Donald M. Payne International Development Fellowship Program

Provides up to $96,000 to college seniors and graduates in support for graduate study leading to careers with USAID.

What is the USAID Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship? The Payne Fellowship is a program that aims to attract and prepare outstanding young people for careers in the Foreign Service of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The program supports Payne Fellows through two years of graduate study, internships, mentoring, and professional development activities. The application of members of minority groups historically underrepresented in the Foreign Service, women, and those with financial need is encouraged.

Fellowship Benefits: The program awards approximately 10 fellowships of up to $48,000 annually for a two year period for tuition, room, board, books and mandatory fees for completion of two-year master’s degrees. This includes up to $22,000 per year for tuition and mandatory fees and an academic year stipend of $16,000. Fellows must obtain graduate degrees in international affairs, development, economics, history, political science, public administration, communications, public policy, business administration, foreign languages, agriculture, environmental sciences, or urban planning.

Payne Fellows also participate in two internships. The first, an internship working on international issues in Washington, DC, will occur in the summer after being selected and before the first year of graduate study. The second will be an overseas internship in a USAID Mission that takes place during the summer between the first and second years of graduate study. The program provides support of up to $10,000 per summer. Each Fellow will receive mentoring throughout the duration of the fellowship as well as during his/her early employment at USAID.

Deadline Information

Application Deadline: Friday, November 1, 2019


Orientation: Payne Fellows participate in an orientation at Howard University in May. The purpose of this orientation is to familiarize the Fellows with all aspects of the fellowship and to enhance their understanding of, and skills for, international development careers.

Service: Each Payne Fellow who obtains a master’s degree is committed to a minimum of five years of service as a USAID Foreign Service Officer. Candidates who do not successfully complete the Payne Program and the subsequent five year service obligation may be subject to a reimbursement obligation. 

Eligibility Requirements

  • Be a US citizen.
  • Seek admission to enter graduate school in the fall of 2020 for a two-year program at a U.S. university.
  • Have a minimum GPA of 3.2.

Application Process

A complete application includes the following:

  • Backrgound information
  • A personal statement (600 words)
  • A statement of financial need (400 words)
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Student Aid Report 
  • GRE or GMAT Scores (optional)
  • Official Financial Aid Statement from senior year, if financial aid was received
  • Transcripts from all colleges and universities attended for credit

Preparing a Competitive Application: The 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 government, cultural sensitivity, writing skills, and an ability to overcome obstacles. A good application shows an applicant's unique motivations, experiences, accomplishments, and career goals. Please see application tips here.

For more information on this opportunity, please contact: 
Sandra Zupan