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 must undertake a Professional Development Audit and Plan to develop the skills you need for your degree and beyond. The Professional Development Audit and Plan occurs between commencement and the Confirmation of Candidature Milestone, in association with your Advisory Panel. Progress towards achieving your Professional Development Plan will be formally reviewed as part of your degree Milestones.

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 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.

The Graduate Research School offers a Career Resources Guide for HDR candidates, prepared by Dr Ian McLeod. This curated, hyperlinked guide provides a useful overview of the many websites and other resources that are available to help you plan for your post-degree career.

This subject requires candidates enrolled after 1 January 2018 to complete 120 hours of Professional Development activities (or 80 hours if enrolled between 1 January 2014 and 30 December 2017).  All research degree candidates must complete the specified Compulsory Components and, in some cases, Conditional Components.  However, only candidates undertaking a PhD (not a Masters by Research) officially count these seminars towards successful completion of the subject RD7003 Professional Development.

Doctoral candidates are encouraged to design the elective 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, if they attain 10 points under this category, may be exempted from 40 hours of professional development in RD7003. Candidates should discuss their career aspirations and the professional development activities they may require to reach those aspirations with their advisory team.

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 at the time of Pre-Completion Evaluation (or Mid-Candidature Review if you started your degree prior to 1 January 2018.)

Download the RD7003 subject outline or 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. Candidates undertaking a PhD under the rules current from January 2014 onwards may count most of the available workshops outlined on the Professional development webpage towards RD7003 Professional Development. 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 new 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. Once candidates reach 10 points, they will be exempted from 40 hours of Professional Development.

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.