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Career & Professional Development

Evaluating professional development options that support your career planning involves assessing yourself, exploring your options, making decisions, and taking action towards concrete goals. This process will help you make well-informed decisions during your years at Northwestern and beyond. Although each person’s experience will be unique, the key points of the career decision-making cycle apply to everyone.

The Process

The career decision-making process is ongoing throughout your professional life, and as your career progresses, you may find yourself engaging in this process again. You may feel frustrated at times as if you are no closer to finding direction than when you started. If you are going through the process, you are making progress. Each area you explore takes you closer to the options that are a good fit.


Analyze your interests, values, and skills to identify career fields, work environments, lifestyles, and job functions that you want to explore.


Research and investigate a range of career options that interest you.


Evaluate your options and narrow your selections to those that are the best fit for you.


Obtain hands-on experience through internships, full-time and part-time positions, and campus or volunteer activities.

Career & Professional Development at Northwestern

Graduate school and postdoctoral training are more than just research and coursework. There is no "right" way to begin your professional development and career exploration journey. The steps you take will be shaped by your unique interests, skills, values, and objectives. No matter your professional goals, your Northwestern experience can help you gain the skills you need to succeed in a wide range of careers.

The Graduate School (TGS) and Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA) strive to make professional development and career education accessible, so that graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are empowered to pursue careers that inspire them.

Core Capacities

The Graduate School Core Capacities define six areas of professional skill, knowledge, and experience required for academic and professional success:

  • Communication
  • Leadership and Collaboration
  • Teaching and Mentoring
  • Research Skills and Literacies
  • Personal Development and Well-Being
  • Career Preparation and Exploration

Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows can develop these capacities through their research, teaching, leadership, and community engagement activities. TGS and the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA) also collaborate with University partners to provide programs and resources to further your professional development in these key areas.

Visit the Programming Opportunities webpage to search for career and professional development programs supported by TGS, NCA, and the OPA.

Explore ProgramMING Opportunities