July 31, 2008

How to land a job reviewing federal grant proposals

Q. How do you get hired to review federal grant proposals for government agencies?

A. The answer to your question varies by agency, but in general you apply to become a reviewer for a specific agency by submitting contact information and a résumé, which go into a pool of potential reviewers that the agency may decide to call upon.

Some agencies, such as the Administration for Children and Families, also ask for a writing sample. Though many agencies allow potential reviewers to apply online, others require paper applications.

Look for an agency that matches your background: say, education, museum work, or social services. Then familiarize yourself with the agency's grant programs to see if your particular experiences would be useful.

For instance, according to its Web site, the Institute of Museum and Library Services is looking for museum and library workers with expertise in conservation, "the digitization of museum collections for educational purposes," and the provision of library services to Native Americans. The Department of Education's Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives seeks educators who have helped low-income children graduate from high school, designed mentoring programs, and worked with the children of migrant farm workers. The Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration needs people who've worked with substance abusers and the mentally ill.

Because the federal government does not maintain a central listing of grant-review opportunities, the best place for you to start is agency Web sites. If you're not sure what agencies are out there,, the government's official Web site, includes an A-to-Z list.

Another good source of information is the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, which lists all federal grant programs.

For more information about federal grant reviewing, see "A Guidebook for Federal Grant Reviewers," available from the Heritage Foundation on its Web site, and the National Institutes of Health video Inside the NIH Grant Review Process on the Center for Scientific Review's Web site.