Individual Development Plan (IDP) - Information for faculty

IDP information for graduate students and postdocs

The purpose of this webpage is to provide information and guidance to the campus community on Individual Development Plans (IDPs), their intent and their use. Pending more official guidelines by appropriate campus authorities, this information is made available to you by the UC Berkeley IDP Working Group*.

The goal of providing this information is to:

1) Help faculty who are funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) meet NIH's reporting requirement on the use of IDPs (See NOT-OD-14-113).

2) Help those interested to implement IDP use in research groups, programs and departments, and support professional development for graduate students and postdocs across campus.

* The UC Berkeley IDP Working Group was formed in 2014-15 in response to the recent policy revision of the NIH requiring that grant recipients report on institutional practices on the use of IDPs. The UC Berkeley IDP Working Group has representatives from the Graduate Division, Graduate Assembly, Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs, Career Center, Berkeley Postdoctoral Association, Humanities and Social Sciences Association, faculty, graduate program administration, and Berkeley Research Development Office/Vice Chancellor for Research Office.

Brief Summary:

Definition: An Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a private, dynamic, annual self-evaluation, goal setting and career exploration tool for graduate students and postdocs.

NIH Reporting: If you have graduate students or postdocs on NIH support, you should report on UC Berkeley's IDP policy and on the IDP use in your lab in your NIH grant reports. Until further updates are made, you can use the following text:

“Pending more formal guidelines, UC Berkeley graduate students and postdocs are encouraged to utilize IDPs every year to set academic and career goals and facilitate conversations with their mentor(s). Similarly, Berkeley faculty mentors are encouraged to promote the use of IDPs among their trainees. The recommended tool for life sciences is myIDP from ScienceCareers/AAAS. The UC Berkeley IDP working group provides information to trainees and faculty and can help create training sessions to facilitate the use of IDPs.”

Please note that reports will be stronger if they include more specific details on how IDPs are used in your particular research group. 

Mentoring: Regardless of funding source, the working group recommends that faculty mentors encourage and support the use of IDPs for their trainees.

  • Objective: The use of an IDP can help trainees evaluate their skills, assess career options, and identify steps to reach their career goals throughout their training. 
  • Confidentiality: The content of the IDP is meant to be confidential and for personal use of the trainee; while trainee-mentor discussion are encouraged and you may ask for proof of completion, you should not require trainees to share the IDP itself. 


If you want to know more:

What is an IDP and how should it be used?

Definitions vary, but the UC Berkeley IDP working group [1] defines the IDP as a private, dynamic, annual self-evaluation and career exploration tool for graduate students and postdocs. It is a written list of goals mapped to a timeline and includes goal setting for research projects, skills development, and career planning.

The IDP is to be written and developed by the trainee, and can serve as a framework for discussion between faculty mentor and trainee. The IDP is most meaningful if trainees (with support from their mentors) make full use of the IDP’s potential as a research agenda and career development tool, and update it annually to reflect accomplishments and changes in career and research objectives.


What are the advantages of completing an IDP?

Trainees who complete a written plan report improved productivity and more effective interactions with their mentors with respect to career and research goals. Many trainees are aware of the challenges of the faculty job market and funding trends within academic science. They are somewhat aware of their other career options, but express a need for improved guidance in these options. An IDP is a useful tool to help graduate students and postdocs (1) set goals for their career, including goals impacting their research and training outcomes, and (2) identify steps towards achieving those goals (for example, when to apply for fellowships). In addition, the IDP process also increases the trainee's awareness of skills and their ownership of the steps towards their future career, which may improve the general feeling of well-being.

In addition to the obvious benefits to our trainees and compliance in grant reporting for NIH (see below), use of IDPs has the potential to increase Berkeley's competitiveness for funding, and increase student and postdoc recruitment and retention.


How is the IDP different from the trainee's annual assessment?

The IDP is not a formal assessment tool, but it can aid you in preparing for existing annual evaluation requirements. While the trainee may choose to work on an IDP and an annual evaluation at the same time of year, the two documents are fundamentally different:

  1. The annual evaluation is written by the mentor, while the IDP is written by the trainee (potentially with input from the mentor).
  2. The annual evaluation is an official assessment tool for the university to track the trainee's accomplishments. In contrast, the IDP is a personal and private career exploration and goal setting tool to help the trainees plan out their training.
  3. Annual evaluations generally focus only on trainees’ academic accomplishments: advancing to candidacy (for graduate students), publishing papers, analyzing data, etc.  The IDP, however, may have a mix of both academic and non-academic goals. For example, a graduate student who wants to become a science policy consultant for the government would have an annual evaluation that still focused on his/her academic achievements, but his/her IDP might include finding a mentor who currently works for the government, practicing conveying scientific ideas to legislators, etc.

Why are we implementing IDPs more formally now?

Since July 2013, NIH encourages institutions "to assist graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to achieve their career goals within the biomedical research workforce through the use of Individual Development Plans (IDPs)." In August of 2014, NIH released a notice (NOT-OD-13-113) to state that institutions/faculty are required to report on progress toward this goal in all progress reports submitted on or after October 1, 2014. (See section below on what PIs should do for further guidance on the reporting).

In the future, other agencies (e.g., American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, etc.) may also adopt this requirement as they have with past NIH requirements. Thus, it is a good idea to have an IDP in place for trainees who receive any extramural funding.

Furthermore, the use of an IDP is beneficial for the professional development of graduate students and postdocs, regardless of funding source or discipline, and the working group (*) would like to encourage IDP use across campus.

Findings Specific to UC Berkeley:

In 2014 the Graduate Division and Graduate Assemble made a concerted effort to assess the professional development landscape on campus and identify priorities. In relation to the IDP, the following recommendations were made:

"Starting with his/her first arrival on campus, each graduate student and postdoc should complete an individual development plan (IDP) annually. Units should be strongly encouraged to incorporate IDPs into the existing requirement for annual academic progress reports for graduate students, and continued effort should be put into making sure that the annual progress reporting actually takes place."

From: Griffith M, Goldstein A, Gee M, Marshall C, Bergman R, Villas-Boas SB, Bakker AH, Page-Medrich S. Report of the task force on graduate student and postdoc professional development. University of California, Berkeley; 2014.


What are PIs encouraged to do in this process?

  • Reporting (for those with NIH funding):

From the UC Berkeley SPO website (

All NIH progress reports (RPPRs) submitted after October 1, 2014 must include a report on the use of IDPs in Question B.4. This should be a brief description of how and whether individual development plans (IDPs) are used to identify and promote the career goals of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers associated with the award. Actual IDPs should not be included.

The following statement is provided to assist Berkeley PIs respond to Section B of the RPPR:

“Pending more formal guidelines, UC Berkeley graduate students and postdocs are encouraged to utilize IDPs every year to set academic and career goals and facilitate conversations with their mentor(s). Similarly, Berkeley faculty mentors are encouraged to promote the use of IDPs among their trainees. The recommended tool for life sciences is myIDP from ScienceCareers/AAAS. The UC Berkeley IDP working group provides information to trainees and faculty and can help create training sessions to facilitate the use of IDPs.”

Please note that reports will be stronger if they include more specific details on how IDPs are used in that particular research group.

  • Mentoring (regardless of funding source): 
    Advice from the UC Berkeley IDP Working Group (*): The primary responsibility for completing the IDP rests with the trainees (graduate students and postdocs). Faculty mentors are encouraged to  implement IDP use among their trainees and provide support in the process. Support may include confidential one-on-one meetings if a trainee wants to discuss certain parts of their IDP with their mentors (e.g. skills development and action steps). In general, constructive feedback in an open environment and receptiveness to long-term career goals outside of academia lead to the most effective use of the IDP.

IDP Tools and Forms

  • For Life Sciences and STEM:We (*) recommend using the free, online, interactive myIDP from ScienceCareers/AAAS

    This IDP tool was developed by a team of scientists and career advisors (including staff from UCSF) for trainees in biomedical/STEM sciences. In addition to setting goals for research projects, it encourages exploration of a full range of career options, and involves a four-phase process:  Self-assessment (skills, interests and values), Career Exploration, Goal Setting, and Implementation. Since myIDP is quite detailed in its questions, trainees may find that the assessment and career exploration becomes increasingly more helpful as they progress throughout their training (e.g., pass qualifying exams, enter postdoc position). However the sections entitled "Set Goals" and "Implement Plan" are relevant at every stage of training and professional development. Learn more about the IDP process and using myIDP.

    Certifying the completion of IDPs, using the myIDP website: AAAS myIDP developed a feature that allows users to print out or email a certificate documenting their progress in creating an IDP. If you want proof of IDP completion from your trainees, you can request it in this form. The certificate will have a checklist that reports which sections of myIDP have been completed and whether there has been a discussion with the mentor (without showing any of the content).

  • For Humanities and Social Sciences: 
    Launched in 2018, ImaginePhD (ImaginePhD.comis the first Individual Development Plan (IDP) expressly created to meet the needs of graduate students and PhDs in the Humanities and Social Sciences. A free, online career exploration and planning tool for grad students, PhDs and postdoctoral scholars, ImaginePhD is designed to provide resources that bridge the knowledge gap between doctoral education and the realm of career possibilities. It does so through a series of modules that help users to: assess their career-related skills, interests, and values; explore careers paths appropriate to their disciplines; create self-defined goals; and map out next steps for career and professional development success. ImaginePhD was created by the Graduate Careers Consortium, with the support of over thirty major research universities.
  • Alternatives: 
    Should departments, programs, faculty mentors or trainees prefer to create their own IDP tools or forms tailored to their specific needs, it is recommended to include sections on career objectives, skills assessment and goal setting for the next year. Some resources that can help you create you own IDP include:

More information

  • The UC Berkeley IDP working group is happy to advise on topics related to IDP implementation, including training and adaptation by different programs, departments and disciplines across campus. Updates will be posted as they become available.
  • Those interested in training their graduate students and postdocs on the IDP are welcome to contact Andrew Green from UC Berkeley Career Center at to discuss options. Alternatively, UCSD has comprehensive "Train the trainer" resources on their website:
  • In her July 23, 2013 blog, Sally Rockey, NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research at that time, provided guidance about NIH's intentions with regard to IDP's.
  • In his September 7, 2012 Editor's Letter in Science, Bruce Alberts made note of the importance of career planning for members of tomorrow's biomedical workforce.
  • For more information about what an IDP is, see this article from ScienceCareers.


Please contact Kim Baeten ( from the working group with any questions, suggestions or concerns about IDPs.


This content was adapted from:

UCSF - Office of Career & Professional Development (with permission from Bill Lindstaedt):

UC San Diego - Office of Postdoctoral & Visiting Scholars Affairs (with permission from Ginger Hazen and Zoe Ziliak Michel):