Graduate Student Individual Development Plans

Graduate students in the College of Science (including Biology, Chemistry/Biochemistry, Computer Science, Geosciences, Mathematics/Statistics, and Physics students) are required to complete and individual development plan, or IDP. Find information about how to complete the plan, how to use it, and why it is required.

What is an Individual Development Plan (IDP)?

An Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a tool commonly used in a variety of professions to assist in personal and career development. An IDP will help you (1) assess your current strengths and weaknesses, (2) set goals to improve, and (3) help you communicate with your advisor and other mentors.

Graduate students in the College of Science are required to complete or update their IDP annually. The College has developed an Excel spreadsheet to help you complete this task. You can download the spreadsheet below.

Why Does the College of Science require an IPD?

Your graduate school experience will be more successful and productive as you intentionally set goals to improve and seek training and mentoring opportunities to assist you with your goals. Consider the following:

“There is a body of literature that underscores the value of deliberate career planning. This research finds that people who develop and implement strategies to pursue career-specific goals achieve greater career success as measured by salary, promotions, and level of responsibility. They also report greater career satisfaction and rate themselves as more successful than their peers compared to those without career plans. A nationwide study of 7600 postdoctoral researchers found that postdocs who developed training plans with their advisers at the start of their appointments reported greater satisfaction, published more papers, and experienced fewer conflicts with those advisers.” (Hobin, Fuhrmann, Lindstaedt, and Clifford. “You need a game plan” Science, September 7, 2012.)

A 2018 report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (“Graduate Stem Education for the 21stCentury”) included the use of IDPs in a series of recommendations to improve graduate education for STEM graduate students. Specifically,

“To seek the ideal graduate education, current and prospective graduate students should create an individual development plan that includes the core competencies, as outlined in this report for master’s or doctoral degrees, as a key feature of their own learning and career goals and that utilizes the resources provided by their university and relevant professional societies. Students should update these plans annually in consultation with faculty advisors to map educational goals, career exploration, and professional development” (NASEM report, pg 138).

In addition, several federal agencies now require students who receive grant support to use IDPs as part of their career development process.

How is the IDP tool organized?

The IDP tool is an Excel spreadsheet. Several pages on the spreadsheet walk you through a series of questions to help you evaluate your abilities with respect to “core competencies” expected of STEM graduate students.  You will then set goals and identify mentors to give you feedback and help hold you accountable for the goals you set. When you have completed each section, you can print out a certificate of completion to give to your department and/or thesis/dissertation committee.

How should I use my IDP?

While an IDP is a personal self-evaluation and goal setting document, you will greatly benefit from feedback from mentors. Feel free to print out portions of the IDP and ask others for feedback. For example, it may be insightful to ask others if they agree with your self-assessment. You may find it helpful to identify mentors that can hold you accountable to completing your goals.

Finally, the IDP will be most useful if you return to it often to reassess your progress. The College requires you to update it annually, but the more frequently you use it the better.

Are there other resources for developing an IDP?

Yes! Many of the ideas for the IDP tool were inspired by the excellent resources listed below.

Download the IDP tool

Please download and complete the IDP tool that corresponds with your degree.

For Ph.D. Candidates


For Masters Candidates


Provide Feedback

Notify us of issues or request more Career Development Resources.

Issues with the IDP

Issues Survey

Request more resources

Issues Survey

Contact Information

Contact Associate Dean Sean Johnson or Webmaster Spencer Perry for questions and inqueries about the IDP tools.

Dr. Sean Johnson


Spencer Perry