Professional Skills

BGS has a dedicated website for Career Development information and activities,  which includes a blog, a calendar, and information on alumni outcomes.   The website also includes an extensive resources section.  Key resources for students to explore career options and develop professional skills are described below.


Penn’s office of Career Services includes a variety of specific services for life sciences PhD students and postdocs. Career Services also partners with BGS to develop BGS-specific events, including professional development workshops. 

Throughout the academic year, Career Services counselors host same-day,  15-minute appointments for BGS students. New appointment times open up every day at 9:15 AM ET. To schedule an appointment, sign in to Handshake and click the “Career Center” tab near the top right corner.

Be sure to customize your email settings in Handshake to receive a weekly newsletter featuring jobs and resources tailored to you. Detailed instructions on how to do so are available here.

Career Services also organizes an annual STEM career fair for graduate students and postdocs, which is very well attended by BGS students. The Fall 2020 STEM Career Fair took place on October 20, 2020. 


BGS students have the option of applying to any of a variety of certificate programs, either at the time of initial application to the PhD program or later, depending on the program. These programs provide a valuable opportunity to pursue specialized scientific and professional interests.

Several of the programs are closely affiliated with BGS; for example, they receive various forms of support from BGS and provide courses and other forms of programming commensurate with BGS standards and objectives. 

Other programs are not as closely linked to BGS but are of potential benefit nonetheless.

BGS students may also apply to earn a Teaching Certificate through Penn’s Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Innovation.  Approximately 1 BGS student per year participates in this program and organizes teaching-related workshops for other students.

Over the years, several BGS students have participated in the Penn Center for Innovation PCI Fellows Program.

Students interested in a certificate program should review the Policies Governing Participation of BGS Students in Certificate Programs.

Authorization is required through the form Authorization to Participate in a Certificate Program.

Students with questions about Certificate Programs should contact Candace Cain for more information.


BGS organizes professional development workshops throughout the academic year.  This series is developed with input from students interested in career-focused activities. Contact Candace Cain for more information.


All BGS students are required to do an individual development plan annually. See the, "Individual Development Plans (IDPs)" tab on the Academic Information page. 


Predoctoral training provided through BGS creates the opportunity for highly productive careers in science, technology, and medicine. A student’s decision as to what kind of career best fits him or her is ideally integrated with the process of training itself. Career-related meetings, externships (e.g., shadowing), and internships can be especially valuable in this regard.

Outlined here are the support and requirements for activities that relate to the exploration of careers apart from academic research but for which biomedical training nonetheless provides a competitive advantage. Activities relating to job interviews, formal training, scientific meetings, job fairs, and collaborations are not addressed here.

Support requires the student to have passed his or her candidacy exam and to be conducting thesis research. Support includes:

  • Travel, accommodations, and fees for one (i.e., in the course of training) career-related meeting or comparable event, in an amount up to $500.
  • Travel and associated training expenses for one career-related externship, not to exceed 2 weeks, in an amount up to $500; stipend support will be provided through mechanisms that already exist for the student.
  • Travel for one career-related internship, not to exceed 3 months, in an amount up to $500. This may not be available if travel expenses are already provided by the sponsoring entity. Stipend and associated training expenses must be provided by the sponsoring entity.

The student is responsible for identifying the activity.

Advance approval is contingent on a process of application, which entails:

  • A description of, and rationale for, the activity.
  • Sign-offs by the thesis advisor(s) and graduate group chair, and sign-off by the thesis committee chair as well for internships. It is vital that the time taken for the activity will not substantially impact the momentum of the thesis research.
  • The student will provide to BGS following the activity a written summary.
  • Details regarding advance notice, terms of reimbursement, intellectual property, etc., are provided on the approval form.

BGS Policy Governing Student Participation in Extramural Activities 

Career Internship Approval Form for BGS Students

For students attending on a visa, you must also be approved through ISSS for CPT.  See information on the BGS Curricular Practical Training (CPT)


BGS students participate in a variety of student-run organizations. Some groups are University-wide and include students in other schools (particularly SEAS, SAS, and Wharton); others are BGS-wide, and some are graduate group-specific. Some are organized specifically to foster career development skills, while others have a more general mission but include some career-focused programming.  In addition, many graduate groups and training grants organize career-development activities with input from students.  BGS encourages student groups to publicize events open to all students via the BGS Career Development calendar, blog, and other mechanisms.  Contact Candace Cain for more information. A list of student groups offering career-development activities is provided below.