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 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 provides thesis and dissertation support and an intense “Dissertation Boot Camp.” 

The Office of Learning Resources provides help in skills 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.

The Marks Family Writing Center provides graduate students with feedback on seminar papers, proposals, manuscripts, and other texts, working on anything from conceptualizing to polishing a final draft, including how to plan and stage writing work.

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. The certificate is noted on the student’s transcript, as a statement from the University of Pennsylvania that a graduate student has pursued advanced training in teaching. 

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 or GAPSA or other graduate student organizations. PhD students can also volunteer to serve on University committees.

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 Learning Resource 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

The reality is that your faculty advisor is probably not well-equipped to help you 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 you can get guidance and resources specifically for PhD students exploring their many career options. In addition, you can tap into the vast network of PhD alumni who work in a variety of fields through QuakerNet. There are also many ways to research career paths taken by Penn alumni using LinkedIn. If you are looking for the best ways to take full advantage of these online tools, then call 215-898-7530 to set up a time to speak with career advisors who are specialized in working with PhD students at any stage of the career exploration and career development process. 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: