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Benefits Overview for Postdocs and NRSA Fellows


There are three categories of postdocs at Penn based upon funding source: postdoctoral researcher (supported from a research grant), NRSA-postdoctoral fellow (supported by an individual or institutional National Research Service Award), and postdoctoral fellow (supported by a private foundation, non-profit charitable organization, or other sources). 


Benefits for Postdoctoral Researchers and Fellows: As of July 1, 2023, Postdoctoral Researchers and Fellows are eligible for the postdoc benefits plan through Penn Human Resources. They are required to either waive or enroll in these benefits.

Benefits for NRSA Fellows: As of July 1, 2023, NRSA Fellows are eligible for benefits through Gallagher Services. The IRS defines NRSA Fellows as trainees. Because of their unique status as trainees, institutions cannot use NRSA funds to fund the cost of an employee benefit rate or provide benefits that have a tax impact on the training stipends like pre-tax contributions.

Important note regarding benefits and change in funding support for postdoctoral positions:

If a postdoctoral researcher or fellow has a change in funding support while at Penn and is hired as an NRSA Fellow, they must switch benefit plans and enroll/waive coverage through Gallagher Insurance. If an NRSA Fellow changes funding support and is hired a postdoctoral researcher or fellow (i.e. is no longer supported by an NRSA training grant), they must switch benefits plans and enroll/waive benefits through Penn HR.

The table below summarizes eligibility for benefits based on postdoc category.

BenefitPostdoctoral Researcher/FellowNRSA Fellow
Medical Coverage (including fertility)
coverage begins on day 1 of appt.
all options meet J-1 requirements
Aetna POS**
Dental CoverageMetlife DentalAetna Dental HMO
Aetna Dental PPO
Vision CoverageDavis Vision Plan VSPAetna Vision
Evacuation and Repatriation InsuranceEligibleEligible
Short-term DisabilityEligibleNot eligible*
Long-term DisabilityEligibleNot eligible*
Life InsuranceEligibleEligible
403(b) Tax-deferred AnnuityEligibleNot eligible*
Dependent Care Spending AccountEligibleNot eligible*
NRSA Childcare AllowanceNot eligibleEligible
Employee Assistance ProgramEligibleEligible
Penn COBALT (mental health resource)EligibleEligible
Back-Up Family CareEligible through Penn HRSupport available through Penn Family Center
Transportation/Commuting BenefitEligibleNot eligible*
FICA taxEligibleNot eligible*
Gym membership discountEligibleEligible
Biometric screeningsEligibleEligible

* Under IRS guidance, the University is not permitted to treat NRSA fellows as university employees and participate in pre-tax employee benefits.

** NRSA Fellows will be automatically enrolled in POS plan to ensure immediate or continuous coverage. They may contact Gallagher to opt out if choosing insurance outside the University.

Penn Human Resources – Benefits for Postdoctoral Researchers and Fellows:

Gallagher Insurance Plan for Penn NRSA Fellows:

Penn postdoc policy:

Related FAQs

I have other questions about the benefits. Who do I contact?

For postdoc researchers and fellows contact Health Advocate at 1-866-799-2329 or the Penn Employee Solution Center. NRSA Fellows should contact Gallagher Services at

What benefits are available to postdocs?

Postdoctoral Researchers and Fellows are eligible for the Penn Postdoc Benefits plan. NRSA Fellows are eligible for benefits through Gallagher Services.

What happens to my benefits if funding for my postdoc position changes?

If your funding changes from NRSA to non-NRSA funding (or vice versa) you will need to switch benefits plans. You will be contacted by either Penn HR through Workday or Gallagher Benefits Services, depending on whether your support will be from NRSA or Non NRSA funds.

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