Scholarship Connections

Applicant PhotoThe Final Stretch
Fulfilling Your Service Commitment

Congratulations! Your training is nearly complete and the Indian Health Service (IHS) looks forward to your valuable contribution to our mission — To raise the physical, mental, social and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level. As you progress to the final step of your health professions journey, we offer several employment options by which you can perform your service commitment, including:

  • The Indian Health Service
  • Direct Tribal hire (contracted under the Indian Self-Determination Act [P.L. 93-638]).
  • Urban Indian health program (assisted under Title V, Health Services for Urban Indians, of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act [P.L. 94-437]).
  • For physicians, dentists and clinical psychologists only: A private practice in a designated Health Profession Shortage Area (HPSA) in which at least 75% of the patient base from that geographic area are documented members or descendents of a federally or state-recognized Tribe. This option is only available when there are no identified vacancies in the health profession in which you received funding. Final approval of this option is at the discretion of the Director, IHS.
Three Career Paths

Health professionals have the option to pursue one of three career paths when it comes time to begin fulfilling their service commitment. Each offers unique professional and personal benefits. Read the descriptions below to help you decide which path best suits your own priorities.


You can work for IHS as an employee of the federal government. The federal civil service system is known for its outstanding comprehensive compensation and benefits package. If you opt for civil service, you must submit the following forms and all other additional required materials (for example, official transcripts) to the IHS personnel office designated on the job vacancy announcement by the deadline specified on that announcement. Be sure to include:

  • Resume
  • Verification of Indian Preference for Employment in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service (Form BIA-4432) [PDF - 85KB]

You must identify yourself as an IHS scholarship recipient on your application in order to obtain priority placement or you will risk losing your priority status. For information regarding benefits — including salary, travel pay, health benefits and housing — you must contact the IHS personnel office to which you are applying.


You can also accept employment directly from one of the 566 federally recognized Tribes in 35 states throughout the United States. Employment benefits are comparable to those offered by federal personnel systems, but vary depending on the Tribe and the position. All salary and benefits are negotiated directly with the Tribe.


Another federal employment option, this team of more than 6,000 public health professionals reports to the US Surgeon General. The Commissioned Corps is one of seven uniformed services of the federal government. While it is not a branch of the military, commissioned officers enjoy many of the same benefits. You can apply for service through the Commissioned Corps if your health profession is one of the following: medical, dental, optometry, podiatry, nursing (BSN, MSN), pharmacy, engineering, physical therapy, dietetics, sanitarian or masterís degree- or doctoral-level health profession training.

For a complete list of Commission Corps eligible health professions, visit the USPHS website . You must identify yourself as an IHS scholarship recipient on your application in order to obtain priority placement and appropriate benefits. To receive information and an application, contact:

Division of Commissioned Corps Assignments
1101 Wootton Parkway, Plaza Level, Suite 100
Rockville, MD 20852
Phone: (240) 453-6125 or (800) 279-1605

Required Documentation Related to
Your Service Commitment

To fulfill your service commitment, you must adhere to IHS Scholarship Program guidelines and engage in full-time clinical practice in the health profession for which you received scholarship support, regardless of the policies of your service site.

Within 90 days of graduation, you must begin your employment at an approved service site. It is your responsibility to:

  • Begin searching for a position at least three to six months before graduation or completion of training.
  • Become licensed or board certified (as required by your health profession).

For complete information on service commitment policies and procedures, consult your IHS Scholarship Program Student Handbook [PDF - 12.5MB].

Documents and Deadlines


Send all required documentation associated with your service commitment to:

IHS Scholarship Program
Attn. Program Analyst
801 Thompson Ave., Suite 120
Rockville, MD 20852


You must submit the following completed forms to the Area Scholarship Coordinator within the IHS Area where you seek to work. Also send completed copies of each form to your IHS Discipline Chief and IHS Scholarship Program Analyst and follow up with your Discipline Chief and Area Scholarship Coordinator each month to inquire about available vacancies and the status of your application.


Preferred Placement form (IHS-856-12) [PDF - 89KB]

Verification of Indian Preference for Employment in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service (Form BIA-4432) [PDF - 85KB]


Notice of Impending Graduation form (IHS-856-13) [PDF - 91KB]


Position Description

Your selected service site(s) must submit written correspondence to your IHS Scholarship Program Analyst (via email or letter):

  • Describing how your position meets one of the four employment options (IHS, Tribal, Urban or private practice).
  • Confirming that the clinical position for which you have applied is a full-time position within the health profession discipline in which you received your diploma.
  • Confirming that the patients you will serve are those authorized to be served under an IHS contract or compact, if applicable.

The IHS Scholarship Program will review this correspondence to confirm that your site and position meet all service commitment requirements. You must obtain approval before you can begin your service commitment.

Graduation Documentation

You must submit the following documentation upon graduation from school and before receiving credit toward fulfillment of your service commitment:

  • A copy of your diploma.
  • Your official final transcript stating the degree conferred.
  • A copy of your license or certificate (if required for employment).

Placement Update Form

You must submit a Placement Update (IHS-856-15) [PDF - 89KB] form to your IHS Scholarship Program analyst 30 days, 60 days and 90 days after graduation or completion of training if you have been unable to secure employment.*

*IHS Scholarship Program policy states that scholarship recipients who have not secured an assignment within 90 days after graduation or completion of training will be subject to involuntary placement by IHS. The Director, IHS, acting on behalf of the Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), can exercise direct placement authority to fill unmet health care provider needs identified by IHS, Tribal and/or Urban Indian health care facilities across the United States. Scholarship recipients unable or unwilling to secure a position will be in breach of their contract and placed into default.

Learn More

Visit the IHS website and our Careers page to find out about employment opportunities.

IHS Scholarship Logo IHS LogoDHHS Logo