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