Skills and Career Development for Research Students

Undertaking a research degree is clearly about producing an excellent piece of research – but it is also about acquiring new skills.

Our skills and career development programmes and resources for research students will give you the skills you need to become an effective researcher and complete your degree together with transferable skills that will be of use both during your time here and in your career beyond. 

Plan and Manage Your Skills and Career Development

Step 1 Review the Researcher Development Framework

Research students are encouraged to use the Researcher Development Framework to support their personal development planning. The Researcher Development Framework sets out the knowledge, behaviours, and attributes that you are expected to demonstrate as a researcher.

The Researcher Development Framework is designed for researchers at all levels and you may find not all parts of it are relevant to you – but it will help you think about the full range of skills you will need to:

  • succeed in your research degree
  • achieve your longer-term personal and professional goals
Step 2 Conduct a Training Needs Analysis

A training needs analysis is a self-assessment of your current skills levels and knowledge. It can also be used to start thinking about your skills development needs and how these might be prioritised.

Research students are encouraged to complete a training needs analysis before going on to develop a full training plan.

You can use the Doctoral College's Word training needs analysis template.

The template is based around the domains and descriptors of the Researcher Development Framework to help you think about the full range of skills and attributes that characterise an effective researcher. 

Step 3 Set Your Training Objectives

You can use the information obtained from the training needs analysis to formulate some basic objectives for your skills and career development.

To be effective, your objectives should follow the SMART model - that is, they should be:

  • Specific - Exactly what is it you want to achieve?
  • Measurable - How will you know you have achieved it?
  • Agreed - Does your supervisory team agree with your objectives?
  • Realistic - Can your objectives be achieved given the time and resource available to you?
  • Timed - When do you expect to have met each objective?

We would suggest that you try to formulate three or four objectives that are focussed on the initial stages of your research degree - developing or refining your research question(s), undertaking a literature review, preparing for the probation review, etc.

But you should not forget your longer term personal and professional goals - are these reflected in your objectives?

Step 4 Agree a Training Plan for Your Probation Period

Once you have identified your training needs you can start thinking about the development opportunities that are available and begin matching the two up in a training plan.

In your training plan you will need to set out:

  • what training you will need to undertake to fill the skills gaps identified in your training needs analysis, and
  • when you plan to undertake this training

You can use the Doctoral College's Word training plan template.

At the heart of your plan should be the training provided by your College. The training provided by your College will cover many of the essentials skills that you will need over your research degree. To ensure your training plan supports your ongoing personal and professional development, you should also make use of other training opportunities provided: 

For a complete list of up-coming skills and career development event, see the events diary.

You may also want to use the available e-resources and study guides or participate in other events for research students:

Step 5 Keep a Training Record

It is important that you keep a running record of all the skills and development activities that you complete over your research degree.

This includes participation in training events and workshops as well as:

  • use of online resources
  • attendance at conferences, seminars, etc.
  • self-directed learning

You will need to present a full training record in order to complete your probation review - but even beyond that, you should continue to keep your record up to date as this information will be invaluable when you come to apply for jobs, research funding, etc.

We would suggest that you use the descriptors of the Researcher Development Framework when recording your training as these will provide your with the key words and terms that you can use to articulate your skills and attributes to employers and others.

To create a record of the University training events that you have completed you can use the Doctoral College's Word training record template or PROSE .

Step 6 Update Your Training Plan for the Rest of Research Degree

As you progress with your research degree your skills and career development needs may change, so it is important that you review your training record and your training plan from time to time.

In particular, as you move towards the completion of the active research part of your degree you may find your focus shifting more towards your career beyond your research degree. We would therefore suggest that you review your training record and training plan at key points in your research degree programme - for example, on completion of your probation review and as you enter the final year of your degree.

This is something you may want to do in consultation with your supervisory team.


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