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.

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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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Alumni Success Stories

  • Alejandra Huerta

    USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture Postdoctoral Fellow in Plant Pathology, Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management at Colorado State University
    Alejandra Huerta earned a PhD in Plant Pathology from UW–Madison in fall 2015. As a student, she worked in Caitilyn Allen’s laboratory studying intraspecies competition in plant pathogenic bacteria. Huerta is now a postdoctoral fellow investigating bacterial-rice interactions.

  • Adam K. Schneider

    Nurse Practitioner for UW Organ and Tissue Donation
    As a DNP student who was also working at UW Organ and Tissue Donation as an organ procurement coordinator, Adam Schneider leveraged evidence-based strategies on organ donation to inform his team’s protocols, resulting in more viable organs from donors. He earned his DNP in 2017.

  • Fernanda Lopes

    Ruminants Business Manager at Adisseo South America
    Fernanda Lopes received her PhD in Dairy Science in 2014, studying with Professor David Combs in the Department of Dairy Science. She now works for the South America division of animal feed nutrition company Adisseo SA, where she is responsible for the ruminant business. Lopes is based in Brazil but travels throughout South America as part of her work. The scientific knowledge she gained at UW–Madison has been key in helping her talk to clients about Adisseo’s products.

  • 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 >>