Duke OPTIONS is designed to support the professional development of Duke Ph.D. students by allowing them to plan their professional development activities throughout their graduate program. Duke OPTIONS provides suggestions for students to develop in six key competencies across the three stages of a Ph.D. program.

Below you'll find information on choosing the right stage, reasons you might opt-in to Career Center access in your OPTIONS profile, definitions of OPTIONS terms, and the research goals associated with the Duke OPTIONS tool as well as the funding sources and development team.

For questions about Duke OPTIONS, contact The Graduate School's professional development team at We welcome your recommendations for additional suggestions to develop the six key competencies. Share your ideas here!

Career Center Access

If you have an upcoming appointment with a Career Center advisor, you may want to check the box to allow Career Center access to your My Map. During your advising appointment, you can share the plans you've already made with your counselor and work together to add custom waypoints that will help you reach your professional development goals. Graduate School staff focused on professional development, including the Assistant Dean for Professional Development and Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, also have access to this information as site administrators.

Duke OPTIONS Dictionary

Not sure what a term used in Duke OPTIONS means? Here's a quick overview of the most important terms.

Road Map

The Road Map provides multiple ways to help you identify your professional destination and reach it. You can tailor the information from the Road Map to your particular goals and interests, and map your route accordingly.

My Map

My Map includes the paths you want to explore en route to your destination. It includes customized waypoints along your journey as well as waypoints based on suggestions the tool provides.


The Graduate School has identified six key competencies that all Ph.D. students should develop to succeed in the professional community. These are based on research by Poock (2001) and expanded to recognize Duke's emphasis on scholarly integrity.


The stages are based on the 2011 Duke University Graduate School Report of the Graduate Career and Professional Development Advisory Committee.

Stage Advisory Committee Description OPTIONS approach Timeframe
1 Transitioning to graduate school Building awareness Year 1
2 Developing teaching, research, and scholarship Developing skills Years 2-4
3 Entering the professional community Documenting experiences Final 12-18 months


The questions posed in each competency raise key issues for Ph.D. students in their professional development. In five of the competencies, you should find that all the questions are applicable to nearly every Ph.D. student. In Teaching and Mentoring, you'll find questions tailored to your plans for teaching as part of your Ph.D. studies. In that competency, you should choose only the questions that are relevant to your interests and plans.


You can find multiple ways to address the questions with the suggestions provided in Duke OPTIONS. The tool is designed so that you can select the suggestions that best align with your goals, interests, and level of time commitment available to pursue them. In general, suggestions are ordered from most local (your department or program) to broadest (including regional, national, and online resources), and from lowest level of commitment (a single workshop) to highest level of commitment (a course, program, or academic certificate).


Waypoints help you stay on your route. By adding a suggestion to My Map, you will automatically add the waypoints you'll need to stay on course. You can edit the waypoint text, choose a target completion date for each waypoint, and mark each waypoint as completed when you're done. We also encourage you to add custom waypoints for important academic milestones (i.e., prelims, defense, annual meetings of your professional organization) as well as personal plans that may impact your professional development activities. You can export your plan to your calendaring software or to a .csv file.

How Can I Choose the Right Stage for Me?

The descriptions below can help you assess the right stage for you. It’s quite possible that you may be at different stages in different competencies, and that’s just fine. It’s easy to change your stage to explore ways to develop that competency more fully.

You should choose Stage 1 if one of these phrases describes you:

You should choose Stage 2 if one of these phrases describes you:

You should choose Stage 3 if one of these phrases describes you:

Duke OPTIONS Research Goals

In addition to sharing information with Ph.D. students to support their professional development goals, Duke OPTIONS aims to collect data on tool use by prospective and enrolled students to investigate two research questions:

  1. To what extent does Duke OPTIONS affect The Graduate School’s recruiting and admissions numbers across all student groups, including underrepresented groups?
  2. What is the impact of involvement in professional development programs on persistence and completion rates among matriculants?

Data collected will only be used to make comparisons in the aggregate; individually identifying information will not be considered in answering these research questions. Learn more about the research goals.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA

Duke OPTIONS is available through a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License. The content and the code are protected by this license. Please credit any use or adaptation to Duke University Graduate School.

Duke OPTIONS Funding

We gratefully acknowledge support from the Council of Graduate Schools ETS/CGS Award for Innovation in Promoting Success in Graduate Education: From Admissions through Completion to fund the development of Duke OPTIONS (Online Professional development Tool for Individual OpportuNitieS). Matching funds were provided by Duke Graduate School.

The Duke OPTIONS Team

Paula D. McClain, Principal Investigator, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Education

Melissa Bostrom, Co-PI, Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Professional Development

Hugh Crumley, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs

John Zhu, Senior Public Affairs Officer and Communications Strategist

Jacqueline Looney, Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Programs and Associate Vice Provost for Academic Diversity

J. Alan Kendrick, Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Development

Brad L. Teague, Assistant Dean and Director, English for International Students

Francisco Ramos, Assistant Dean for Assessment and Evaluation

Pakis Bessias, IT Manager

Iryna Merenbloom, Assistant Dean for Finance


Duke University. (2011). Graduate School Report of the Graduate Career and Professional Development Advisory Committee.

Poock, M. C. (2001). A model for integrating professional development in graduate education. College Student Journal, 35(3), 345-352