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What is a Professional Development Plan? 

A Professional Development Plan (PDP) is a document summarising goals you would like to achieve in relation to your personal, educational and career development. In your plan there is also a section for reflecting on your learning, performance and/or achievement. 

The purpose is to provide a structured and supported process for you to develop and improve your skills during your PhD. By investing time and thought in a PDP you will be in a great position to plan, review and take responsibility for your own professional development.

Why should I make a PDP?

A PDP helps you to identify the skills, behaviours and attitudes you want to develop as a researcher at York, and to develop a plan towards achieving your training and development needs. It also supports constructive and reflective conversations about your professional development with both your supervisor and Thesis Advisory Panel (TAP). 

A PDP can also provide a useful record of evidence to demonstrate your skills and competencies to future employers.

What steps should I take next?

1. Training Needs Analysis

Start by performing a Training Needs Analysis (TNA), assessing where you are at the moment and where you want to be. The TNA is on Skillsforge under the 'Skills' tab. A TNA will allow you to assess your current level of performance and identify where you have development needs. For example, if you are delivering a poster or a paper at a conference in a few months then you might identify communication and presentation as areas for development.

You should ideally perform a Training Needs Analysis in the first six months of your PhD and discuss the outcome with your supervisors. Following the initial TNA, you should review regularly (e.g. every 6 months) and continue to discuss your training needs with your supervisors. Below are some screenshots to illustrate the TNA tool (please note courses are subject to change).




2. Create a PDP and set goals to achieve

Once you have identified training needs you can complete a PDP. Writing training goals which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound (SMART) will help you to be clearer about what you want to achieve. It provides discussion points at your Thesis Advisory Panel meetings and allows you to closely monitor your progress.

Create a Professional Development Plan to keep as an evolving document (for example using Google docs), aim to review and update it throughout your PhD. Share and discuss your PDP with your supervisors and TAP panel.

Professional Development during your PhD 2019 (MS PowerPoint , 8,107kb)


PDP template and resources

PDP template 2019-20 (MS Word , 34kb)


SMART information sheet (MS Word , 20kb)

Vitae routemap for new researchers (PDF , 724kb)