Individual Development Plan (IDP) - Information for trainees (graduates and post-docs)

IDP information for Faculty

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 [1].

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. Objective: The use of an IDP can help you evaluate your skills, assess career options, and identify steps to reach your career goals throughout your training. Confidentiality: The content of the IDP is confidential and for personal use; while you may be asked to provide proof of completion, you should not have to share the IDP itself. Discussions with your mentors are encouraged.

Life Sciences/STEM: Use the free, online, interactive myIDP from ScienceCareers/AAAS
Humanities and Social Sciences: Use the free, online, interactive ImaginePhD from the Graduate Career Consortium.

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?

An IDP is a useful tool to help you (1) set goals for your career, including goals impacting your research and training outcomes, and (2) identify steps towards achieving those goals (for example, when to apply for fellowships). In addition, the IDP process may also increase your awareness of your skills and help you feel empowered in the development of your future career, which may improve your general feeling of well-being.


IDP Tools

For Life Sciences and STEM: 

We [1] 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, you may find that the assessment and career exploration becomes increasingly more helpful as you progress throughout your 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.

For Humanities and Social Sciences: 

Launched in 2018, ImaginePhD ( is 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.


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:


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 you 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 hearing about IDPs more formally now?

Over the last few years, the importance and usefulness of IDPs in graduate and postdoc professional development is increasingly being recognized. Driven in part by large funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), many institutes of higher education are now encouraging or even requiring the use of IDPs for their trainees.


Certifying the completion of IDPs, using the myIDP website

If you are funded by NIH, your faculty mentor is required to report on IDP use for you. This may mean that your faculty mentor will ask you for proof of IDP completion. In order to facilitate reporting while maintaining the confidentiality of the IDP, the AAAS myIDP developed a feature that allows users to print out or email a certificate documenting their progress in creating an IDP. 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).


More information

  • Berkeley's IDP working group is happy to advise on topics related to IDP implementation, including training and adaptation by different programs, departments and disciplines across ampus. Updates will be posted as they become available.
  • 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.

[1] The IDP working group was formed in 2014-15 with 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.


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):