The application for the 2023 Career Exploration Fellowship is now closed!

The next round of application will open in November/December 2023. 

Penn’s Career Services’ PhD Career Exploration Fellowship (CEF) program encourages non-faculty career exploration among doctoral students by facilitating networking experiences and fostering mentorship relationships with advanced degree holding professionals. Fellows can use this experience to cultivate a stronger professional profile and grow their network in a career field. This unpaid opportunity allows doctoral students to gain a better understanding of day-to-day life in various sectors including industry, non-profit, and government organizations. In 2023, the program will allow for both virtual and hybrid fellowships.

This fellowship runs from February to May and typically entails approximately 8-10 hours time commitment with host meetings and informational interviews. Fellows can choose to dedicate additional time by engaging in projects and/or attending workshops for their own professional development.

In addition to the time spent with their host, fellows are also required to attend:

  • the CEF program orientation on Tuesday, February 14th from 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
  • two professional development programs organized by Penn Career Services. These workshops are designed to enhance career readiness competencies and the exploration of non-tenure track careers.
  • one community building program (more details will be provided later).

Fellows will first meet with their hosts to both 1) learn about their host’s career path and the various aspects of the host’s position, including specific responsibilities, work culture, challenges and rewards of the role, etc. and 2) share their own interests as well as any of their short- and long- term career goals. Following this initial meeting, the host will facilitate additional informational interviews with colleagues and other members of their network whose career path and interests align with the interests of the Fellow. A final, debrief meeting between host and Fellow will occur at the end of the fellowship. Additional opportunities, like attendance at virtual meetings and the completion of small projects, may also be available. More information on specific opportunities and projects offered by individual host organizations are outlined in the 2023 Host Descriptions Packet.

To read about students’ experiences in the 2023 program, please visit the PhD Career Exploration Fellow Spotlight Series on the Career Services blog.

*Please note: Because this is an unpaid career exploration opportunity, there are no Visa restrictions for international students.


The PhD Career Exploration Fellowship program has the following goals:

  • Facilitate non-faculty career exploration for PhD students
  • Educate graduate students about the roles and responsibilities in a specific career field
  • Allow graduate students to form relationships and create networks with advanced degree holding professionals through one-on-one mentoring
  • Enhance the professional development and leadership skills of graduate students
  • Facilitate students’ ability to conduct informational interviews as part of their career exploration and networking
  • Connect PhD students at Penn with each other to facilitate cross-division learning and networking

Participating Offices for 2023

Participating offices for 2023 include placements in university administration, the biomedical industry, nonprofit organizations, local government, and more.. This year’s descriptions of confirmed host offices and possible projects at each placement can be downloaded here. Each student should indicate a first, second, and third choice host opportunity in their application.


Fellows will attend a mandatory virtual orientation session on Tuesday, February 14th from 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. This will include introduction to the program as well as a goal-setting activity and small group breakout sessions. The exact time and date of the other professional development workshops will be determined at a later date. Attendance in at least two professional development program and one community building program will be required, though participation in as many of the workshops as your schedule allows is strongly encouraged. In addition, all Fellows who participate in the program must complete the pre- and post-program surveys and write a blog post about their CEF experience to be featured on the Career Services blog at the end of the program. Fellows will also have the option to continue engaging with each other as part of career clusters focused on similar sectors or job fields. 

Apply here.

Application Deadline: Friday, January 20, 2023


PhD students in any department or school within the University may apply. Those who participated in the CEF program or the PhD Externship program between 2017-2022 are not eligible.

Application Materials

The 2023 application will open December 21st. Candidates should prepare the following materials:

  • cover sheet detailing: your name, program, program start and anticipated end dates, and your top three ranked placement choices. Attached, on the separate pages provided, a brief statement (no more than 250 words) explaining why you are interested in working with a particular host office and what you hope to gain out of the experience.
  • A resume or curriculum vitae

Career Development Workshops for CEF Fellows: 

  • Panel of CEF alumni fellows – February 16 (12-1 p.m.). Register here.
  • Career Pathways in Humanities/Social Sciences – February 22 (12-1 p.m.). Register here.
  • Career Pathways in STEM – February 23 (12-1 p.m.). Register here.
  • Informational Interviewing Workshop – March 1 (12-1 p.m.). Register here.
  • Resume Workshop – March 28 (12-1 p.m.). Register here.
  • LinkedIn Workshop – April 13 (12-1 p.m.). Register here

Community Building events for CEF Fellows:

These events will be in-person and food will be provided.

  • LinkedIn headshots for fellows – March 15 (2-4 p.m.). Register here.
  • Career Conversations 1 – March 21 (3-4 p.m.). Register here.
  • Career Conversations 2 – April 4 (10:30 -11:30 a.m.). Register here.
  • CEF Celebrations – May 3 (12-2 p.m.). Register here.

If you have any questions about this program, please contact Tithi Basu Mallik, PhD, Associate Director | PhD Career & Professional Development at