COVID-19 Advice for the JCU Community - Last updated: 22 October 2021, 8am (AEST)

Professional Development Program

A research degree from James Cook University 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 skills development program and requires all HDR candidates to develop a program of Professional Development as part of their degree candidature, in consultation with their advisory team.

Doctoral candidates complete the subject RD7003 Professional Development. This subject is 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 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. Please note: that RD7003 Professional Development is only a requirement for PhD candidates, not Masters candidates, although Masters candidates are required to complete the Compulsory Components.

Before Confirmation of Candidature, you will need to undertake a Professional Development Audit and Plan to note the skills you 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.

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 AIMS@JCU 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 RD7003 Professional Development are changing. PhD candidates are no longer required to undertake 120 hours of Professional Development. Please note that we are in a transitionary phase during which information about PD is being updated. For now, please note the following:

  • 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 previous Compulsory Component will now be called the Fixed Component but will not have hours attached to it. This component won’t change much, and it will continue to provide essential information for both PhD and MPhil candidature.
  • The previous Elective Component will now be called the Flexible Component, and PhD candidates will be required to complete 40 hours as part of RD7003. Candidates may 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, and if they do they will complete 10 hours of PD. Note however that completing this subject will be 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 will continue to be recorded on the Australian Higher Education Graduation Statement (AHEGS), which you will receive upon graduation.
  • All current candidates will be automatically switched over to the new PD system. Whatever you have done to date will be recorded on your AHEGS
  • SKIP will continue running until the end of this year, but will no longer be compulsory for international candidates. A new support program called Academic Writing and Editing (AWE) will be made available from next year for both domestic and international candidates, replacing SKIP.

Please be aware that it will take a while for the administrative processes to fully enact these changes. You can plan your Professional Development activities with confidence, though, knowing that the changes shown above have been approved. Candidature forms and all parts of the website will be updated over coming months.

Please note that all research degree candidates must complete the specified Compulsory Components (soon to be called Fixed Components) and, in some cases, Conditional Components.

Doctoral candidates are encouraged to design the Elective Component (soon to be called Flexible Component) of this subject with their career aspirations in mind, to fulfil the requirements of the subject. 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. Candidates should discuss their career aspirations and the professional development activities they may require to reach those aspirations with their advisory team.

The Compulsory (Fixed) components must be completed by Confirmation of Candidature. Elective (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 new information becomes available. Please note that PhD candidates are not obliged to undertake any GRS elective 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.

From June 2021, the rules for PhD professional development changed and candidates are no longer required to undertake 120 hours of PD.  Instead, candidates need to undertake 40 hours of Elective (Flexible) activities. You and your advisory team are free to select from a range of possible activities that best suit your project and career aspirations.  You do not need to check with the GRS about the suitability of your activities.  Note that all candidates must undertake Compulsory (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 Compulsory Workshops and here for RD7003 Elective Workshops.

The Leadership and Initiative category of RD7003 Professional Development encourages candidates to engage in professionally beneficial activities during candidature, and have these formally acknowledged on their Australian Higher Education Graduation Statement (AHEGS).

This category enables candidates to undertake a wide range of activities for which a points system applies. PhD candidates may choose to fulfil the Elective (Flexible) component of RD7003 by reaching the threshold of 10 Leadership and Initiative points. MPhil candidates who opt into RM7003 Professional Development may fulfil the requirements of that subject by reaching the threshold of 3 points.

More information here.

    Before you start to plan your professional development program as part of your research degree, please visit the GRS Policies & Procedures webpage and read the guidelines, policies and handbooks relevant to you as a JCU HDR candidate. Those documents should answer many of your questions, but please contact if you have any additional questions.