PhD Career Ladder Program: A Grassroots Approach to Career Development

By Kathleen Ehm, PI
Stony Brook University’s PhD Career Ladder Program, developed by graduate students, for graduate students, serves as a nimble and cost-effective national model for PhD career development and exploration. The traditional career pathway for PhD students in the sciences, leading to a faculty job, is no longer reliable. Numerous recent reports have called on universities to provide better career development and preparation to help these highly-trained scientists and engineers go on to productive and satisfying careers in a broader range of job sectors. To create the necessary culture change and provide these resources, institutions need cost-effective, easily adaptable models that can transform from the bottom up.

The PhD Career Ladder Program is a student-led career mentoring program that takes students through an eight-step curriculum of self-assessment, career exploration and preparation for a job search. Because the program is grassroots and peer-to-peer, it creates a supportive space for exploration of career paths inside and outside of academia and encourages persistence toward students’ career goals. Stony Brook University will focus on expanding, improving and institutionalizing the PhD Career Ladder Program, and testing its effectiveness as a career development tool.

The Stony Brook University PhD Career Ladder Program (PCLP) is a peer-led career mentoring program for grad students and postdocs pursuing any career pathway. Peer leaders guide small groups of participants “up the ladder” of career exploration through seven bi-weekly steps. The steps roughly follow an Individual Development Plan or IDP-like structure from self-assessment and career research,  to skill identification and professional development to networking and goal setting. Participant outcomes see an increase in preparedness and a sense of confidence and self-efficacy in pursuing diverse careers.


Read the project abstract

The PCLP toolkit provides all biweekly agendas and instructional materials (contact the program organizers for more details). PCLP is featured in the 2022-2024 pd|hub Collection: Foundations of Career Exploration for PhD Scientists, hosted by Professional Development Hub (pd|hub), through which institutions can attain support for adaptation, implementation, and evaluation of PCLP at their own site.
Learn more with Stoney Brook’s PhD Career Ladder Program page

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