beginning of every calendar year. This increase will be reflected in your stipend payments.

How will the premium be deducted from my stipend?

The monthly premium will be subtracted from your gross stipend payment before being released to you. If you have questions about your specific situation, please contact OFI.

When will I get my health allowance?

If you were awarded a health allowance as part of your fellowship and you choose to enroll in an SI plan your allowance will be evenly divided and lumped into your regular gross payment.

Is my health allowance taxable?

Yes, if OFI determines that taxes will be withheld from your award then your health allowance will be taxed.

Sample Payment

Here is a sample payment with a health insurance premium deduction. The gross is your regular stipend payment, the deduction is the monthly premium for the plan you’ve chosen, and the net is the difference – this is what you should see in your bank account.

Gross:                                     Deduction:                              Net:                        Due Date:

$4,000.00                               $482.87                              $3,517.13                      3/25/15

Who should I contact if I have more questions about SI health insurance or Secova?

If you have any questions or concerns during the decision making or enrollment process, please contact OFI at 202.633.7070. You can ask specifically for Emily Murphy (murphye@si.edu) or Dora Blair (blairtl@si.edu). 

Definitions

Academic Appointment

At the Smithsonian there are three types of academic appointments: internships, fellowships, and research associate appointments.Academic appointments are distinct from other categories such as staff, contractors, and volunteers. 

Internship

Smithsonian internships are learning experiences guided by a Smithsonian mentor. The aim of an internship is an educational training experience made for the benefit of the intern and required hands-on guidance.

Fellowship

Smithsonian fellowships are opportunities for independent study and research that make use of SI experts, facilities and collections under the advice of a Smithsonian adviser.

Research Associate

Smithsonian research associates are nominated by a SI sponsor and maintain a scholarly affiliation with the Institution. 

For SI Staff

How do I appoint an intern, fellow, or research associate?

At the Smithsonian, academic appointments can be made in two ways, through SOLAA (Smithsonian Oline Academic Appointment System) or SOFIAA  (The Smithsonian OFI Academic Appointment System). SOLAA is an electronic platform through which applicants enter and submit their own data for review and approval as an academic appointee.  The staff portal for SOLAA is here. To request a SOLAA account, ask your unit’s academic appointment coordinator to help you submit this form. SOFIAA (The Smithsonian Office of Fellowships and Internships Academic Appointment) form is an electronic webform through which SI staff enter and submit data on behalf of appointees for review and approval as an academic appointee. Staff use their network login credentials to access SOFIAA here. To request access to SOFIAA, ask your unit’s academic appointment coordinator for help. 

How do I achieve diversity in my appointments without illegally discriminating?

There are many ways to appoint diverse interns or fellows in ways that are not discriminatory, by considering these race-neutral factors:

  • Socioeconomic status
  • First-generation college status
  • Geographic residency
  • Foreign language proficiency
  • Expertise in a specific culture
  • Experience overcoming hardships, such as frequent moves growing up or enrollment in a low-preforming high school or district