NSF CAREER Award Proposal Development Resources

Resources on this page will help faculty develop their NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award project and write a successful proposal. The next NSF deadline for submission of CAREER proposals is July 26, 2021 (all directorates). 


How to Write Winning NSF CAREER Proposals 2021: An on-demand webinar series. Available at any time from March 4 through August 2021. Register here.

Take a deep dive into what NSF is looking for and how to plan and write a winning proposal by watching an excellent in-depth webinar from Academic Research Funding Strategies, LLC. The Office of Research Development has purchased a subscription to the webinar, making it available for unlimited viewing by all faculty and staff through August 1, 2021. The webinar is in seven sections, making it easy to return to as many times as you wish as you are working on your proposal. It includes downloads of the slide deck, with active links; a proposal outline template; samples of key sections; and helpful articles.

  • Covers the basics of the NSF CAREER proposal
  • Helps you plan your CAREER project and position yourself to be competitive
  • Guides you through writing the proposal, section by section, with special attention on what each section needs to accomplish and how to avoid common mistakes
  • Includes downloads of an outline template, annotated examples, and helpful articles.

Overview of the NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program (NSF 20-025)

Next Due Date: July 26, 2021

Program Purposes

  • Emphasizes the importance NSF places on early development of academic careers in which the excitement of research is enhanced by inspired teaching and dissemination of new knowledge.

  • Aims to provide stable support at a sufficient level and duration to enable awardees to develop careers not only as outstanding researchers but also as effective, committed educators.

  • Aims to encourage faculty and academic institutions to value and support the integration of research and education, in which the process of discovery stimulates learning and assures that research findings are quickly and effectively communicated in a broader context and to a large audience.

Guidelines - Key Points

  • NSF-wide. All directorates participate

  • Eligibility - Assistant Professor in a tenure-track position

  • Single PI projects, but can support other senior personnel in limited roles

  • Minimum budget $400K ($500K for BIO, ENG and Polar Programs) over 5 years, Includes indirect (59.5%)

  • Can receive only one CAREER award

  • Can submit 3 times

NSF CAREER Program website - program summary and a link to the solicitation: https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503214

NSF CAREER Directorate & Division Contacts: http://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/career/contacts.jsp 

NSF Organization List (useful for finding core programs): https://www.nsf.gov/staff/orglist.jsp


Sample NSF CAREER proposals:

Examples of the Departmental Letter of Support from UMass Amherst CAREER proposals

UNC-Chapel Hill, NSF CISE CAREER Workshop http://cisecareerworkshop.web.unc.edu/materials/


Proposal guides:

Guiding questions for the CAREER Education Plan and Broader Impacts sections

Guiding questions for the CAREER Introduction/Overview and Intellectual Merit sections


Related resources:

Office of Research Development Broader Impacts of Research website:  https://www.umass.edu/research/proposals/develop-proposal/broader-impacts


Contacts: Mary K. Green, MHS, mkgreen@umass.edu,

Mary Fechner, PhD, mfechner@research.umass.edu

Office of Research Development