PhD Plus Core Competencies

PhD Plus "core modules" provide opportunities for PhD students and Postdocs (collectively called 'trainees') to develop competencies in a variety of areas. Generally, we view these competencies as universally critical to the workforce today and key to individual success regardless of job responsibilities or sectors.  We classify competencies into six broad categories: Leadership & Management, Communication, Collaboration, Analytical thinking, Personal Development, and Cultural Competency. Each broad category of competency serves as a hub for a range of transferable skills. These competencies and skills have been validated by employers across sectors and by UVA PhD alumni in different career stages. 

PhD Plus core modules are associated with one or more of the six competency labels. Trainees can click on individual competency labels (e.g. Leadership & Management) to learn about a series of skills workshops, individual events, PhD stories and and experiential opportunities across core modules that can help develop a specific competency. 

Click below on each of these competencies for a detailed list of skills in each category. 

Leadership and Management

Leadership and management skills are important as individuals work and make decisions in teams. Competencies in management provide concrete steps, whereas leadership skills bring communities and organizations together through shared vision and values.

  • Time management 
  • Project management 
  • Professionalism 
  • Integrity 
  • Agency 
  • Concerns for others/Empathy
  • Mentoring

In any professional space, being able to communicate one's thoughts is essential. Effective communication relies on multiple skills including the analysis of audience, the adaptability to scenarios and delivery modes, and platforms, in addition to organization of evidence.

  • Audience
  • Oral proficiency
  • Written proficiency
  • Conflict management
  • Active listening
  • Social media
  • Data storytelling 

Effective teamwork and collaboration in organizations require a sufficient understanding of teams and stakeholders to make valuable contributions. PhD students and Postdoctoral trainees should have skills, strategies, and awareness of team management, networking, and contributing to their organizations.

  • Team management
  • Networking and contribution
Analytical Thinking

Being able to explore creative solutions to complex issues is increasingly important in the world today. PhD students and Postdoctoral trainees have unique advantages to utilize concepts, theories, and systematic approaches to resolve problems in the real world. The development of one's research skills during PhD education and Postdoc training provides an advanced understanding of critical analysis from qualitative and quantitative reasoning, and the ability to conduct audience analysis before effective communications. 

  • Qualitative reasoning 
  • Quantitative reasoning
  • Audience analysis
Personal Development

Personal development covers a range of attributes and skills that contribute to individual wellbeing: holistic and multidimensional and constantly evolving. Personal development shapes how students see themselves and the world around them. The power of personal development demonstrates how one interacts with and reacts to the inner and outer stimuli and changes in times of uncertainty and challenges. PhD Plus discusses and fosters all aspects of personal development for PhD students and Postdoctoral trainees through cultivating wellness, resilience, initiative, achievement/effort, independence, integrity, adaptability/flexibility, and persistence. 

  • Wellness 
  • Resilience
  • Initiative
  • Achievement/Effort 
  • Independence
  • Adaptability/Flexibility
  • Persistence
Cultural Competency
  • Global/International experience
  • Interdisciplinarity and awareness of disciplinary cultures
  • Diversity and Inclusion

We acknowledge the following organizations and initiatives that collectively informed our competency taxonomy into 6 broad categories outlined:

  • Career Readiness Competencies by National Association of College and Employers (NACE) 
  • National Postdoc Association (NPA) Core Competencies
  • Council of Graduate Schools' (CGS) PhD Career Pathways project: As a participant in PhD Career Pathways project, UVA collected data from current students and alumni on career aspirations, outcomes, and experiences of PhD education and training.