Pros: ample opportunities to learn, relatively laid back atmosphere, most people love what they do
Cons: bureaucracy, hiring freeze, politics related to hiring
I spent 4 years as an ORISE Fellow at CDC immediately following grad school and it definitely was not what I expected. It wasn't horrifying, but it wasn't the great, career building/changing experience I was expecting. It was decidedly mediocre. Unfortunately, the supervisory and mentorship aspects of the fellowship was neglected. There was very little – more... planning as far as my projects were concerned and no one was really concerned with any sort of learning or career development even when I initiated discussion. I believe all of my mentors/supervisors had the best of intentions, but none of them actually knew how to be mentors or supervisors. There was never any discussion of the career or skills I had prior to starting at CDC (I worked in my field in the private sector for nearly 8 years before going to grad school) or any discussion of goals or plans I had after my fellowship. I learned the FTE application process on my own because none of my mentors or supervisors explained it to me or really had any concern about whether I found an FTE position. I also found most of the trainings and educational experiences on my own. As my fellowship closed, the only interest in my future was whether or not I was looking for a job. Several of the other ORISE Fellows I know who were hired at the same time I was have similar stories.
I think my CDC experience would have been far better in any of the other fellowships CDC offers (PMF, Associate/Senior Service, APHA, Prevention Effectiveness, etc) but ORISE Fellows are essentially contractors, not fellows. Other fellowships require a certain amount of formal guidance, training, career development, etc. This is not true for the ORISE Fellowship. It is completely dependent upon how your mentors/supervisors decide to handle your fellowship so some fellows get more direction and support, others get none. Similar things occur with teleworking agreements and time off. Some supervisors allow regular teleworking and huge amounts of time off, others would never let a fellow out of their sight for more than the 2 weeks stated in the contract with ORISE.
My advice to other older graduate students who have work experience, a traditional federal government contractor situation will offer far better pay and definitely more ownership over your projects and career than an ORISE Fellowship will. – less