USAID Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship Program

The USAID Payne Fellowship program seeks to attract outstanding young people who are interested in pursuing areers in the Foreign Service of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). If you want to work on the front lines of some of the most pressing global challenges of our times — poverty, hunger, injustice, disease, environmental degradation, climate change, conflict and violent extremism – the Foreign Service of the U.S. Agency for International Development provides an opportunity to advance U.S. foreign policy interests and reflect the American people’s compassion and support of human dignity. The Payne Fellowship, which provides up to $93,000 in benefits over two years for graduate school, internships, and professional development activities, provides a unique pathway to the USAID Foreign Service.


  • United States citizens.
  • Undergraduate Fellowship: Applicants must be in the junior year of undergraduate study 
  • Graduate Fellowship: Graduating seniors or recent alums.
  • Cumulative GPA 3.2+ and this GPA must be maintained throughout participation in the program.
  • Applicants must enroll in a two-year, full-time master’s degree program, at U.S. based graduate institutions only, in an academic field relevant to the work of the Foreign Service (public policy, international affairs, public administration, business, economics, political science, sociology, or foreign languages)
  • Be prepared to enter the Foreign Service upon completion of graduate study.


The fellowship program seeks individuals who show clear interest in a Foreign Service career at USAID, along with a strong academic background, a commitment to service, leadership skills, financial need for graduate school, diverse interests in areas such as international affairs and development, cultural sensitivity, writing skills, and an ability to overcome obstacles.  A good application introduces the individual to the panel and shows his/her unique motivations, experiences, accomplishments, and career goals. 


Applicants apply directly to the USAID Payne Fellowship program by the November deadline. In addition to an online form, the application asks for a copy of unofficial transcript(s), proof of U.S. citizenship, a personal statement, a statement of financial need, a personal resume, most recent financial aid award letter, most recent Student Aid Report, two letters of recommendation, and GRE/GMAT scores.