While there are lots of ways that you can make yourself more attractive to potential employers, few are as powerful as good old-fashioned experience. The only trick is, getting hired and gaining experience can be pretty hard to do if you don’t have, well, experience.
This is especially true for sustainability work as entry-level roles are rare and teams are often so small that they can’t afford to hire someone who needs extensive training. This is where fellowship programs come in; they help to bridge that gap and make sustainability careers more accessible by providing training, networking and support for experiences that can help fellows launch their careers.
Fellowships make sustainability careers more accessible by providing training, networking and support for experiences that can help fellows launch their careers.
Yet even with everything these programs have to offer, participating in a fellowship isn’t at the top of the priority list for many job seekers when I first meet them. I think a lack of awareness of what’s out there combined with several big misconceptions about what fellowships involve is keeping many would-be applicants from signing up for these potentially life-changing experiences.
Below I’ve shared (and dispelled) three myths about fellowships that may be keeping you from applying to something great, and provided details on 18 programs in the hopes that you’ll find something new and exciting that can help you take the next step in your career. I’ve organized the programs into these categories:
- Current students
- Students and recent grads
- Part-time for working professionals
- Full-time for working professionals
- Fellowships with the federal government
Read on to learn more about fellowships and what they can do for you and your sustainability career.
Fellowship Myth No. 1: Fellowships are just summer experiences for students
I reviewed dozens of fellowships as part of my research for this article and as someone whose graduate school days are definitively behind them, I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost 50 percent of the programs I found were specifically for working professionals. These experiences either took place outside of traditional business hours or offered full-time work for a certain period of time. And while there were many programs with summer experiences for students, there were also plenty of opportunities that ran throughout the academic year as well.
Bottom line: Opportunities are available year-round, and there are a lot of options for both students and working professionals.
Fellowship Myth No. 2: There is a specific time of year to apply for fellowships
A whopping 30 percent of the fellowships I found had rolling applications so that they could match applicants with opportunities whenever host organizations identified a need. Another 30 percent of applications were due between October and January, with the deadlines for competitive summer experiences such as the Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps Fellowship occurring in November and January. The remaining 40 percent of application deadlines were mostly between April and June, with popular fall programs such as the Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI) Fellowship closing applications in May.
Bottom line: If there’s a specific fellowship you’d like to apply for, do the research now and find out when the application deadline is so you don’t miss it. If an application deadline isn’t posted, be sure to sign up for the organization’s newsletter so you’ll be notified when there’s an announcement, and apply as soon as possible after the application opens up. Don’t be discouraged if you feel like you’re getting a late start; there are fellowships that accept applications throughout the year, so it’s never too late to start looking for a program to apply to.
Fellowship Myth No. 3: If I’m not selected as a fellow then I’ve missed my chance
Fellowship programs can be very selective. If you’re not chosen for a specific fellowship, try to get some feedback from the recruiting team to learn how you can be more competitive for the next round and don’t be afraid to reapply for the following cohort.
Many organizations that run fellowship programs such as the Environmental Defense Fund, SEI and the U.S. Department of Energy offer multiple kinds of experiences including internships, so be sure to check out each organization’s entire portfolio of opportunities and apply to the ones that appeal to you.
Bottom line: While you should always put your best foot forward when you apply to a fellowship program, a rejection may not be the end of your relationship with that organization. Learn from the experience and keep trying.
Following are some of the most popular fellowship programs in sustainability. I’ve excluded fellowships that are dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs and startups such as Echoing Green, Acumen or Ashoka and any training or internship programs that that aren’t fellowships such as Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training. These are all incredible experiences but they’re outside of the scope for this list.
All these fellowships provide participants with educational and networking opportunities. Most (not all) also provide work experience, sometimes within the organization running the fellowship, but most often at a host organization that benefits from the fellow’s work.
Host organizations come in all shapes, sizes and sectors from local service-oriented nonprofits to government agencies and even global corporations. While many fellowships are paid, the compensation range varies wildly, with some fellowships charging tuition.
I’m 100 percent positive that this list is missing at least one amazing fellowship program. If you know of a program that should be added to this list, please visit my LinkedIn post about this article and let me know in the comments. I’ll be sure to update the article with the program and a shoutout to you. Thanks in advance!
For current students
Climate Corps Fellows bolster capacity at their host organizations in the private and public sectors to accomplish emissions reduction goals. Fellows work for 10-12 weeks over the summer to design tools and recommendations for reducing energy consumption, procuring renewable energy, electrifying fleets, reducing food waste and more.
The 2023 program will also include a Sustainable Agriculture Pilot where a limited number of fellows will advance animal agriculture emission reduction opportunities and accelerate adoption and implementation of high-impact solutions in leading food companies.
- Audience: Graduate students
- Approximate number of fellows per year: 200
- Location: Work performed remotely or at host organizations across the U.S., China and India
- Timing: Training event in late spring, fellowship work over the summer
- Compensation: U.S. fellows are paid $1,400 per week for 10-12 weeks, plus one week’s salary for participation in the fellow training. Salary will vary for China and India fellowships.
Next application dates: Applications are open. Early application deadline Nov. 29, regular deadline Jan. 10. Host organization application deadline Feb. 1.
The Rachel Carson Council Fellowship Program is designed to identify students with a passion for environmental education, organizing and advocacy and provide them with training in Washington, D.C., mentorship from RCC environmental staff and financial support to do the valuable work they care about and become lifelong advocates for the environment. RCC fellows develop a campaign to address a sustainability issue on their campus that they identify, work on their campaign over the school year, engage in environmental justice issues and write blogs and letters to the editor in addition to other projects.
- Audience: Graduate and undergraduate students
- Approximate number of fellows per year: 30
- Location: Training in Washington, D.C., remote work on U.S. campuses
- Timing: Training in the summer, fellowship work throughout the academic year
- Compensation: The 2022 program offered a stipend of $2,000
- Next application date: Applications for the 2022-2023 fellowship closed on May 2 so applications for 2023-2024 will likely close around April or May.
Millennium Fellows work on projects that advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on campus and in their communities.
- Audience: Undergraduate students
- Approximate number of fellows per year: 3,000-plus globally in cohorts of 8-20 students per school
- Location: On campuses worldwide
- Timing: August to December 2023
- Compensation: Free to participate
- Next application date: Applications are open. While no deadline is posted, applicants are encouraged to apply as early as possible.
For students and recent graduates
ICCT Fellows work on a variety of projects that provide relevant, rigorous, unbiased research and technical and scientific analysis of transportation policy to government officials around the world.
- Audience: Students and recent graduates
- Location: Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; or global ICCT offices
- Timing: 6-month, 12-month, full- and part-time fellowships available
- Compensation: Varies according to fellowship assignment
- Next application date: Rolling applications are made available as opportunities arise.
Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE) in partnership with GRID Alternatives Rising Solar Fellowship
Rising Solar Fellows receive free access to the RE+ solar energy conference, specialized program content and mentoring and networking opportunities in the solar energy industry.
Audience: Undergraduates, graduate students or recent graduates identifying as a woman or other marginalized gender
- Approximate number of fellows per year: 6
- Location: Virtual meetings and in-person attendance of the RE+ conference in Las Vegas
- Timing: Two months centered around the RE+ conference in September 2023
- Compensation: Free access to the RE+ conference including tickets, travel, meals and lodging expenses, and a free year of WRISE membership
- Next application date: Applications for the 2022 fellowship closed June 27. Applications typically open in late spring. Be sure to get on the email list so you will be notified when applications open.
Rudd Mayer Memorial Fellows receive free access to the CLEANPOWER conference, specialized program content and mentoring and networking opportunities in the wind energy industry.
- Audience: Undergraduates, graduate students, or recent graduates identifying as a woman or other marginalized gender
- Approximate number of fellows per year: 6
- Location: Virtual meetings and in-person attendance of the CLEANPOWER conference in New Orleans
- Timing: Two months centered around the CLEANPOWER conference in May
- Compensation: Free access to the CLEANPOWER conference including tickets, travel, meals and lodging expenses, and a free year of WRISE membership
- Next application date: Applications for the 2022 fellowship closed Feb. 28. Applications typically open in early winter so should be open relatively soon. Be sure to get on the email list so you will be notified when applications open.
FLP Members support Council Fire consulting engagements that help businesses and other organizations to build positive and lasting social, economic and environmental impact. Program members receive training, networking, mentorship and compensation for client work while retaining the flexibility to work or pursue educational opportunities while participating in the program.
- Audience: Early-career professionals, graduate or doctorate students, and career-changers transitioning into the sustainability field.
- Approximate number of fellows per year: 4-5 active at a time on client projects but additional members are accepted to assist with new projects on an as-needed basis depending on member capacity and interests
- Location: Remote from within the U.S.
- Timing: 10 weeks up to 2 years of participation
- Compensation: Varies according to engagement assignments
- Next application date: Rolling applications made available as opportunities arise
Part-time fellowships for working professionals
1 Hotels Fellows work on projects that amplify the business and economic case for smart policies in climate change, clean energy, food and agriculture, healthy communities, oceans, clean water and nature and wildlife.
- Audience: Early to mid-career professionals with a project proposal
- Approximate number of fellows per year: 6
- Location: Various locations across the U.S.
- Timing: One year commitment beginning in December
- Compensation: $20,000 award
- Next application date: Applications for the 2022-2023 fellowship closed May 9. Applications for 2023-2024 are expected to open early spring or early summer 2023.
The CELI Fellowship is a program that prepares early to mid-career professionals to effectively serve as clean energy leaders in their fields. Fellows complete an eight-month intensive that challenges them to think critically about current energy policy and market structures, examine existing and historical inequities, identify barriers to clean energy deployment and innovation, recognize leadership moments and know what to do when they step into one, develop holistic solutions toward an equitable energy transition and build the relationships necessary to scale solutions. In the process, they develop deep relationships that inspire collaboration, partnership and innovation.
- Audience: Early to mid-career working professionals
- Approximate number of fellows per year: 250 (about 40 per cohort)
- Locations: Bay Area, Chicago, New York, Washington DC, and two virtual, national programs running on PT/MT and CT/ET respectively
- Timing: The 2023 Fellowship will run from late September through late June
- Cost: The 2022 Fellowship tuition cost was $3,000, CELI provides need-based scholarships and no Fellows are turned away for lack of funds
- Next application date: 2023 Fellowship applications will open in January or February and applications will close in April or May.
The Climatebase Fellowship is designed to help talented mission-driven professionals accelerate their climate careers by providing education and networking opportunities with passionate peers and leading climate experts, investors and leaders. The learning curriculum covers climate fundamentals, energy and transportation, engineered carbon removal, nature-based solutions, food and agriculture, circular economy, and buildings, cities and adaptation. There is an optional capstone project.
- Audience: Working professionals
- Approximate number of fellows per year: 150 per cohort, with multiple cohorts per year
- Location: Virtual
- Timing: The fall 2022 cohort weekly fellowship activities were Aug. 8-Oct.7. The next cohort will take place in early 2023.
- Cost: $1,995 tuition with need-based scholarships and payment plans available
- Next application date: Applications for the 2023 cohort are open now and will close Dec. 1.
Driving impact for nonprofit social impact organizations under the guidance of a leading nonprofit executive mentor.
- Audience: Working professionals
- Approximate number of fellows per year: 12
- Location: Kick-off event in Miami in January, two-day site visit at your host organization, virtual meetings and events and a culmination event in Washington, D.C. in July
- Timing: 15 hours a month over six months
- Compensation: None, but all travel expenses are paid and your host organization receives up to $5,000 for projects
- Next application date: The application deadline for the 2023 cohort was Oct. 14; applications for 2023 will open next fall.
Full-time fellowships for working professionals
Climate Corps is an award-winning fellowship program that provides professional development opportunities for emerging leaders through implementation of sustainability and resiliency projects with government organizations, nonprofits and for-profit businesses. Host organizations receive the support of qualified, passionate, dedicated Fellows who gain real-world expertise in sustainability project implementation. Climate Corps Fellows work on projects that span all facets of climate and sustainability, including environmental justice, corporate sustainability, renewable energy, transportation, facilities, education, waste reduction, conservation, and more.
- Audience: Early-career professionals available to work full-time for 10 months
- Approximate number of fellows per year: 125
- Timing: 10-month projects starting on a rolling basis throughout the year
- Compensation: $26,500-$47,000-plus depending on the position
- Next application date: Rolling applications are made available as opportunities arise, with most posted throughout the spring and summer. Open positions are available.
SolarCorps is an 11-month paid term of community service for enthusiastic and highly motivated individuals looking to start or further a career in clean energy or the nonprofit world. Positions are available in areas such as construction, workforce development, community outreach, clean mobility outreach and program administration. SolarCorps is organized by GRID Alternatives, a California-based national leader in helping economic and environmental justice communities nationwide get clean, affordable solar power and solar jobs.
- Audience: Fellows come from a wide range of backgrounds and represent the diversity GRID is working to cultivate within the solar industry.
- Approximate number of fellows per year: 30
- Locations: Various locations across the US
- Timing: 11 months beginning in September
- Compensation: A stipend and healthcare
- Next application date: Spring
CivicSpark is an AmeriCorps program dedicated to building capacity for public agencies to address emerging environmental and social equity resilience challenges such as climate change, water resource management, affordable housing and mobility. Fellows implement targeted sustainability and resilience projects supporting public agencies, while also building long-term capacity to ensure the work is sustained after their service year is completed. CivicSpark projects help address community resilience needs in climate adaptation, drought response, rural broadband, affordable housing, climate mitigation, water management, transit and mobility, and equitable community engagement.
- Audience: U.S. citizens available to work full-time for 11 months
- Approximate number of fellows per year: 135
- Location: Various locations in California, Colorado, or Washington state
- Timing: An 11-month service year beginning in September or October
- Compensation: $25,500 living allowance plus additional benefits
- Next application date: Applications for the 2022-2023 fellowship closed July 31, so applications for 2023-2024 will likely be open April-July.
CivicSpark is just one great example of the many fellowship experiences made available through the AmeriCorps national service program. Learn more about the various AmeriCorps opportunities on the AmeriCorps program’s website.
Fellowships with the federal government
The Clean Energy Innovator Fellowship program funds recent graduates and energy professionals to work with critical energy organizations to advance clean energy solutions. The program recruits talent from diverse backgrounds to spend up to two years supporting the work of eligible host organizations, which include electric public utility commissions, municipal and cooperative utilities and grid operators, such as regional transmission organizations or independent system operators.
Innovator Fellows receive a stipend and an educational allowance to support host institution projects that will help decarbonize the power system, electrify transportation and industry, and make the U.S. power system more equitable and inclusive. The goal of the program is to increase access to clean energy career opportunities across the country and accelerate the national transition to resilient and affordable clean energy.
- Audience: Recent graduates and energy professionals
- Approximate number of fellows per year: 20
- Location: Various locations across the U.S.
- Timing: Full-time work for one to two years
- Compensation: Unspecified stipend
- Next application date: The Spring 2022 cohort application closed May 6. The host organizations for 2023 were announced in September.
In addition to DOE’s Clean Energy Innovator Fellowship, the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) manages a large portfolio of undergraduate, graduate, recent graduate, and postdoctoral fellowships and other learning experiences for the DOE and more than a dozen other federal agencies. Visit the ORISE programs page to learn more.
The PMF Program is the federal government’s flagship leadership development program for advanced degree holders across all academic disciplines. Its mission is to recruit and develop a cadre of future government leaders from all segments of society. Eligible individuals apply to be selected as Finalists. Finalists then have 12 months to secure an appointment as a Fellow, which is a two-year, full-time, paid fellowship at a federal agency.
- Audience: Current graduate students and recent graduates
- Approximate number of fellows per year: In 2021, 550 finalists were selected and about 50-60 percent of finalists secured appointments as fellows
- Location: Various locations across the U.S. at one or more office or federal agency
- Timing: Two-year full-time appointment
- Compensation: Unspecified GS-9, 11 or 12 salary and benefits
- Next application date: The PMF Class of 2023 application opened Sept. 13 and closed Oct. 7. If you are interested in applying to the PMF program, watch the website carefully for application deadline announcements.
I hope you learned about at least one fantastic fellowship program that you’re excited to apply to. Remember, if you know of a program that should be added to this list, please visit my LinkedIn post about this article and let me know in the comments so I can update the article with the program and a shoutout to you.
Thanks, and good luck with your applications.