Use and effectiveness of the individual development plan among postdoctoral researchers: Findings from a cross-sectional study

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

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

19 Scopus citations


The individual development plan (IDP) is a career planning tool that aims to assist PhD trainees in self-assessing skills, exploring career paths, developing short-and long-term career goals, and creating action plans to achieve those goals. The National Institutes of Health and many academic institutions have created policies that mandate completion of the IDP by both graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Despite these policies, little information exists regarding how widely the tool is used and whether it is useful to the career development of PhD trainees. Herein, we present data from a multi-institutional, online survey on the use and effectiveness of the IDP among a group of 183 postdoctoral researchers. The overall IDP completion rate was 54% and 38% of IDP users reported that the tool was helpful to their career development. Positive relationships with one’s advisor, confidence regarding completing training, trainees’ confidence about their post-training career, and a positive experience with institutional career development resources are associated with respondents’ perception that the IDP is useful for their career development. We suggest that there is a need to further understand the nuanced use and effectiveness of the IDP in order to determine how to execute the use of the tool to maximize trainees’ career development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1132
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Vanderford NL et al.


  • Biomedical research
  • Career development
  • Career planning
  • Careers in research
  • Individual development plan
  • PhD training
  • Postdoctoral researchers
  • Science and technology workforce

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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