Individual Development Plans for graduate students

What is an Individual Development Plan?

Graduate school is an intensive process focused on developing a comprehensive skill set in research, writing, teaching, and other domains. As you develop during graduate school, it is important to monitor your progress and reevaluate how your current path is preparing you to achieve your goals as a graduate student and after degree completion. The individual development plan (IDP) is a self-tracking tool that can also be used to guide you toward effectiveness and independence as a graduate student and reach your career goals. Completing your IDP will allow you to establish your goals, devise a plan for success, address challenges that arise, and revise your plans to help you achieve those goals. While it is not required, sharing your IDP with your advisor can help establish a positive and progressive relationship that fosters success and your individual goals.

  • NIH statement on IDPs: “Action: Strongly encourage the use of individual development plans (IDPs) on all NIGMS-sponsored training and research awards.”
  • NSF proposals must include: “a description of the mentoring activities that will be provided for postdocs” (some may also require this for graduate students)

Creating your IDP goals

  • Your goals are clear and focused.
  • Your goals should also be measurable to know if you achieved it or not with an obtainable deadline.
  • Your goals should have a realistic and logical action plan with a reasonable timeframe.

Tips to guide your IDP with examples

What are your goals?

  • Ultimate goal
    • Become a professor of … at a research university.
  • Long-term (5-10 years)
    • Become a postdoctoral fellow studying …
  • Intermediate-term (2-5 years)
    • Obtain my graduate degree in …
  • Short-term (1-2 years)
    • Submit my application for a graduate fellowship …
  • Immediate (6 months – 1 year)
    • Earn an “A” in my … course.

What competencies and skills will you need to successfully reach your goals?

  • Disciplinary knowledge
  • Research and Technical skills
  • Professional and Interpersonal skills
  • Management and Leadership skills

What activities and experiences will you engage in to gain the competencies and skills?

  • Taking classes
  • Tutoring, study groups
  • Technique training
  • Research experiences
  • Scientific meeting attendance
  • Professional development workshops

How will you assess your progress in mastering these competencies and skills?

  • Mastery of coursework
  • Mentor/instructor feedback
  • Successful experimental outcomes
  • Peer review

Who will help you reach your goals and how?

  • University faculty members
  • Graduate committee members
  • Graduate advisor
  • Peers 

IDP resources