Career Strategy Fellowships Study Abroad Summer Session CAREER LINK

Professional Development and Exploration Opportunities

You are here

If you’re considering a career outside of academia—or even if you just want to develop some new skills—there are many ways to engage in professional development activities and explore different career paths while at Yale.  Not only can they boost your skill set, these activities can allow you to make valuable connections and provide exposure to new work environments and perspectives outside the Ivory Tower.

Opportunities to build your professional skill set and hone in on your career path vary significantly in terms of time commitment and hands-on involvement.  Even if your academic research cannot  accommodate a 10-week summer internship, you maybe able to uncover other opportunities that meet your goals. In addition, many students successfully create an opportunity that fits their particular interests and constraints - be sure to read the section below for hints on how to get started.


Establishing Goals

As you seek out opportunities, make sure you think carefully about your particular goals; they can help determine what type of experience will bring the highest return for your time.

  • Explore Careers:  Are you fairly committed to a career path, or are you interested in gathering information about a variety of careers? Job treks and informational interviews maybe most helpful to you at this stage.
  • Build Experience:  If you want to move into a new field, gaining experience in that field can seem daunting. Opportunities such as summer internships are structured to provide an introduction to a field and an employer, allowing you to see if you like the work and giving you experience to point to when looking for a job. Be aware, however, that there may be different ways to gain this experience - often, a summer internship is not the only option! 
  • Develop Skills: Identify what skills are you seeking to acquire, and how they complement or enhance those you’ve developed through your studies. Also, consider opportunities that demonstrate that the skills you’ve developed in graduate school can transfer to a non-academic setting.
  • Build Connections:  One goal of any experience should be to meet new people and expand your professional network, which could be the key to securing the job of your dreams down the line.
  • Get Hired!  Many companies and organizations use internships essentially as long-term interviews. If you work hard and perform well during your internship, you’ll be able to point to these successes when applying for a job, and the company will see you as the ideal candidate: after all, you’ve already proven you can do the job!

Job Treks

One-day to 2-week short-term experiences at an employer's office, treks allow you to test a new career environment.  Often under the guidance of a Yale alum, they can be a great way to get some hands-on experience and receive mentoring.  If you are in the career exploration phase and want to sample a variety of careers, Job Treks are for you!  Start by exploring these options, or use the Yale Career Network to reach out to alumni in your industries or companies of interest and set up your own trek.

Professional Development Workshops

Campus organizations such as the Center for Business and the Environment at Yale, Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, Center for Biomedical and Interventional Technology,and the Yale Graduate Consulting Club offer business skills workshops that are open to all students.  Sign up for their newsletters, or investigate other opportunities in your areas of interest.  For more ways to develop your transferable skill set while on campus, click here!

In addition, seek out online resources for professional development; for a sampling, see the list below:

FAQ:  Online Professional Development Resources


An internship can be a fantastic way to get hands-on, in-depth practical experience at an organization of interest.  During the summer months, PhD candidates can participate in full-time internships iwthout taking a leave of absence from the Graduate School.  Students remain registered and retain all rights and responsibilities of a Yale GSAS student, including Yale health insurance.   

Summer Internships

Summer internships do not require taking a leave of absence from the Graduate School. Students remain registered and thus retain all rights and responsibilities of a Yale GSAS student, including health insurance coverage through Yale. 

  • Students on paid internships normally forfeit their summer funding.
  • The purpose of the internship program is collect data or learn techniques to be used in dissertation research, or to gain exposure for a potential field of employment. Summer internships designed to expose students to potential fields of employment will not be permitted until after a student has been admitted to candidacy.
  • Students are limited to two summer internships. Additional internships will require a Leave of Absence.

Fall and Spring Internships

Internships during the fall or spring semesters require a leave of absence that begins on the first day of the internship. Once on leave, students cannot return until the following semester. Unless an internship is to run for a full semester, it is best to schedule the internship so that it ends within the final week(s) of a semester. It is important to note that academic year leaves of absence result in a suspension of GSAS student privileges, such as health insurance coverage through Yale, and forfeiture of funding during the leave period.


1.  Students must complete the Yale Graduate School Request for Summer Internship and Summer Course Registration form and secure the following documents:

  • Offer letter from the internship host.
  • A statement describing the nature of the internship and work to be done, and how this experience will advance the dissertation research or promote career goals. Include the work location and contact information.
  • A copy of the employer’s intellectual rights or proprietary data agreement, in the event that the employer restricts in any way a student’s right to use or publish data produced during the internship.

2.  The student must provide the above documents to the individuals below and obtain their approval and signature:

  • The Director of Graduate Studies
  • The Dissertation Advisor
  • The Graduate School Associate Dean

3.  Students who have been approved for a summer internship must enroll in one of two summer courses, as described on Request for Summer Internship and Summer Course Registration form:

  • GSAS 901c Pre-Candidacy Applied Research Experience
  • GSAS 902c Post-Candidacy Applied Research Experience

Students who conduct internships during the academic year do not enroll in a course and instead take a leave of absence.

Part-Time Positions

Depending on the terms of their contracts and funding, PhD students may be able to work up to 10 hours per week during the academic year, while postdocs may be able to work 2-3 hours per week. Many students have found rewarding and engaging part-time work supports their professional development, both right on campus and with local firms. Check out the sampling of opportunities listed below.

Organizations Offering Internships or Part-Time Positions

While finding an internship while in graduate school may seem daunting, take heart in knowing that there are employers out there already looking for YOU! Below is a sample of graduate student internship programs or part-time opportunities in a variety of fields.

FAQ:  Part-Time Opportunities at Yale

FAQ:  Part-Time Opportunities Outside of Yale

How to Get/Create a Professional Development Opportunity

The first, and most difficult, part of any job search is deciding where you want to work and what you want to do. If you’ve been in academia for the last few years, this might seem like a daunting task. Spend some time brain storming, thinking not only about what you’d like to do, but where you’d like to live. These resources help you explore the myriad of alternative career paths that may be open to you.

Also think about what skills you’ve developed during your studies and how you could apply these to non-academic jobs. These are called “transferable skills” and you’ll be surprised by how many you possess: teaching undergraduates is proof that you’re a strong communicator and a capable leader, while completing a dissertation or research project is evidence of persistence and analytical abilities.

Many large organizations and companies offer regular summer internships designed for students—you might be familiar with these from undergraduate. Once you identify where you’d like to like, check to see if the organization has an internship program.

Leverage Your Network

Once you’ve identified where you want to apply, ask yourself if you know anyone who works there. Family, friends, past colleagues and classmates, even friends of friends or friends of colleagues—this is your network, and it’s potentially your most powerful tool for getting the job or internship you want. LinkedIn is a great resource for building your network and streamlining your research. Not only will it allow you to connect with new people you meet, summarizing their skills and experiences, it will also allow you to reconnect with people you may have lost touch with: you never know, your best friend from third-grade social studies might be working for your dream employer right now!

Another great resource, available only to Yale students, is the Yale Career Network. Made up of Yale alumni who have expressed an interest in networking with current Yale students, it’s a great way to explore career interests and learn from people already doing what you want to do.

Informational Interview

Once you have narrowed your focus to a list of firms or organizations in your chosen field, informational interviews are a great way of learning more about the field. An informational interview is just that: an interview whose main purpose is to gather first-hand information. You may also receive useful, candid advice about the field or the application process at a specific organization that you’d never find in a book or on a website.

Even though are you not technically being evaluated as a job applicant during an informational interview, you should take it just as seriously as you would take a normal interview: asking thoughtful questions which demonstrate the research you’ve already done into the field and organization while presenting yourself as a professional and friendly potential colleague can earn you an ally at the organization and open doors for you.

Informational Interviews Steps and Tricks
Sample Request for an Informational Interview

Make Your Own Internship

There are companies that do not participate in a formal internship program or publicize their offerings. However, this does not mean they are unwilling to consider an intern. With research, time and effort, you can develop an opportunity tailored to your career goals.

Create an Internship
Creating Internships Out of Thin Air (The Wall Street Journal)
Developing Your Own Internship (University of California-Berkeley Career Center)