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    Meeting Professional Development Needs of Today’s STEM Graduate Students

    The Council of Graduate Schools conducted a pilot project in 2014-16 to study the professional development needs of graduate students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields and the programs and resources in place to meet those needs.


    Project Overview


    Enhanced professional development of STEM graduate students has emerged in recent years as a high priority as evidenced by calls from students, employers, funding agencies, and graduate deans. The CGS pilot study gathered perspectives from stakeholders representing each of these groups to answer four key questions:


    1. Beyond research skills, what other professional skills are particularly important for STEM graduates?
    2. What STEM workforce skills needs are not currently being met by graduate programs?
    3. How can resources and investments be most effectively mobilized to meet that demand through enhanced professional development?, and
    4. What structures and learning environments are most effective in responding to the career tracks for PhD and master’s students?


    The project entailed a survey of CGS members, interviews with employers from across the STEM workforce including industry and government, a workshop convening a wide array of stakeholders, and an online searchable database of existing professional development programs for STEM graduate students. 




    Promising practices, common challenges, recommendations, and possible next steps toward coordinated improvements to the professional development of STEM graduate students, including PhDs, master’s degree holders, and postdoctorates are available in the report: Professional Development: Shaping Effective Programs for STEM Graduate Students. This report also includes discussion of useful tools and resources, as well as of issues that commonly arise in university discussion around professional development. Hard copies of this report are available to CGS members and non-members for purchase here.


    Press Release: Report Recommends Broader Professional Develoment for Graduate Students in STEM Fields


    Professional Development Programs: An Online Compendium


    CGS has compiled an online searchable database of existing professional development programs for STEM graduate students that draws from survey results, web research, and feedback from institutions. The primary purpose of this database is to spotlight promising programs, enhance understanding of the skills and structure of these programs, and to provide an opportunity for graduate schools to connect to others as they seek to develop robust professional development programs for graduate students. While all are welcome to explore this database, the resource was designed especially to inform individuals in university leadership roles who seek to enhance professional development for STEM graduate students and postdocs at U.S. universities.


    View the Compendium




    A one-day, workshop-style meeting to identify needs and opportunities for improving U.S. graduate education with a focus on enhanced professional development for STEM PhD’s and master’s students took place in Washington, D.C., on  November 8-9, 2015.  The meeting convened key employers from industry, government, and non-profit sectors; graduate deans and university researchers on graduate education and the STEM workforce; and representatives from federal agencies that fund STEM graduate students.


    Workshop Agenda and Presentations






    Julia Kent



    Supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF #1413827)

    Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.



    CGS is the leading source of information, data analysis, and trends in graduate education. Our benchmarking data help member institutions to assess performance in key areas, make informed decisions, and develop plans that are suited to their goals.
    CGS Best Practice initiatives address common challenges in graduate education by supporting institutional innovations and sharing effective practices with the graduate community. Our programs have provided millions of dollars of support for improvement and innovation projects at member institutions.
    As the national voice for graduate education, CGS serves as a resource on issues regarding graduate education, research, and scholarship. CGS collaborates with other national stakeholders to advance the graduate education community in the policy and advocacy arenas.  
    CGS is an authority on global trends in graduate education and a leader in the international graduate community. Our resources and meetings on global issues help members internationalize their campuses, develop sustainable collaborations, and prepare their students for a global future.