Which Fellowship Is Better For You? - CSIR / GATE / ICMR / DBT
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Which Fellowship Is Better For You? – CSIR / GATE / ICMR / DBT

Just finished with your Masters? Or maybe you are in your final year, and hell scared about your career ahead? Then go on reading further, this article might be of great help to you.

Almost every such student ends up being super confused at this phase of their career. Proper guidance and a bit of self-analysis can make the decision-making process extremely smooth. Being life science students, you must already be aware of the need and importance to be associated with the research domain. Be it academics or even some industry where you are expected to be exposed to research-based activities. Hence a Ph.D. is going to become a mandate in the near future. But getting into such programs is again another challenge. One is required to clear entrance exams to be eligible for application at renowned institutions/universities, and also to be entitled to fellowships/scholarships to be able to self-fund their further studies.

But then again, there are quite such fellowships available like CSIR, ICMR, GATE, DBT, etc, and can be intimidating to choose one from these, to ensure you get your monthly stipends on time and complete your Ph.D. successfully. Worry not, this article will help you to understand your requirements and opt for your most suitable fellowship.

Below we have discussed on Which fellowship is better for you – CSIR / GATE / ICMR or DBT? Let’s start analyzing:


CSIR Fellowship Details

CSIR UGC NET exam, via which you can either get Junior Research Fellow or Lecturership if you qualify the exam. If you clear this exam, you not only get to work as a researcher in a prestigious laboratory/ institute but also get an opportunity to bag Rs. 31000 as a monthly stipend for the 1st 2 years and then Rs. 35000 for the next 3 years. This is as per the latest updates, where the Central Government has enhanced the monthly stipend allocated to JRF, SRF and Ph.D. scholars in the field of Science & Technology. There is also an annual contingency grant of Rs. 20000 per fellow in addition to this.

Most Renowned Fellowship In India

The best part of CSIR fellowship is that it is one of the most recognized fellowships for PhD in India and definitely adds a heavy weightage to the CV of the qualifying students. Also since it is a nationwide accepted fellowship, students get to choose their institutions where they want to pursue research, based on their skills and interests. However, they can do so only after qualifying rounds of interviews and maybe even an additional institutional entrance exam to get into their dream institute, but yes, CSIR doesn’t put any restrictions on the institute of choice.

The CSIR fellowships are tenable in any of the government research institutions, universities, IITs, government establishments, CSIR research laboratories or any R&D establishments of recognized public or Private Sector. However, CSIR also reserves the right to determine the place best suited to provide the necessary facilities in the science and technology field in which the awardees are to specialize.

Added Advantages

–> Appearing for the CSIR exam has an advantage that fellowships are offered from both CSIR and UGC, both having separate merit lists. Needless to say, the number of fellowships offered by CSIR is much more. The seat limit can be as high as 1500 students/exam conducted every 6 months.

–> CSIR qualifying candidates can take advantage of other benefits too apart from earning the scholarship amount, such as they need not pay any income tax during their fellowship tenure and that they can use the prize money to advance their research activities. CSIR also provides travel assistance to some deserving research scholars working in an academic or research institution in India to participate in conferences, symposia, etc. held abroad.

See Also
Cut Off For CSIR NET June 2019 Exam Released

–> There are other 2 very important added advantages, which exclusively comes with CSIR NET exam qualification. One is that the JRFs are automatically entitled to Lectureship in any institute across the country. No other Ph.D. entrance exams have any such possibility.

–> Another one is the top students clearing JRF are awarded a special fellowship called the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Grant. This fellowship stipend amount is Rs.36000/- + HRA per month during the first two years of the fellowship and a Contingency grant of Rs.70000/- per annum. It may be raised to a whopping Rs.42000/- + HRA per month from third year onwards on the basis of assessment through interview. This also has a condition, that if performance is not found satisfactory, it may be reverted to JRF (NET)


There is yet another opportunity for GATE qualified candidates with BE/ BTech/ BArch/ BPharm degree to pursue research leading to Ph.D. CSIR has also introduced a new research fellowship in 2002 known as the GATE qualified Junior Research Fellowship (JRF-GATE). Such fellowships are tenable only at CSIR laboratories. This scheme is an excellent opportunity for JRFs to work with the CSIR scientists with state-of-art R&D facilities. The aim of JRF-GATE is to generate high-level science and to attain academic excellence; hence such scholars are expected to contribute to lab research through a suitable Ph.D. program.
Fresh BE/ B Tech degree holders with valid GATE score are eligible candidates to apply for the same.

The selected candidates will get to pursue Ph.D. either by getting direct admission to a Ph.D. program of University/ IIT/ NIT/REC etc, or the candidate may pursue MTech as a part of the Ph.D. program, after joining as JRF-GATE. In order to keep the continuity for the Ph.D. program, their thesis semester (last semester) should be spent at the CSIR laboratory relating to lab specialization. However, it should be noted that MTech candidates (either with BTech/ MTech or with MSc/ MTech) are not eligible for this fellowship. Instead, they have a separate opportunity for direct SRFship through interview. Hence, all those who are eligible for direct CSIR SRF cannot apply for this fellowship.

The selected candidates receive fellowships as per the CSIR guidelines for a total duration of five years within which the candidate is required to complete the Ph.D. degree. On completion of 2 years as JRF-GATE, the fellowship may be upgraded to SRF-GATE. The Director may recommend up-gradation of the fellowship to SRF-GATE, in case any exceptional candidate completes MTech within one year of joining JRF-GATE. All other conditions of JRF-NET are applicable. However, JRF-GATE fellows cannot be deployed in any sponsored project.

Important: Qualifying candidates should register for Ph.D. within two years of joining, otherwise the fellowship is deemed to be canceled and withdrawn. Also, the intimation about Ph.D. registration is to be sent to HRDG.

CSIR NET Preparation kit



Next coming to ICMR NET exam, this is conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), an organization offering the awards to young scientists with the Junior Research Fellowships (JRFs) to help them to carry out a successful research in the field of Biomedical Sciences and Social Sciences at Medical Colleges, Biomedical Research Institutes and Universities in India.

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GATE Online Test Series - AIMGATE 2020 For GATE Biotech & GATE XL Papers

–> A major disadvantage for this fellowship is that only a total of 150 Fellowships are awarded per year. Needless to say, there is a huge competition for these fellowship120 candidates are selected for work in the field of biomedical sciences (emphasis on life sciences) and 30 for social sciences.

–> Another 100 candidates are selected for consideration for positions of JRF under various ICMR research projects only for the duration of that project. The fellowship amount is the same as that of CSIR.

–> These JRFs are permitted to complete a Ph.D. while working in the project if enrolled. The validity of the result is two years for placement in ICMR funded projects for this category. The validity is only for a year and the tenure is only for 2 years.

–> Another disadvantage of ICMR fellowship is that the selection of institutes is very restricted, as is the field of research. Hence qualifying and selected candidates don’t have many options to choose from.

On the other hand, ICMR exam qualification opens up the opportunity for students who specifically wish to work in the medical research field, such as the study of diseases, causative agents, their spread or epidemiology.



DBT-BET Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) program is the flagship and the most prestigious program of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India. JRF program was initiated by the department way back in 1985 to enhance the students to pursue research in the field of biotechnology in the country. This program was initially implemented by the University of Pune, then it was shifted to National Cell culture Science, Pune, and off-late, Biotech Consortium India Limited is helping DBT with the implementation of DBT-JRF.

The main key objective of the DBT-JRF program is to provide fellowship to enough researchers in Biotechnology field in the country. Therefore, DBT-JRF entrance exam will have more questions from Biotechnology oriented topics like Recombinant DNA Technology, Immunology, Biochemical Engineering, etc. The DBT-JRF entrance exam is exclusively framed for the Biotechnology qualifications.

–> JRF has a provision for 250-270 fellowships per year, but in the past years, although not more than 150-175 students have actually activated the fellowship.

–> DBT JRF has are 2 categories of fellowships. The 1st category offers 275 fellowships which are tenable in any research institutions or universities. Under the 2nd category, a merit list of 100 students is published; who is eligible to join any of the DBT funded external projects in the country. However, DBT does not provide fellowship to these candidates. They have to avail the fellowship from the project that they are working in. Some institutions projects may not even allow the student to register for Ph.D. This is distinct from the 1st category, where the student has to mandatorily register for Ph.D. in order to avail the fellowship.

DBT Fellowship Details

The fellowship amount for DBT JRF as of now is lesser: Rs. 25000/month + HRA and for SRF it is Rs. 28000/month + HRA. DBT is under the same ministry as the Department of Science and Technology. Hence, the amounts get revised once in every 5 years, depending on the inflation and the corresponding increase and prevailing fellowships provided by the other agencies. So this may also get be hiked very soon.

The contingency grant is slightly higher in DBT fellowships, where Rs. 30,000 is provided per year.

–> One advantage of the DBT-JRF fellowship is that it is directly disbursed to the students, whereas normally other fellowships are disbursed to the institutes, where the students are pursuing their Ph.D. Very recently, DBT had implemented direct benefit transfer scheme of Government of India with effect from 1st April 2018. Under this scheme, around 629 fellowships were transferred to the Junior Research Fellows / Senior Research fellows’ respective bank accounts.

See Also
Cut Off For CSIR NET June 2019 Exam Released

DBT Exam Preparation Kit



One thing about GATE is that it is not an exam for pursuing a Ph.D. degree as such. GATE Biotechnology or GATE Life Science Exam qualification entitles one to pursue M.Tech, but apart from that GATE score is also considered by the IITs/universities/institutions to enroll for a Ph.D. degree.

The procedure for getting admission for Ph.D. depends on the respective institute. While some institutes may require GATE as mandatory for getting admission, while some others may require CSIR NET as mandatory. Some IIITs and other NITs may require neither GATE nor CSIR NET as mandatory. Such institutes conduct their own exams and yet provide a stipend. All in all, it depends on the institute in which candidates want to apply for.

GATE Fellowship Details

A stipend of ₹28,000 per month is given for the 1st year and for the next 4 years, ₹30,000 per month for regular Ph.D. programs. The stipends generally depend on the type of Ph.D. program you are in i.e., regular/part-time/sponsored/Research Interns, etc.

Prime Minister Research Fellowship

Apart from this, there is new scheme called as the Prime Minister Research Fellowship, which is only granted to few exceptionally meritorious GATE qualified students, where candidates may be entitled to a Rs 70000-80000 fellowship in the duration of 5 years. This may be an added advantage for GATE, but no doubt, it will be very difficult to bag, as there are other eligibility criteria as well.

GATE Exam Preparation Kit

So to sum up, while all the Biotech entrance exams listed above are of importance and has its own aim. They all will help you build & propel your career in research. So you have a few options here from which you can choose:

  • You can attempt all the Exams – But select at least 2 which you want to clear sureshot.
  • Preparing for CSIR NET Exam alone helps you prepare for other exams as well.
  • Majority of Biotech Candidates Prepare simultaneously for CSIR NET, DBT & GATE Exam together.
  • Of course, qualifying all the above Exams gives you “The Added Advantage” over all other candidates in the queue.

As per the in-depth analysis of all the above exams and the fellowship provided – It is always best to aim for the CSIR NET Fellowship if you are not having any specific requirements in the research field, as ICMR and DBT may be a little restrictive in these areas. But in the end, the choice is yours. Analyze what your goals are, what you are good at and then tread accordingly.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell

“It takes determination to see a dream come to pass. The question is not will you start, but will you finish.” – Joel Osteen

About the Author
Ms. Urmimala Ray, one of the finest faculties at BioTecNika, loved and idealized by a lot of students. Her fluent narration, upgraded knowledge, and hardworking nature are most talked about. She has been an ardent follower of all latest innovations in the field of Bioscience. The ticlehas been penned by her after having decades of experience in training students for these exams.
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