NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

The fellowship supports early-career scholars making significant scholarly contributions to education research.

Funding status
Open for applications

Career stage

Earliest start date
Jun 1, 2025

Application opens
Jul 1, 2024

Application deadline
Nov 7, 2024 – 5:00 pm ET

Duration of award
Varies (generally two years)

Contact details

The NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship supports early career scholars working in critical areas of education research. Through professional development, funding, and mentorship from senior scholars, the fellowship enhances the career and research opportunities of the fellow.

As a highly competitive initiative, this fellowship annually identifies and supports 25 of the most exceptional researchers conducting postdoctoral studies relevant to education.

The award

This non-residential fellowship supports scholars who promise to make significant contributions to the field of education and advances the careers of the recipients. Scholars may conduct their research at their home institution or at another research site that they have arranged. The fellowship comprises three key components:

  1. Fellows receive $70,000 for one academic year, distributed in two installments.
  2. Fellows participate in three professional development retreats facilitated by NAEd members and other distinguished scholars. These retreats offer general and specialized discussions to enhance the fellows’ research capabilities and academic growth.
  3. Fellows choose an NAEd member or another esteemed scholar as a mentor, providing guidance and support throughout the academic year.


To receive the fellowship, applicants must:

  1. Have received their PhD, EdD, or equivalent research degree between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2023.
  2. Not hold tenure status at the time of the application deadline.
  3. Have a demonstrated record of research experience in education and the project must be in education research.
  4. Submit an individual application as we will not accept group applications.

Funding priority

The research topic must focus primarily on education, but the fellowship welcomes postdocs from any academic discipline or professional field. Fellowship recipients have included individuals from anthropology, architecture, art history, communications, economics, education, history, linguistics, literature, philosophy, political science, psychology, public health, religion, and sociology. The fellowship does not limit eligibility to these fields. Candidates should demonstrate their interest in conducting education research long term.

Application review process

Review occurs in four stages:

  1. Staff screen applications for completness and fit (i.e., research focuses on education).
  2. The selection committee reviews the applications in February. Each application is reviewed by two committee members. The committee then chooses approximately 50-60 semifinalists. All applicants are notified of their status after this review. 
  3. Two senior scholars in the applicants’ discipline evaluate the application and provide feedback to the selection committee. 
  4. The selection committee reviews the semifinalist applications in April. The committee then chooses 25 finalists. All remaining applicants are notified of their status after this review.

Application components

You will submit the following components as part of your application through the online portal:


  • Demographic data
  • Education history
  • Employment history
  • A list of scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships you have received or have applied
  • A list of honors and awards received
  • A list of publications and presentations
  • Information about the completion of pre-dissertation requirements
  • Language(s) proficiency

Career statement

Describe what led you to your current role and interest in this project. You should indicate future professional plans and how the proposed research contributes to long-term professional goals.


In a single-spaced paragraph, summarize the substantive focus and research design of the project and its contribution to education.

Project description
In no more than 10 double-spaced pages with one-inch margins, and at least 11-point Times New Roman font, describe the research project. The document is to have page numbers, the applicant’s full name, and email address as a running header.

In the narrative, include the goals of the project, its contribution to the field, and the significance of the work, especially as it relates to education. Provide evidence that there is a solid plan for conducting the proposed study. Place the project in context, and outline the theoretical grounding and the relevant literature. Describe the research methods, data analysis, and interpretation techniques. Describe the manner in which the outlined inquiry is part of a larger context of work, and give examples of that larger context.

Each proposal is reviewed by senior scholars familiar with the field and by others less familiar; thus, situate language specific to a field within an argument persuasive to a generalist audience.

Append a single-spaced, max two page, bibliography of the sources most important to the project (include works cited in the narrative).

Upload your narrative and bibliography as one document (maximum of 12 pages). You may include technical and supplemental appendices (charts, graphs, tables, questionnaires, etc.) that do not count towards the limit. However, be judicious, as we do not require judges to review material in the appendices. You are to include information essential to understanding the project in the narrative (including any coding systems).

Example of past research relevant to education

In no more than 20 double-spaced pages, provide an example of a previous research project that demonstrates your promise as a researcher and your ability to complete the proposed project. This can be a chapter of a book, an article, or other research work. The writing sample may be published or unpublished.

Note: most journal publications are single-spaced and double-columned; we will not accept this format. If you wish to submit a published piece, you must reformat to the NAEd application guidelines: double-spaced, 11-point Times New Roman font, and 20 pages or less, including references. If your piece is longer than 20 pages, you may submit an excerpt and provide a link to the full document. When providing an excerpt, select the content carefully, as reviewers are only required to review what you submit.

Curriculum vitae/resume

Upload a current CV or resume that includes the categories below. Do not include acronyms in the CV.

  • Education beyond high school (include any professional education beyond the highest earned degree), beginning with your most recent program of study. Be sure to include the name(s) of your institution, location, major/minor, degree, and date awarded.
  • Employment, beginning with most recent. Include your title, the organization name, location, and dates.
  • Awards or fellowships received. Include title and dates.
  • Publications and research relevant to education.

Repeat applicants only: project summary

Provide the title and a one-paragraph summary of your previous proposal(s) for every year applied.

Letters of recommendation

We require three letters of recommendation. Recommenders must submit their letters online. We will only accept three letters per applicant. We recommend you request letters early as letter writers have the same deadline as applicants. We will not allow extensions.

Once you submit the name and email of your recommenders, the online application will send an automated request to submit. As a precaution, we recommend applicants notify reviewers that the email is forthcoming and to check their spam folder if they do not see the invitation in their inbox.


The Spencer Foundation published three how-to guides applicants may find beneficial while working on their proposals.

Overall, a strong proposal presents a well-grounded and convincing argument for the proposed research. Fellowships are won on the strength of their innovative and important ideas and the extent to which the proposed methods further these ideas. These guides should not be thought of as definitive checklists for crafting a successful proposal, but rather, they offer helpful guidance for writing field-initiated research grant proposals and designing strong quantitative and qualitative methods.

In addition to the guides, applicants may find the Social Science Research Council’s “On the Art of Writing Proposals” beneficial.


When is the notification of awards?
We will notify semi-finalists in May.

Is there an example of a successful application from previous years?
The NAEd does not make previous applications publicly available.

Can I reapply if a previous application was turned down?
Yes. You may reapply for the fellowship if eligible. Re-applicants must submit a new application.

Will I receive feedback on my application?
Yes. All applicants will receive feedback on their application by July.

Can I apply if I did not graduate from a department or school of education?
Yes. You can be in any field, as long as your research centrally relates to education and shows promise of contributing to the understanding of the history, theory, or practice of education.

How broadly does the NAEd/Spencer Foundation define education?
The NAEd and Spencer’s definition of education is quite broad and encompasses education in its many forms: formal and non-formal, U.S. and non-U.S., early childhood through adult, school settings and non-school settings, and so forth.

What if an applicant is unsure if/how their dissertation topic relates to education?
We have a long history of supporting projects related to education. Applicants should look at the listing of grants awarded during past years to assess the range of topics supported. Past grants are not an indication of the only substantive topics of interest. It is the applicant’s responsibility to state clearly and explicitly the connection between the proposed research and the improvement of education. If an applicant can make a case that their research is relevant to education, consider applying. If you have a hard time making the case that your research is relevant to education, then you will probably have difficulty writing a competitive application.

Are non-U.S. citizens eligible to apply?
Non-U.S. and non-residential citizens are eligible to apply for the postdoctoral fellowship.

Can I accept other awards for my research project?
Fellows may not receive other concurrent funding for their project during the tenure of their fellowship. Fellows may not hold a separate grant from the Spencer Foundation during their fellowship period.

Do I need to be affiliated with an institution?
No, you do not need to be affiliated with an institution.

Is the award made to the institution or to me?
The fellowship award can either be self-administered or institutionally administered; if awarded, the fellow determines.

What does the award cover and how should I use the funding?
Fellows must take leave from their full-time teaching and administrative duties to focus on their research as outlined in their application proposal during the fellowship period. The fellowship award serves as a replacement for salary (not a supplement) and covers other research-related expenses. During this time, the Academy expects fellows to refrain from accepting any other financial awards to support the research project described in the application.

Moreover, the terms of the Spencer Foundation’s support to the NAEd for this fellowship do not include institutional support. This means no funding for overhead or indirect costs such as office rent, grants and contracts office expenses, institutional and departmental administrative expenses, information technology costs, or accounting and legal services.

Any interest accrued on these grant funds must exclusively support the activities described in the application. Any funds not spent or obligated by the end of the fellowship period must be returned to the Academy.

Applicants do not need to specify how they will use the funding in their initial application. This detail is addressed after the NAEd receives the fellow’s official acceptance.

In what style or format should we submit documents?
The NAEd accepts all major formatting and writing styles (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.).

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