Individual Development Plans

The Department is home to a community of bright, hard-working graduate students. While many of you are sights set on an academic position, each year seven times as many students graduate with a PhD in science and engineering (~35,000) than there are academic positions available (~5000). This is a radical shift in the job market over the past 30 years, when that ratio was nearly one-to-one [see Schillebeeckx et al. (2013) Nature Biotechnology 31:938-941].
While these numbers seem sobering, they actually point to a rich diversity of opportunities for PhD scientists beyond academia. Career options include research in an industrial setting, teaching to both scientists and nonscientists, science policy development, business ventures, science writing, patent law, clinical research management, scientific/medical testing and many others.  More to the point, different career paths are great choices for individuals with different strengths, different interests and different priorities. Often, in the focus and drive to earn one’s degree, the ultimate utility of that degree gets lost. Thus, serious thought to one’s career path needs to be an integral part of graduate education.
To begin this path, the Department endorses the use of Individual Development Plans, which can be thought of as roadmaps to your future success. A wonderful place to start is the MyIDP web site developed by AAAS. It can be accessed here:
After creating your personal account, you will be stepped through a series of questions asking you to reflect on your strengths, aptitudes, interests, priorities and values. This process alone is a highly exercise which can point you to career paths that you have perhaps not considered seriously. This can serve as an entry point of discussion with your mentor and committee.  But beyond self-assessment, MyIDP allows you to manage your career development plan using their SMART (Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, Time-bound) protocols, and offers concrete advise on career development.