Research fellows typically hold positions working for academic staff and faculty members at universities, conducting their research independently or with another faculty member. Though they are sometimes confused with research assistants, research fellows often already hold doctoral degrees or have completed field work equivalent to one while research assistants are still working toward such distinction. Some research fellows teach as well, while some keep their focus strictly on their research.
If it was possible to be a professional student, a research fellow would certainly be one…but they are hardly compensated as such! A research fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., receives a $50,000 stipend for a nine-month residence – far more than what most bachelor’s holders will earn in their first entry-level job. If you had to choose between that and scrounging for change in your couch cushions like some students do, I have a funny feeling you’d pick the former.
Another option for research fellows is the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a New York-based organization that awards grants year-round on six broad subject matters: Basic Research, Science Education, Public Understanding of Science, Economic Performance and the Quality of Life, Select National Issues and Civic Initiatives. Founded in 1934 by Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., the former president and CEO of General Motors, the program seeks to recognize the achievements of outstanding young scholars in science, mathematics, economics and computer science…and they sure can pick ‘em: Recipients have gone on to win 38 Nobel prizes, 14 Fields Medals (mathematics), and eight John Bates Clark awards (economics).
Research fellowships differ depending on the country and institution in which they take place. While some positions are temporary (like the Folger Fellowship we mentioned earlier), others are permanent with the possibility of promotion; if you’re someone who relocates frequently, a permanent fellowship would not be the best fit for your lifestyle so check the terms before you apply to ensure the most deserving candidate is awarded.