Appendix A - Skill Building and Career Development

PhD students will find that their academic research experience -- as well as their strength on the job market -- can be enhanced if they focus on developing important skills such as writing, teaching and management throughout their doctoral studies. Students may also want to explore careers outside of the professoriate. The University provides many services and resources to help with these endeavors; all of the services outlined here are free to students at Penn.

Develop Writing Skills

Good writing skills and habits are essential to a student’s success. Help with planning and writing academic papers is available from many places at Penn. The Graduate Student Center sponsors  “Navigating the Academy” academic skill-building workshops, dissertation support programming, and an intensive academic writing retreats and “boot camps.”

The Weingarten Center provides academic support to help with  such as academic reading, writing, study strategies, and time management. This academic support is provided through a varied menu of services and programs, some specifically for graduate students and for international students.

Develop Teaching Skills

The Center for Teaching & Learning prepares graduate students to serve as TAs and/or to teach their own classes at Penn. In addition, CTL has a number of programs and services to help graduate students as they go on the job market and imagine themselves as future faculty.

The CTL Teaching Certificate provides doctoral students with support for improving their teaching as well as recognition for their commitment to developing as teachers. The CTL Teaching Certificate also offers a structure through which interested graduate students can prepare themselves to become faculty in the future. 

Develop Leadership and Management Skills

There are many opportunities on campus to develop leadership and management skills. PhD students can benefit from holding leadership roles in their school governments, GAPSA, or other graduate student organizations. PhD students can also volunteer to serve on University committees. The Grad Center maintains a list of other leadership and training opportunities for graduate students at Penn.

There are also paid positions on campus which can provide management and leadership experiences. Examples include fellow positions at the Graduate Student Center, graduate associate positions in College Houses & Academic Services, and advising positions at the Weingarten Center.

A session with an advisor in Career Services can help students identify other important skills and opportunities to develop them.

For Students Considering Careers Beyond Academia

Some faculty advisors may not be well-equipped to help students explore careers outside of the professoriate. However, there are many other helpful resources at Penn to assist. Set up an appointment with a graduate student/postdoc career advisor at Career Services where students can get guidance and resources specifically for PhD students exploring their many career options. In addition, students can tap into the vast network of PhD alumni who work in a variety of fields through the MyPenn online alumni community. There are also many ways to research career paths taken by Penn alumni using LinkedIn.  Career Services advisors can also help students take full advantage of these online tools. PhD students can begin the process of exploring relevant career paths by reading the Carpe Careers blog on the Inside Higher Ed website, written by PhD/postdoc career advisors from a wide range of academic institutions, and setting up free accounts with the following online tools: