Program Overview

A research degree from JCU is designed to prepare graduates for a wide variety of careers by building professional development activities into the degree program.  Most Higher Degree by Research (HDR) candidates will go on to have careers outside academia, and career opportunities expand if they use their candidature for skills development. The first professional appointment after graduation will be determined not only by the research-specific technical skills gained during candidature but also the transferable generic skills and personal attributes. The JCU Graduate Research School (GRS) therefore makes available an extensive professional development program.

Doctoral candidates complete the compulsory subject RD7003 Professional Development and MPhil candidates may choose to opt into the Flexible Component of RM7003 Professional Development. Both doctoral and MPhil candidates are required to complete the Fixed Components by the time of Confirmation of Candidature. These subjects are intended to provide a framework for candidates to undertake professional development activities that will ensure they are well equipped for careers in the knowledge economy. Attainments as part of RD7003/RM7003 Professional Development are recorded on the Australian Higher Education Graduate Statement (AHEGS), enabling future employers to see the nature and scope of professional development undertaken by the candidate.

Before Confirmation of Candidature, you will need to complete a Professional Development Audit and Plan to record the skills you already possess, and the ones you will need for your degree and beyond. The Professional Development Audit and Plan should be discussed with your advisory panel between commencement and the Confirmation of Candidature Milestone,

Progress towards achieving your Professional Development Plan will be formally reviewed as part of your degree Milestones.  In the Audit and Plan section of your Confirmation documentation, you should note your existing skills and forecast those you are going to need for your project and your career aspirations. Your advisory panel should discuss the suitability of your proposed skills development program with you at this time.

You may then choose various ways to achieve development of those skills, including through workshops and other training available through the GRS, or externally.  You may also wish to discuss the possibility of achieving the requirements of RD/RM7003 by opting for the Leadership and Initiative pathway .

The Professional Development Program workshops listed on this site are available in priority order to HDR candidates, postgraduate coursework students, Honours students, JCU staff (especially Early Career Researchers) and members of the wider community, including members of [email protected] and the CSIRO. We extend a warm invitation to staff at both Townsville and Cairns hospitals to take part in this program. Community members are also welcome if spaces are available.

Upon commencement, HDR candidates should visit the JCU Library to explore the services on offer. The Library website contains a wealth of information, Libguides and ‘how to’ articles, as well as a variety of relevant workshops and other activities that you may include in your PD program.

The requirements for the doctoral subject RD7003 Professional Development and the MPhil subject RM7003 were changed during 2021. PhD candidates are no longer required to undertake 120 hours of Professional Development. The relevant milestone forms have been updated to account for these changes, so please ensure you have the most up-to-date forms when you prepare your milestone paperwork.  Here are the main points of the refreshed Professional Development program:

  • The requirement for doctoral candidates to undertake 120 hours of PD as part of RD7003 has been removed, to be replaced with a smaller commitment (see below).
  • The Fixed Component does not have hours attached to it. This component continues to provide essential information for both PhD and MPhil candidature. Full details of the items that must be completed may be found here.
  • PhD candidates are required to complete 40 hours in the Flexible Component as part of RD7003 by Mid-Candidature Review. Candidates may alternatively choose to fulfil this requirement via the Leadership and Initiative category in which case they will need to accumulate 10 points.
  • MPhil candidates may opt into RM7003 Professional Development at Pre-Completion, and if they do they will have completed 10 hours of Flexible PD or obtained 3 Leadership and Initiative points. Note however that completing this subject is optional for MPhil candidates.
  • In addition to the Fixed and Flexible components, all candidates are encouraged to undertake activities in the Recommended component category. These activities, and those in the Flexible category, are entirely at the discretion of candidates and their advisory teams, and they are not required to receive approval for them from the GRS.
  • All PD activities are recorded on the Australian Higher Education Graduation Statement (AHEGS), which is provided upon graduation.
  • The Skills for International Postgraduates (SKIP) has been discontinued. A new support program called Academic Writing and Editing (AWE) is available to both domestic and international candidates, replacing SKIP. AWE is not compulsory, unless it has been deemed a Conditional Component by a candidate’s advisory team.

Please note that all research degree candidates must complete the specified Fixed Components and, in some cases, Conditional Components.

Doctoral candidates are encouraged to design the Flexible Component of this subject with their career aspirations in mind. While the GRS offers a range of workshops and courses, all of which may be counted towards RD7003, candidates are not limited to the GRS offerings. They may choose JCU coursework subjects (usually at no cost), or external activities of various kinds.

Candidates may also elect to undertake activities in the Leadership and Initiative component of Professional Development [subject outline] and attain 10 points under this category to fulfil the requirements. Note that doctoral candidates must either attain 40 hours of Professional Development training, or reach the threshold of 10 Leadership and Initiative points, to fulfil the requirements of RD7003.  While they may note activities in both categories, they must reach the threshold in at least one.

The Fixed Component must be completed by Confirmation of Candidature. Flexible components must be completed by Mid-Candidature Review, while any Recommended components should be completed by the Pre-Completion Evaluation. All candidates are encouraged to continue building their professional skills until completion of their degree, even after the requirements of RD7003 Professional Development have been met.

Find out more about RD7003 Professional Development Workshops from Workshops and Training

JCU HDR candidates are encouraged to make the most of the professional development and skills-building activities outlined on our website. Seminars and workshops on topics of interest to HDR candidates are held throughout the year, and the website is updated regularly as new sessions are added and information becomes available. Please note that PhD candidates are not obliged to undertake any GRS Flexible workshops or courses, but may design their own PD program based upon their interests and aspirations, or put together a combination of GRS and external offerings, in consultation with their advisors. You do not need to check with the GRS about the suitability of your activities.  Note that all candidates must undertake Fixed components.

You are welcome to undertake a wide range of training, whether offered by GRS, JCU or outside.  Please go to External Opportunities to see some development opportunities outside JCU.  However, candidates are not limited to these options and are welcome to propose their own if they wish, in consultation with their advisory panel.

Click here for RD7003 Fixed Components and here for RD7003 Flexible Components.

The Professional Development Program is flexible and encourages you to design the most suitable program to fit your career aspirations. In some cases this may mean that you undertake Flexible and Recommended activities entirely within the GRS program, entirely outside the GRS program, or (most likely) a combination of both.

To ensure the integrity of the system, we need evidence of what you have completed. If you complete Professional Development activities that are presented by the Graduate Research School, and you register for them through CareerHub or undertake them through LearnJCU, you just need to note them in your milestone paperwork, and the GRS academic services team will be able to check your attendance in our systems.

If you undertake activities outside the GRS system (for example, a Coursera or an e-Grad School course), you will need to supply evidence of your completion. You are welcome to provide that evidence at any time by sending your certificate of completion, or even just an e-mail confirming your completion of a training activity, to [email protected], and the academic services team will place it onto your file.

You should always aim to be as clear as possible about exactly what you have done (using its official name), when you undertook this activity, and how many hours were involved (a reasonable estimate is fine in cases where exact hours are not provided in the documentation). Some candidates like to prepare a spreadsheet to track their own PD, updating it each time they complete an activity, to ensure that everything is included. You will then have all the information you need at the time of a milestone. You are not required to do this, but you may find it useful, particularly if you are undertaking a lot of external PD activities. Note that you should not send the spreadsheet to the GRS, just the evidence of completed activities.

Tracking your PD as you go is easier than trying to remember everything at the time of a milestone, so as you complete an external activity, send your evidence through to GRS and/or update your spreadsheet.

All GRS Professional Development Program workshops require registration, which are self-managed online using CareerHub and LearnJCU.

If you are planning on participating in workshops outside the GRS Professional Development Program, remember to obtain evidence that you have completed any course you have undertaken, as you will need to provide that at the relevant milestone. You are welcome to send that evidence to the GRS as soon as you receive it, and it will be placed on your file.

If you have any questions about registration and attendance please don't hesitate to contact [email protected]

Registration via CareerHub

GRS workshops require registration via CareerHub. You are encouraged to register early, as attendance numbers may be limited by the nature of the workshop and/or its venue. Even some Zoom workshops have attendance limits, especially if they are highly interactive. By registering early you will have the added advantage of being on the workshop mailing list and you'll be advised in writing of necessary changes to workshop dates, times or venues. Where workshop places are limited, a waiting list will be available on CareerHub. Please consider your fellow HDR candidates, and remove yourself from the registration list is you are no longer able to attend a session. In doing so, you will be freeing up a space for another HDR candidate to join a workshop.

If a fellow HDR candidate cancels their event registration and a place becomes available, an automated email will be issued by CareerHub to those on the waiting list. If you receive such advice, you must take action to secure your place. You will not be granted a place unless you confirm that you wish to book in.

Download the Guide to using CareerHub.

Attendance Records

To help you satisfy the requirements for Confirmation of Candidature, and of the subject RD7003 Professional Development, attendance records are kept for all GRS-presented sessions outlined on our website. CareerHub records will be updated after the workshop by GRS staff. You are able to check your attendance by going to Event Booking History on CareerHub for Zoom and face to face sessions and My Grades for online modules on LearnJCU (see below). Download the guide here.

In order to be marked as attended you must attend a minimum of 80% of the workshop whether it is a face to face session or via Zoom.  Note that presenters may ask participants to switch on their cameras at least briefly, or may require cameras to be on all the time, depending on the nature of the workshop.  Anyone who switches off their camera and does not respond to the presenter if asked may be marked as absent.

Face to Face Workshops

Please ensure that you register for face to face sessions you wish to attend and use the QR Code check in which will be used to mark your attendance.  The  QR Code at face to face sessions will be available for check in approximately 5 minutes prior to the workshop start time and for 10 minutes after the workshop starts. If you are late please send an email to [email protected] and we will confirm your attendance with the presenter. To check in you will need a smart phone camera.  If you do not have a phone with you or your phone does not work with QR Codes another participant or staff member can check you in. If you have not checked in you will be marked as absent.

Zoom Workshops

Your attendance via Zoom is recorded in a Zoom report that is downloaded after the event. The report will show length of time in the Zoom and if breakouts rooms are used it will show who participated.  A minimum attendance of 80% of the workshop is required to be marked as attended as well as active participation in any activities including breakout rooms.

Please ensure that you are using your full name in the Zoom as per your CareerHub account so we can accurately record your attendance.

LearnJCU Modules in the Higher Degree by Research Organisation

In the case of the online modules on LearnJCU, once you have completed the associated quizzes, you may find records of your completion in the My Grades area in the Higher Degree by Research Organisation (see Guide to Using CareerHub and LearnJCU).

Keeping your own records

HDR candidates should keep records of other training or workshops offered elsewhere that can be counted towards the RD7003 subject requirements. We suggest using a spreadsheet to keep track of your professional development attendance, so that you are not relying on your memory and you have all required information for your milestone paperwork.


Failure to attend a reserved place in a Professional Development Program workshop without notice or cancellation less than 24 hours before the scheduled time means that someone else may miss out on attending that workshop. Non-attendance will also be recorded in CareerHub.

Not turning up for some workshops is a problem for two reasons. Firstly, other participants who want to attend the workshop may miss out. Secondly, the style of the workshop is tailored for the number of attendees. Activities designed for 20+ people may not work for five. Last minute cancellation also causes significant difficulties. If you can’t come to a session, please cancel as soon as you become aware of this.

Doctoral candidates at JCU undertake the subject RD7003 Professional Development as part of their degree. This subject requires completion of 40 hours of professional development, or 10 points in the Leadership and Initiative category. MPhil candidates may opt to undertake the subject RM7003 Professional Development, but are not obliged to do so.  If they do opt in they will complete 10 hours of Flexible professional development, or 3 Leadership and Initiative points.

RD7003 and RM7003 allow you the flexibility to put together a program of professional development that best suits your career aspirations. Make the most of it, and start planning early.  Whether you wish to become an academic, or go on to a career in the many sectors that welcome the skills you hone during HDR candidature, you and your advisory team can design a PD program that will give you the attributes that employers are looking for.

Click here for more information.

Don't leave it until the last minute to involve a statistician in your Project!

Research theses and research projects sometimes fail or require substantial revision due to:

  • Poor experimental design
  • Incorrect application of statistical tests
  • Violation of assumptions, and
  • Incorrect interpretation of results.

Data collection, analysis and interpretation of statistical output can be an expensive exercise in both time and money. It is tragic if a research student’s thesis is failed because of such flaws, which can be irredeemable. Involving a statistician, preferably before you start collecting data, can minimise the risk of any of these problems occurring.

Take advantage of the StatsHelp Program, funded by the Graduate School of Research.

Who can use the StatsHelp Service?

Any JCU student who is enrolled in a:

  • PhD
  • Research Masters
  • Professional Doctorate, or
  • Honours, Graduate Certificate/Diploma Research Methods, coursework Masters Degree (fee basis only and pending availability.)

Supervisors are very welcome to attend consultation sessions with their postgraduate research students.

How much does it cost?

The StatsHelp Program is funded by the Graduate Research School. Access to the StatsHelp Program by enrolled postgraduate research students is free.

In the event that a student requires urgent help with a statistical problem, an appointment can be scheduled with a statistician usually within several working days.

How does the consultation work?

StatsHelp appointments, or consultations, may be booked for up to one hour.

The first half of the consultation usually requires that the student explains their problem or project objectives to the statistician. The statistician may then ask questions to clarify they understand the problem to be solved. The second half of the consultation involves the statistician explaining the different statistical approaches that could be applied to the situation and the student asking questions about these different statistical approaches to ensure they understand the concept.

To make the most of your appointments with the Statistician, be prepared. Students who come to the meeting poorly prepared often spend too much time explaining their situation to the statistician, thus leaving less time for the student to learn more about the statistical techniques they could apply to their data.

Where possible, research students and, if desired, their advisors should register to attend one of several statistics training workshops offered through the Research Skills Program each year. For further information and training dates, visit the Professional Development Program webpage.

How do I prepare for the consultation?

One hour may seem like a long time but it passes very quickly. Students who are well organised and prepared for their consultation will gain the most from their session.

  • What is/are your research question(s)?
    Write down your research questions and hypotheses. Note, StatsHelp statisticians can also provide advice regarding the design of questionnaires.
  • What data do you have?
    Summarise what data you have or plan to collect that will be used to answer your research questions/hypotheses. Note the variable names, type of data, number of samples, replication, etc. Diagrams/pictures that describe how/where you will collect your data can also be helpful.
  • Graph your data
    If you have already collected your data, it is highly recommended that you graph the data and bring along a hard copy of these graphs to the meeting.
  • Effective communication
    It is important to remember that the consulting statistician is not an expert in your field. You will need to concisely explain the concepts associated with your data and data collection with minimal use of jargon.
  • Search the literature relevant to your discipline
    Different disciplines and journals will favour different statistical approaches. It is good practice to search the literature to understand how other researchers have applied a statistical method to a situation that is similar to your investigation or target journal.

Level of statistical advice

The statistical advice given will be based on your level of understanding. You will be advised of a statistically correct technique, but not necessarily the optimal statistical technique. You will be advised in writing if a compromise has been made.

The statistical consulting team is able to answer most queries presented by students. From time to time, however, some cases require specialist input that exceeds the role of the consulting team. In these situations, the consulting team will do its best to refer the student to relevant information sources.

Opportunities for collaboration

If you require more advanced or time-consuming assistance, the statisticians may be willing to enter a collaborative arrangement which will result in co-authorship of any paper which uses our advice.

As part of your initial enquiry, please provide:

  • A brief background of your research project;
  • Details of your chosen research question; and
  • Details of your chosen statistics software.

Please also provide advice as to the problems you are experiencing with your data, or the questions you would like to ask the statisticians.

If you are seeking assistance following the review of a submitted manuscript by external reviewers, please provide a copy of that manuscript along with the reviewers’ comments.

Send an initial request for a consultation, along with the details outlined above, to [email protected] .


The consulting statistician(s) will specify dates and times they are available for consultation. Dates and times are usually fixed.  StatsHelp team members are generally available throughout the working week on the Townsville, Bebegu Yumba campus, subject to personal workloads.  Assistance is provided for students based at the Cairns, Nguma-bada campus by only one StatsHelp team member, who is available on Thursday and Friday each week (you must make an appointment).

Book in advance

It is not uncommon for the statistical consulting service to be booked out several weeks in advance. If you would like to meet with a statistician prior to an important date, e.g. your Confirmation of Candidature seminar or data collection, remember to book several weeks in advance.

‘No show’ policy

The StatsHelp program is offered in support of JCU’s graduate research students. Students who book an appointment and then do not turn up at the agreed time without explanation are likely to forfeit any further assistance from the StatsHelp program. Help us to help you – arrive on time, be prepared, and make the most of your StatsHelp appointment.

You have the option of applying to the Graduate Research School for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) of the Fixed Component of your professional development program, if you believe that you already possess the skills covered by a particular session.  For example, recent JCU MPhil graduates now undertaking a PhD may be able to apply for RPL for some Fixed components, if they completed those components during their MPhil.

Applicants or candidates may apply to the Graduate Research School by completing the HDR RPL Application form specifying what the recognition of prior learning is being sought for (e.g. a Fixed module of Professional Development subject RD 7003) and providing the evidence, such as certificates or statements to support the request.