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.

All HDR Professional Development are booked and recorded in SkillsJCU.  SkillsJCU enables you to develop and manage your HDR Professional Development program as part of your research degree. You will be able to undertake your Professional Development Audit and Plan, book into training sessions, access online modules, upload information about any external training you have completed and track your PD progress against the HDR Graduate Attributes and/or the Leadership and Initiative pathway.

Before Confirmation of Candidature, you will need to complete a Professional Development Audit and Plan (PDAP) in SkillsJCU 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 HDR Confirmation of Candidature Procedure. The PDAP part of SkillsJCU will suggest workshops you may like to consider to meet your training needs, or you can do a key word search among the available listings. You may also wish to discuss the possibility of achieving the requirements of RD/RM7003 by opting for the Leadership and Initiative pathway.

Progress towards achieving your Professional Development Plan will be formally reviewed as part of your degree Milestones.   Your advisory panel should discuss the suitability of your proposed skills development program with you at this time. You can update your Audit and Plan at any time during your candidature.

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.

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 complete 10 hours of Flexible PD or obtain 3 Leadership and Initiative points. Note however that completing this subject is optional for MPhil candidates.

Even when all Fixed and Flexible component requirements are completed, all candidates are encouraged to undertake further PD activities throughout their candidature. These additional activities are entirely at the discretion of candidates and their advisory teams.

Some candidates may also be required to undertake Conditional Components, if directed to do so at commencement. These may include language and communication support activities, safety training such as diving or boating, or any other activity that is needed for successful completion of the research project. These activities can be included in the Flexible Component part of SkillsJCU.

All PD activities are recorded on the Australian Higher Education Graduation Statement (AHEGS), which is provided upon graduation.

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. External activities will require evidence of completion. This evidence can be uploaded to SkillsJCU.  We recommend you upload evidence as soon as it is available to you.

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 for doctoral candidates or Pre-Completion Evaluation by those MPhil candidates who opt into this training. Additional training undertaken by doctoral candidates will be noted at Pre-Completion.

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 or undertake them through SkillsJCU, the GRS academic services team will be able to check your attendance.

If you undertake activities outside the GRS system (for example, a Coursera or an e-Grad School course), you will need to enter the details in SkillsJCU and upload your evidence.  You will also be asked to match your activity to a Graduate Attribute, as this is the way we structure your PD program.

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). Please enter your activities into SkillsJCU as soon as they are complete. 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, update your records in SkillsJCU

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

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

Registration via SkillsJCU

GRS workshops require registration via SkillsJCU. 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 in SkillsJCU. Please consider your fellow HDR candidates, and remove yourself from the registration list if 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 SkillsJCU and you will have 48 hours to secure your place.  If after 48 hours you have not secured a place, the offer will be sent to the next person on the waiting list.

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. SkillsJCU records will be updated after the workshop by GRS staff. You are able to check your attendance by going to "Completed Activities” in SkillsJCU.

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.

Face to Face Workshops

Please ensure that you register for face to face sessions you wish to attend and sign the attendance sheet at the workshop which will be used to mark your attendance.

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. 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. Please ensure before booking a Zoom workshop that you are going to be able to participate fully in the activity, including being in a quiet place with access to both camera and microphone on your computer or other device.

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

LearnJCU Modules

You can access LearnJCU training modules via SkillsJCU. Every online module has an associated quiz or quizzes. Once you have completed these quizzes, you may find records of your completion in SkillsJCU. This may take around 15 minutes to update in the system.


Failure to attend a reserved place in a Professional Development Program workshop without notice or cancellation with 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 SkillsJCU.

Non-attendance 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.

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.

The Professional Development Program includes Induction sessions and online modules that are compulsory for all HDR candidates, whether they are undertaking a PhD, a Professional Doctorate or an MPhil.

The sessions and online modules listed below should be completed as soon as possible upon commencement and by Confirmation of Candidature.

  • JCU Work Health and Safety Induction
  • HDR Induction - LearnJCU
  • HDR Induction - Zoom
  • Resilient HDR Candidature
  • Respectful Relationships for HDR Candidates
  • JCU Respect Online Modules
  • Epigeum Research Integrity
  • Undertaking a Literature Review
  • Introduction to Professional Writing and Editing
  • Management of Data and Information
  • Plagiarism and iThenticate
  • Copyright and Open Access

More information and access to these sessions and modules are located in SkillsJCU.

All HDR candidates who will be carrying out research or other scientific activities using animals will need to complete the free online ANZCCART ComPass training – Core Mandatory Training Modules and supply the certificate of completion to the Ethics Office at  This training is in addition to the Fixed Components shown on this page. Please also read the AEC Application Guide for information on JCU’s animal ethics processes

For more information on accessing the training modules, please see the Research and Innovation Services – Animal Welfare and Ethics web pages. If you have any questions about the training, please contact the Ethics Office.