What is professional development?


August 01, 2021 - Dom Barnard

Professional development can be summed up as training and education to learn and grow throughout your career. It is something with great value and should be actively pursued by anyone wishing to be the best they can be in their profession.

It is instrumental in enabling career progression, empowering individuals to truly shine in their current and future roles.

Professional development allows people to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in their industry, as well as learning new skills. Many professions actually require professional development to be able to renew a licence or certification, but you can also pursue it independently.

What are the aims of professional development?

Professional development aims to:

  • Boost your confidence and your credibility
  • Develop your leadership skills
  • Increase your efficiency
  • Facilitate networking
  • Keep your skills and knowledge current
  • Enable you to be the best employee you can be
  • Help you accomplish your career goals

Employers also benefit from professional development. It has been shown to boost employee retention rates, saving money and keeping the best employees on board.

It is also suggestive of the competency of the employer, as keeping employees up-to-date with their training is a crucial part of many businesses.

What can I study as part of it?

There are all sorts of things that can be studied as part of professional development. It depends on what is relevant to your profession, but popular areas of study include:

  • Customer service
  • Computer skills
  • Project management
  • Budgeting
  • Soft skills
Professional development graphic

There can also be more specialised topics for specific job roles in things like law, healthcare and education. For example, a teacher may want to focus on new ways to implement technology in their work.

Is training done in the classroom or online?

Many professional development courses are done entirely in the classroom, and many are completely online. There are also lots that are a combination of the two. The online format generally offers greater convenience, as it enables greater flexibility to study around your work and other commitments.

Having said that, even a completely online training course may have synchronous course requirements like video conferences. It all depends on the program being taken.

Be sure to do your research before committing to a course to ensure you are able to commit the time (and money). You should also establish whether the course is a good fit for your professional goals.

How are professional development courses structured?

Every course is unique, so there will be great variations depending on the format of the course and the content. Many courses incorporate various learning methods to fit the needs of the job.

You may be required to take part in applied work experience as part of a course, or there could be seminars and workshops for you to attend.

There is no single answer to this question, so it is all the more important to check that the course structure is something you can commit to.

How long do the courses take?

The length of a professional development program is another thing that varies widely. Courses are usually designed around a certain number of instructional hours.

For example, larger courses may require you to commit to 3 sessions per week for a period of 48 weeks, while others could be completed in a few short days.

Usually, you are required to undergo this training outside of work hours, but there are times when they are factored into the work day instead.

What is CPD?

CPD stands for Continuing Professional Development. It is designed for people who are already in a role, enabling them to build, maintain and enhance their knowledge and skills. It helps employees plan their development, review things already learnt and evaluate where they are at in their career to date.

Continuing Professional Development cycle

The Continuing Professional Development learning cycle.

In many professions, a commitment to CPD is fundamental in demonstrating one's validity and competence as a professional.

There is a strong focus on results when it comes to CPD - it aims to measure the benefits of professional development in your real-world employment. An individual's CPD is all about them as a unique employee.

How is training progress recorded?

As a working professional, you must keep track of your professional development activities on a CPD record form. It must be correct and up-to-date at all times and comply with the requirements of your professional body/association.

These records list the learning outcomes and the ways the knowledge obtained is practically applied. Most institutes whose members have professional development requirements will be prescribed a minimum number of hours to complete per year. Sometimes, these hours are converted to points, credits or units.

Funding your professional development

It isn't always easy to find the funds to pay for a professional development course you want to take. If you have identified a program but you can't afford it, you could try approaching your manager to request the funding.

To increase your chances of success, consider the following:

  • Do your homework: if you get a meeting with your manager, make sure you go in well-prepared. Make a plan for how your workload will be covered while you are absent.
  • Step into your manager's shoes: they will be thinking about both the cost and the management of your workload while you're absent. You need to convince them it is an investment, and that you can arrange the cover during your absence.
  • Demonstrate the business benefits: you need to convince the company that your professional development will benefit them. Show them how your new skills will help the organisation.

Own your professional development

Professional development should not be viewed as a chore that you have to do because your manager tells you to. It is an opportunity for you to grow and excel.

All it takes is a bit of legwork and you can equip yourself with knowledge and/or skills that could boost your career. Human beings thrive on growth and progression, but the price we pay for these things is work.

The best approach is to have a hunger for development, and the work will feel like a joy more than a chore.