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Estimating FTEs

Estimating FTEs for the project duration – for project initiations:


An FTE is defined by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as the number of total hours worked divided by the maximum number of compensable hours in a full-time schedule as defined by law. For most NIFA partners and places of employment, a full-time schedule as defined by law equates to 2,080 hours of work (52 weeks multiplied by 40 hours per week). Thus, a person who works 40 hours per week for 52 weeks towards a project equals 1 FTE. A person who works 20 hours per week towards a project for 52 weeks per year equals .5 of an FTE. Multiply this times the number of years your project will run, e.g. 5 years x .5 per year = 2.5 FTEs.


INSTRUCTIONS: Please be sure fractions of FTEs are rounded to the nearest tenth. You should include all FTEs that will support the project, regardless of source of funding (i.e. FTEs funded by NIFA non-formula or formula grants, other Federal funds, State, or Other funds should all be included). Make sure to separate the FTEs by type as indicated on the table provided: Faculty and Non-Students in the first column and Students with Staffing Roles in the subsequent three columns. Also ensure that the FTE categories are correctly populated, differentiating between the following:

  • Scientist: A research worker responsible for original thought, judgments, and accomplishments in independent scientific study. This includes investigation leaders and project leaders and portions of the time of supervising scientists or staff assistants who meet the preceding definition. Examples: Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Scientist.
  • Professional: A professional does not qualify as a scientist under the preceding definitions but may still significantly contribute to research activities. Professionals usually hold one or more college degrees and have otherwise qualified for employments in a professional category. Generally, professionals have a high degree of research activity responsibility but do not hold principal investigator status or equivalent at the reporting institution. Examples: Department Head, Resident Director, Statistician, Analyst, Assistant Director, Dean.
  • Technical: Technical Staff are associated with research efforts in a technical capacity and do not participate in the investigative aspects of the research. Examples: Lab Assistant, Mechanic, Carpenter, Machinist, Skilled Tradesperson.
  • Administrative and Other: These are clerical and support staff who contribute to the non-technical support of the project. It is often difficult to assess an individual's clerical and labor support to any one project; they usually support groups of researchers of different projects in a broad manner, such as by ordering supplies, typing reports, managing bill payments, performing janitorial work. Examples: Secretary, Grant Administrator, Data Entry.


Calculating FTEs for students

  • FTEs are based on 2080 hours per year = 1.0 FTE
  • They also must be rounded off to a single decimal place
  • For the undergraduate students, 5 hours per week (hpw) for 52 weeks is 260 hours; divide by 2080 hours (1 FTE) = 0.125 FTE (it will have to be rounded off to a single decimal, or 0.1). Did they work 52 weeks/year, or average more than 5 hpw over 52 weeks? Whatever you estimate a weekly average and a number of weeks, that is how to do the math. 
  • For the grad student, we can assume a ½ time assistantship would be .5 FTE if it was for 52 weeks. If only for a single semester, then adjust accordingly based on the number of weeks. Don’t agonize over it, just give it your best shot.