A University of Maryland-sponsored career planning tool for doctoral students and faculty in the humanities and social sciences officially launched worldwide Monday.

ImaginePHD.com was developed by the Graduate Career Consortium, an organization whose mission is to help doctoral and postdoctoral students at member institutions. It was funded by 30 sponsoring colleges and universities — eight of which are members of the Big Ten.

At no charge to users, the website offers access to several interactive professional planning features that educate students on the career paths available to them.

Once a student registers, he or she is asked to take three different individual assessments designed to help users better understand their career-related skills, interests and values.

After completing these surveys, the student receives a list of the "job families" that best align with their assessment results. There are 15 types of job families ranging from Diplomacy and Mediation to K-12 Education, each of which includes personal testimonials, skill-building strategies, networking resources and job availabilities within the field.

"The depth and research involved in this and what it's able to provide – there's just no other tool like it," said Susan Martin, this university's doctoral students program director.

For Rianna Murray, a fifth-year doctoral student in the public health school at this university, the most helpful element of the website is its "My Plan" feature, which helps students organize and prioritize their goals for degree completion, career development, skill development and finances.

"This tool gives students the mindset that 'I need to create a plan,'" said Murray. "Job searches are tough but if you have a solid plan you can get through it."

ImaginePhD has the potential to alleviate some of the stresses and anxieties doctoral students in the humanities and social sciences tend to have about seeking careers in fields other than academia, said Jeff Franke, the assistant dean of this university's graduate school.

"Many students in the humanities and social sciences don't end up pursing a career in academia and sometimes we forget we need historians and philosophers and social scientists to help bring sense to the world,"  Franke said.

ImaginePhD is now available online for doctoral students and faculty members at any university.

GCC developers will regularly update and maintain the website to best ensure its continued effectiveness, Martin said.

This university's graduate school plans on using it as a recruitment tool to attract future prospective students, especially since the university sponsored it, Franke said.

"With this website we are able to say here are the tools, here are the ways to develop yourself, and ultimately here are the success stories," he said.