PhD Career Exploration Fellowship (CEF)

The application for the 2024 Career Exploration Fellowship is now closed. Applications for the 2025 cohort will open in the fall.

Please find details on how to apply here.

The 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 2024, the program will allow for in-person, virtual and hybrid fellowships.

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

Fellows are required to attend:

  • The CEF program orientation on Tuesday, February 13th at 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
  • Two professional development sessions organized by Penn Career Services. These sessions are designed to enhance career readiness competencies and the exploration of non-tenure track careers.
  • One social activity (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 2024 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 aims:

  • 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.

Participating Offices for 2024

Participating offices for 2024 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 in-person orientation session on Tuesday, February 13th at 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Breakfast will be provided. The orientation will include introduction to the program, goals, and expectations, and will serve as an opportunity for the Fellows to meet each other over breakfast. The exact date and time of the other professional development sessions will be determined later. Attendance in at least two professional development sessions and one social activity will be required, though participation in as many of the sessions 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. 

Application Deadline

Friday, January 12, 2023


PhD students in any department or school within the University of Pennsylvania may apply. Those who participated in the CEF program or the PhD Externship program between 2017-2023 are not eligible.

Application Materials

The 2024 application is now open. Candidates should prepare the following materials:

  • Choose your top 3 hosts from this list, and prepare to write a brief statement (no more than 250 words) explaining why you are interested in working with each host office, and what you hope to gain out of the experience. Since you will add these statements in a Qualtrics survey text box, we recommend that you write this first in a separate document so it will be easier for you once applying.
  • Complete the following survey that details your name, program, program start and anticipated end dates, and your top three ranked placement choices:
  • A resume or curriculum vitae that will accompany your Handshake application.

Application instructions:

  1. Complete the survey first:
  2. Once you have completed the survey, you will be automatically redirected to Handshake where you can submit your resume as part of the CEF application (you can find a direct link to the Handshake posting here). You will need to upload a CV/resume to Handshake in order to apply. Please have the PDF of your CV/resume named with the following format: Name and Last Name_Graduate program_CEF 2024

If you have any questions about this program, please contact Roseanne Davila-Rivera, PhD Professionalism Fellow at

Professional Development Sessions:

  • Session 1: Informational Interviews
  • Panel of CEF alumni fellows
  • Career Pathways in Humanities/Social Sciences
  • Career Pathways in STEM
  • Session 2: Resume
  • Session 3: LinkedIn
  • Session 4: Applying to jobs

Social activities and special events:

  • Special Event: Open discussion about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
  • End of CEF Celebration