A cross-sectional study of the use and effectiveness of the Individual Development Plan among doctoral students

Nathan L. Vanderford, Teresa M. Evans, L. Todd Weiss, Lindsay Bira, Jazmin Beltran-Gastelum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: The Individual Development Plan (IDP) was introduced as a tool to aid in career planning for doctoral trainees. Despite the National Institutes of Health and academic institutions creating policies that mandate the use of IDPs, little information exists regarding the use and effectiveness of the career planning tool. Methods: We conducted a multi-institutional, online survey to measure IDP use and effectiveness. The survey was distributed to potential respondents via social media and direct email. IDP survey questions were formatted using a five-point Likert scale (strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree and strongly disagree). For data analysis purposes, responses were grouped into two categories (agree versus does not agree/disagree). The data were summarized as one-way frequencies and the Pearson chi-square test was used to determine the statistical significance of univariate associations between the survey variables and an outcome measure of the effectiveness of the IDP. Results: Among all respondents, fifty-three percent reported that they are required to complete an IDP while thirty-three percent reported that the tool is helpful to their career development. Further, our data suggests that the IDP is most effective when doctoral students complete the tool with faculty mentors with whom they have a positive relationship. Respondents who are confident about their career plans and who take advantage of career development resources at their institution are also more likely to perceive that the IDP is useful for their career development. Conclusion: Given the nuanced use and effectiveness of the IDP, we call for additional research to characterize the overall use and effectiveness of the IDP and to determine whether there are unintended negative consequences created through the use of the tool. Furthermore, we recommend an enhancement of career development infrastructure that would include mentorship training for faculty in order to provide substantially more career planning support to trainees.

Original languageEnglish
Article number722
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Vanderford NL et al.


  • Biomedical research
  • Career development
  • Career planning
  • Doctoral students
  • Individual development plans
  • PhD training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology (all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics (all)


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