Professional Development

When you participate in professional development, you build skills needed to succeed academically and thrive in your career.

Start here: DiscoverPD

DiscoverPD helps master’s and doctoral students at UW–Madison advance their academic and professional goals.

  • You’ll read more about the facets of professional development.
  • Our 5-minute self-assessment provides you a report of your strengths and weaknesses.
  • You’ll explore customized recommendations within each facet, and add these to your Individual Development Plan.

Behind DiscoverPD is a curated database of professional development activities on campus and beyond.  Your recommendations will draw from this database, or you’ll have the option to search the database if you know what you’re looking for.

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Watch the 3-minute video.

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Individual Development Plan

The Individual Development Plan (IDP) helps you reflect, plan, and discuss in order to achieve your academic and professional goals.

What is the IDP?

It’s a process in which you will:

  • assess your skills, interests, and strengths;
  • define a written plan for developing skills; and
  • communicate with your mentor(s).

The product of this process will be a written, ever-evolving IDP document.

You’ll revisit your IDP at least once per year, to update and refine as goals change or come into focus, and to record progress and accomplishments.

How it works:

To create your IDP, you can start with one of the IDP resources listed below, or attend an IDP workshop hosted by the Graduate School.  Your graduate program coordinator or faculty mentor may also be able to help you get started.


UW–Madison IDP policy:

IDPs are required for graduate students and postdocs with NIH funding, and recommended for all graduate students and postdocs regardless of funding source.

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Professional development programming

Each semester the Graduate School, together with campus partners, hosts over 300 professional development events, which can be found through DiscoverPD and our events calendar.

Career Exploration

Career advising for graduate students is usually offered within your school/college, department, or program, supplemented by career exploration programming offered through the Graduate School.

Two attendees at a symposium greet one another.

The National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity (NCFDD) is an independent professional development, training, and mentoring community for faculty members, postdocs, and graduate students. It provides online career development and mentoring resources in a ready-to-access format that you can view anytime.

Starting with a core curriculum, NCFDD offers insight into foundational skills such as planning each semester, developing a daily writing practice, cultivating a network of mentors and collaborators, and managing stress and rejection.

Members can sign up to participate in online events including webinars, bootcamps, multi-week courses, and structured writing challenges. Plus, the NCFDD Discussion Forums offer a place to connect with others to seek or share advice.

Create an account to take advantage of expert webinars, writing challenges, the “Monday Motivator” e-newsletter and more.

Once you sign up through UW–Madison’s institutional membership, you will have access to the full range of resources, trainings, and courses available through NCFDD.

Sign up now through UW–Madison’s institutional membership

Instructions: If this is your first visit, create an account. To access the PhD Career Finder, Options 4 Success course, and more membership features, log in once with the link below. After that, the site will remember you as a UW–Madison subscriber.

About: The Versatile PhD is a confidential, online resource for graduate students, PhDs, recent alumni, and postdoctoral fellows interested in careers beyond academia.

While some areas of the site are public, UW–Madison is a subscriber, which means that current students, faculty, staff, and recent alumni get access to the PhD Career Finder, exclusive webinars, and the new Options 4 Success course.

Here’s what you’ll find:

  • A thriving and supportive web-based community
  • Example CV-to-résumé conversions, résumés, and cover letters that resulted in PhDs and ABDs getting jobs
  • Compelling first-person narratives of PhDs and ABDs describing how they established their non-academic careers
  • Options 4 Success – a flexible course that provides actionable information and strategies to help graduate students transition to a meaningful and well-paying career outside of the academy.
  • Live and archived panel discussions featuring PhDs working in non-academic fields
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Teddy Wiggins

Alumni Success Stories

  • Teddy Wiggins

    Principal Violinist for the Civic Orchestra of Chicago
    Teddy Wiggins is a University of Wisconsin–Madison graduate from the School of Music, in violin performance. He is currently a co-concertmaster/principal violinist with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, a training orchestra that develops musicianship and prepares musicians for professional careers.

  • Frederick Porter

    Senior Director of Product Development for the Duke Human Vaccine Institute
    For biochemistry Ph.D. alumnus Frederick Porter, graduate school was a start to the second phase in his career. After graduation, Fred spent eight years in the vaccine industry where he led the development of vaccines against viral diseases such as influenza, HIV, and respiratory syncytial virus. In June 2016, he moved back into an academic role to become the senior director of product development at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute.

  • Zulmarie Perez-Horta

    Zulmarie Perez-Horta completed her doctoral program in Cellular and Molecular Pathology from UW–Madison in 2016 and began a Science & Technology Policy Fellowship (STPF) with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington D.C. in fall of 2017.

  • More alumni career profiles and employment sectors

ImaginePhD logo

ImaginePhD is a free online career exploration and planning tool for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in the humanities and social sciences.

Start exploring careers >>

myIDP logo

myIDP is a web-based career-planning tool, hosted by the AAAS, tailored to meet the needs of graduate students and postdocs in the sciences.

Start exploring careers >>