Career and Professional Development Resources


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Resources for Graduate Students

Duke graduate students participate in innovative research that shapes the ever-changing landscapes of biomedical sciences. In addition to promoting research excellence, Duke supports students in their quest to achieve training that leads to unique and meaningful careers after graduation. Forty years ago, most biomedical PhDs became tenured professors; however, the landscape has changed dramatically. A career outside of laboratory science is not an alternative career – statistically speaking, in fact, a non-academic career is the majority choice.

Here at Duke, we are excited about the expansion in the types of opportunities for scientists to make meaningful contributions to society. As part of this initiative, Duke requires biomedical trainees to complete an Individual Development Plan (IDP) and attend a Career Development Workshop in their third year. Working closely with The Office of Career Services, The Graduate School, and The Duke Alumni Association, OBGE provides and promotes diverse professional development opportunities to position our graduates for a lifetime of professional success, whether it be in laboratory research, science communication, boutique consulting, biotechnology, or beyond.

To get started, take a look below at some of the highlighted resources, or get in touch so we can help you think about how to best take advantage of all that Duke has to offer!

          Lillian Zwemer & Dave McDonald 1June2016

Duke Centers for Guidance and Programming

Graduate School Professional Development Resources

Melissa Bostrom and Hugh Crumley are each passionately committed to enriching the professional development training available to Duke graduate students across all disciplines. The Graduate School hosts a diverse series of events and programs designed to broaden your horizons while developing your proficiency in six core competencies: teaching and mentoring, communication, leadership, professional adaptability, self-awareness, and professionalism and scholarly integrity. The Graduate School offerings  include nearly 100 events per year in the Professional Development Series, up to $2,000 in funding for discipline-specific professional development through a Professional Development Grant, the biannual Academic Job Search Series, and other events related to exploring diverse career paths. Some events are targeted specifically for STEM PhDs, and nearly all are relevant to your development as a scientist and a professional. Be open-minded and creative about how you relate to these offerings. They also maintain a useful suite of online resources, including Duke’s subscription to Versatile PhD.

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Office of Postdoctoral Services

The Office of Postdoctoral Services was established in 2006 to provide a central resource for Duke’s approximately 700 postdoctoral appointees, both on campus and in the School of Medicine.  The Office of Postdoctoral Services (Molly Starback, Director) serves as a liaison between postdocs, faculty, administrators, and staff.  The OPS provides workshops, seminars, and individual career counseling to support postdoctoral training at Duke and prepare postdocs for successful careers, both in academia and beyond.  Partners in professional development training include the Graduate School, Career Center, International House, and the School of Medicine Office for Faculty Development.

While graduate students are not eligible for individual career counseling from the Office of Postdoctoral Services, they are welcome to attend OPS professional development events. Many past events are also available for viewing on the PDA's own YouTube channel. To subscribe to the Duke Postdoctoral Services mailing list, email and put "subscribe postdocs" in the body of your message.

Additionally, the website hosts an exhaustive collection of online resources for every stage of professional development.

Sample Career Development Workshops:

  • The Individual Development Plan (IDP)
  • Finding the Right Fit:  Career Exploration and Decision-Making
  • Transferable Skills
  • The Academic Job Search Series (including the Application Process, Interviewing, Job Talks, Teaching Statements, Negotiating, Managing A Lab, Non-Tenure Track Careers in Academia, Non-Faculty Careers in Academia)
  • Careers Beyond Academia Series (including Careers in Biotech, Tech Transfer, Clinical Research, Regulatory Affairs, Big Pharma, Medical/Science Writing, Patent Law, Business/Consulting, Non-Profits)
  • Postdoc NIH F32 Grantsmanship Series (including Intro to the F32, Perspectives from Awardees and Mentors, Effective Written Communication, mentored small groups)
  • Job Hunting in the Biotech Industry
  • Career Choices for PhDs in the Age of Biotech:  How to Decide Which Path is Right for You
  • Improving Spoken English
  • Speaking About Science
  • Networking: A Tool for Exploring Careers and Building Relationships
  • Interviewing Skills
  • How to Avoid Self-Sabotage and Win at Salary Negotiations

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University Career Center

The Career Center provides opportunities and tools for individuals to explore the intersection of their education, values, goals, skills and experiences in order to identify and realize their aspirations. It's not just for undergrads - our own UPGG alumnus, Dave McDonald, is the STEM graduate student specialist. Dave can offer one-on-one counseling, resource overviews, résumé consultations, interview prep - he can advise you on every step of the way! Don't forget to read the invaluable bi-weekly newsletter, "STEM Career Insider," which includes local and national professional development opportunities as well as job opportunities.

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Specific Programs

Academic and Non-Academic Job Search Series

Academic and non-academic careers are considered on alternate years. This series is co-sponsored by the Office of Postdoctoral Services, The Graduate School, and the Career Center. Videos of prior panel discussions and seminars can be found on the PostDoc Association's YouTube channel. Sample topics include: Nuts and Bolts of the F32, Negotiation of Academic Offers, and Careers in Biotechnology.

Learn More: Academic

Learn More: Beyond Academia

Bass Connections

"Through Bass Connections, students are equipped to be future leaders in addressing complex societal challenges in the academy, government, business and numerous other settings." Participants will develop transferable skills while using their scientific training to engage in complex problems with an interdisciplinary team. Time commitment is less than 10 hours per week for 9-16 months.

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Career Development Workshop (3rd Year)

A half day Career Development Workshop will be required of all third year graduate students who matriculated through a PhD program associated with the School of Medicine.  Students will be asked to complete an Individual Development Plan in the spring semester prior to the course.  The nature of the IDP will be determined by each program for its students with the AAAS IDP used as a guide.  This is in keeping with the  NIH recommendation for creating IDPs for graduate students. During registration for the session, students will be asked to 1) verify that they completed an IDP; 2)  provide the name(s) of the advisor/mentor consulted in conjunction with the IDP; and 3) to indicate two or three career interests determined by their IDP. 

The workshop will include an introductory talk that reviews national and Duke data for career outcomes for biomedical PhDs.  This will be followed by two or three small breakout sessions (8-10 students) with panelists from academia, teaching, biotech, pharmaceutical industry, science writing/editing, regulatory affairs, clinical research/trials, research/academic administration, etc.  Students will be sorted by career interests determined by IDPs in sessions appropriate for their interests. The session will end with lunch during which a speaker from Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) will discuss the stresses associated with career decisions.

Tracking: The workshop will be combined with a half day Responsible Conduct of Research session.  The event is tracked by the university registrar and recorded on the student’s transcript as a formal four-credit course (GS713).  Students are required to submit an assessment before they receive credit.  Cred for the event is recorded by the university registrar and tracked by the Graduate School as graduation requirement. 

Certificate in College Teaching

CCT is a longitudinal program comprised of formal pedagogical training, mentorship in creating a teaching portfolio, and practical teaching experience. With numerous options for coursework and teaching experience, you can personalize and experience that fits with your interests and schedule. You can enroll for CCT at any time, but ideally do it prior to starting your teaching experience, so that the teaching will count toward completion of the certificate.

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DIscovering Career Options in Translational Science (DICOTS) Network

"The DIscovering Career Options in Translational Science (DICOTS) Network was developed to facilitate interdisciplinary communication between the graduate and medical campuses at Duke University and to provide PhD students with a unique networking opportunity...In the DICOTS Network, students are paired with advisors according to their career interests. The role of advisors is to meet (in person or by phone, if not local) with the graduate student who has a particular interest in their field of expertise; advisors provide career advice and may refer students to educational programs, internship opportunities, or other more specific training avenues." Throughout the year, students also participate in targeted professional development programming. 

New cohorts are formed each September by competitive application.

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Duke Scholars in Molecular Medicine

The Duke Scholars in Molecular Medicine Program is a 9 month program (September to May) in which PhD candidates and postdoctoral associates who are studying basic sciences gain hands on experience in clinical areas related to their field of research. 

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Emerging Leaders Institute

The Graduate School hosts this 6-week session each year in the spring, following competitive application in the fall. Through intensive workshops, interdisciplinary team-work, and personal coaching, participants become more prepared for careers both in and outside of academia.

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Individual Development Plan (IDP)

In keeping with the  NIH recommendation for creating IDPs for graduate students, the Office of Biomedical Graduate Education requires that all students who matriculated through PhD programs associated with the School of Medicine complete an Individual Development Plan. The IDP must be completed by June of their 3rd year.  This requirement includes all students who entered through a biomedical program, independent of their source of funding.  Individual programs may require additional or more frequent IDPs.  

The nature of the IDP will be determined by each program for its students with the AAAS IDP used as a guide.  Several programs such as the Medical Scientist Training Program have customized IDPs. 

IDPs are confidential and need not be shared with the student’s thesis advisor, graduate program, or with the Office of Biomedical Graduate Education unless the student voluntarily decides to do so.  They will not be submitted to NIH. 

As part of the IDP, the student will be asked to meet and discuss the IDP with a faculty/administrative mentor, who may or may not be the thesis advisor.  Students may choose more than one mentor.  The degree to which information from the IDP is shared with mentor(s) is up to the student. To augment the IDP, a Career Development Workshop is required of all students in July of the 3rd year.  Registration for the session requires that students 1) verify that they have completed an IDP; 2) provide the name(s) and dates of the advisor/mentor consulted in conjunction with the IDP; and 3) to indicate two or three career interests  which will be explored during the workshop.  The signed registration form validates that an IDP was completed.  Completion of the workshop is recorded by the university registrar and is required for graduation.

(February 2015)

Preparing Future Faculty

The Duke Graduate School provides a yearlong experience for PhD students and postdocs to prepare them for the multiple roles they may be asked to assume as future faculty members in a variety of academic institutions.  Students who have passed their prelims are eligible to apply. After acceptance, you will be paired with a faculty member in a nearby college or university, where you may gain first-hand experience in lesson planning, lecturing, engaging in faculty meetings, and more.

Learn More

Additional Resources Organized by Topic

Career Fairs, Networking, and Online Resources: Doing your Research

Develop your skills, build your network, learn about different industries or meet with representatives and recruiters from companies looking for employees just like you! Nervous about networking? It's not a job interview - it's just an opportunity to ask questions and exchange information - otherwise known as conducting research! The added benefit of in-person networking is that you can get a more nuanced narrative, ask follow-up questions, and, of course, form bonds with people who may end up providing essential connections in the future - you never know! Check out these tips for success and don't forget to bring along a few business cards! When you get home, you can jot down a few notes so that you remember what you learned from your new colleagues!

  • Career fairs are listed on the Career Services website
  • Go Government: Hosts listings of current openings for Biology jobs in the Federal Government as well as a guide to tailoring your application materials to the particular specifications of the Federal application process.
  • LinkedIn: Use keywords to search your expanded network for professionals with experience in professions of your interest or for those with similar educational background to yours. Don't hesitate to ask mutual acquaintances for an introduction - people are usually happy to talk about their own experiences if you ask politely. Check out a group for professionals in careers you are curious about. While you're at it, don't forget to soup up your own profile using the tips from this online Sakai workshop created specifically for Duke graduate students.
  • NC Biotech Jobs Network: Structured networking with other life scientist, job recruiter and company representatives at this free monthly event.
  • NIEHS Biomedical Career Symposium: Expand your network will you explore diverse professional fields.
  • NIH Careers Blog: Rich resource of articles, advice and alumni interviews from the Office of Intramural Training & Education Career Services Center
  • NIH Career Symposium: Panels and skills workshops with over 75 speakers. Note: this is not a job fair.
  • Triangle Biotech Tuesday: Monthly networking event connecting scientific professionals to foster communication and collaboration throughout the Research Triangle
  • University of Chicago myCHOICE houses a diverse collection of examples of how biomedical PhDs find meaningful and exciting applications of their scientific training.
  • Versatile PhD is a rich resource for researching potential careers, watching Q&A panel discussions, and viewing successfully used cover letters, résumés, and personal testimonials about career paths.



  • Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship: Overview of the opportunities at Duke

  • Duke Program for Entrepreneurs: "In the Program for Entrepreneurs (P4E), undergraduate, graduate and professional students form multidisciplinary teams to explore potential markets for an innovation, evaluate the viability of a business model, develop strategies for bringing it to market and launching a new commercial or social venture - all in a structured participatory learning environment."

  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship Academy: Workshops to gain skills and learn about industries

Global Health

  • Doctoral Certificate in Global Health: "The Global Health Doctoral Certificate provides an opportunity for doctoral students from across Duke to engage in the field of global health through a combination of coursework, a research-related field experience, and engagement with peers and faculty. The certificate requires completion of three courses, a doctoral seminar, and a field research experience."
  • Triangle Global Health Consortium: "The Triangle Global Health Consortium’s mission is to establish North Carolina as an international center for research, training, education, advocacy and business dedicated to improving the health of the world's communities. We seek to engage academic, governmental, business and nonprofit organizations in this collaborative effort."

Law and Intellectual Property

Medical Affairs

  • Duke Translational Medicine Institute's Regulatory Affairs Training Programs
    "The DTMI Regulatory Affairs group provides two regulatory trainings programs: The General Regulatory Affairs Training Program and The Medical Device Regulatory Training Program. Both programs are informal and provide an overview of the regulatory affairs field in the area of drugs/biologics and medical devices. The programs are intended for anyone who either wishes to explore potential career in this field or to broaden their knowledge base." Time commitment is a few 1-hour meetings per month.
  • North Carolina Regulatory Affairs Forum: "NCRAF is dedicated to providing education and support for the continuing professional development of individuals who have an interest in regulatory affairs activities as they apply to research, development, or manufacture of drugs, biologics, or medical devices."  Check out the educational opportunities and blog for news and perspectives.

Science Communication

  • BOOST: Science Communication & Grade 5-12 Education

  • ComSciCon Regional Annual Conferences: "Communicating Science is a workshop series organized by graduate students, for graduate students, focused on science communication skills."

  • DOinGG: Science Communication & K-12 Education

  • Duke Center for Science Education: K-16, Graduate and Community Education

  • Duke Med Elementary: Medical and Public Health Education for 3rd & 4th Graders

  • Duke Science and Society SciComm Courses

  • DukeSNAP: Science Communication

  • Graduate School Professional Development Blog: Contributing an Alumni Profile is a simple way to build your science communication portfolio while developing your own professional network

  • Journal of Law and Biosciences: Contribute a commentary to build your record of science communication

  • Toastmasters: "Duke Toastmasters Club is a supportive community for developing leadership and communication skills. Members learn to express thoughts, ideas, and opinions and also develop leadership potential through an enjoyable, supportive and thoroughly professional, self-paced educational program." Whatever your professional goals, developing clear, persuasive, and engaging communication skills will be well-worth the time. Check out the website for meeting times and resources.

Science Policy

  • AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships: "AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships (STPF) provide opportunities to outstanding scientists and engineers to learn first-hand about policymaking while contributing their knowledge and analytical skills to the federal policymaking process. Fellows serve yearlong assignments in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the federal government in Washington."
  • California Council on Science and Technology: "The California Council on Science & Technology (CCST) Science & Technology Policy Fellows Program places ten PhD-level scientists annually in the California legislature for one-year appointments. Fellows work hands-on with policymakers addressing complex scientific and technical issues as well as assuming other responsibilities of full-time legislative staffers. CCST is recruiting nationally and encourages applications from individuals across the country. Fellows should be interested in California policy issues and its legislative process."
  • Duke Science and Society: "The Duke Initiative for Science & Society examines the integral role of science in law, policy, social institutions, and culture"

  • Duke's Science Policy Tracking Website: "The site provides comprehensive information on science policy across legislative, regulatory, judicial, and executive actions. Our signature policy briefs provide in-depth information about the policy, underlying science, endorsements and opposition, and likelihood of adoption."
  • The Presidential Management Fellowship STEM: "PMFs perform valuable service to the American people while jump-starting their careers, and get full salary and benefits as well as challenging assignments, formal professional training, rotations to other agencies, feedback on their work, plus an opportunity to make government run more efficiently. Finalists appointed as PMFs are hired by Federal Agencies and engage in solving domestic and/or international issues in areas such as public administration, engineering, technology, science, criminal justice, health, and financial management, to name a few."


  • Bass Instructional Fellowship: Logistical and financial support for a robust teaching experience and pedagogical training during graduate school. Time commitment is similar to that of TA'ing: 10-20 hours per week for one semester.
  • BOOST: Science Communication & Grade 5-12 Education
  • DOinGG: Science Communication & K-12 Education
  • Duke AHEAD: Geared toward health professionals, but also includes some basic-science offerings, including "teach the teachers" style opportunities, an educational literature discussion group, and a certificate program in Health Professionals education.
  • DukeTIP: K-12 Education
  • FEMMES: "Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering and Science is a student-led organization at Duke University that hosts educational outreach programs related to math, science, and engineering for 4th-6th grade girls in Durham."
  • IRACDA Teaching Postdoc: Combines traditional postdoctoral research with structured training in pedagogy and teaching opportunities

  • MUSER (Matching Undergraduates to Science and Engineering Research): With the support of their PI, graduate students or postdocs can register to mentor an undergrad in laboratory research. Project-matching occurs thrice yearly.

  • Teaching Assistantships: In addition to contacting faculty and department chairs directly to inquire about positions, consider these opportunities.

  • Teaching IDEAS Series: "Instructional Development for Excellence And Success is an annual workshop series open to Duke graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and staff. Invited speakers in this series will draw upon their experience to address topics relevant to classroom teaching, dealing with students, or faculty life and career paths."

Professional Development: Time Commitment

Committing fully to your laboratory work is essential to reaping the benefits of your time in a PhD program. The real benefit of a PhD is not just in the papers you publish – it is in the way that you train your brain in how to process information, how to analyze data, how to define interesting questions and create measurable solutions. These skills are very hard to develop - they take time and perseverance. Because of their rarity, they are the very skills that make you attractive to such a diversity of employers. The best way to develop these skills, and position yourself for professional success, no matter the discipline, is to commit to your laboratory work. There are no short-cuts to graduation – but keeping in mind the diversity of roles you can use your PhD in might give you some added inspiration!

The amount of time you should devote to professional development varies by stage of your PhD and type of career you are pursuing. There's usually lots of different options, from an hour a month to 10 hours a week. If you want help coming up with a personalized plan, get in touch!


Updated 12September2016

Want to be a part of a career development interest group for biomedical PhD students?
Need help finding the right resource or have a killer resource you think we’ve overlooked?

Questions and comments about anything listed on this page, including reports of broken links
can be directed to Dr. Lillian Zwemer at