What Is Professional Development and Why Is It Important?

By Trevor Antley
Jul 16, 2020

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Professional Development is important

As you grow in your career, remember no one is born brilliant at their job. Every successful person has been learning and working at their skills for a long time — taking advantage of professional development opportunities over the entirety of their career.

The professional world is becoming increasingly competitive and is constantly changing, so professional development and continual learning is more important than ever in being successful and achieving career goals. Technologies and best practices are evolving and progressing in every industry, making it crucial for both new and experienced professionals to continue developing their skills and honing their knowledge.

Your Guide to Professional Development

What Is Professional Development?

Professional development refers to continuing education and career training after a person has entered the workforce in order to help them develop new skills, stay up-to-date on current trends, and advance their career.

Many fields require professionals to participate in continuing education and ongoing learning, sometimes as a prerequisite for keeping their job or to maintain their license, designation, or certification. In these cases, the field likely has specific continuing education (CE) or continuing professional education (CPE) requirements which must be completed through an approved continuing education provider.

Beyond continuing education, professional development can refer to many different types of relevant educational or training opportunities relevant to the professional’s work. Even when not required, many professionals who want to excel in their career will voluntarily seek out professional development and learning opportunities.

Why Is Professional Development Important?

The truth is, many people aren’t investing in their career development. One-third of employees say they do nothing to upgrade or improve their current skill set. These people aren’t too worried about their future career. Many may be good at their jobs, too, but they’re either content where they’re at or just aren’t worried about their professional future.

This means by taking advantage of professional development, continued education, and planning for your career, you’ve already got a leg up on a third of your peers. Because you’re going for it and taking ownership of your career, you’re much more likely to achieve success and meet your goals.

What Is the Purpose of Professional Development?

The purpose of professional development is to give professionals the opportunity to learn and apply new knowledge and skills that can help them in their job and further their career. Professional development is all about building your skill set and knowledge base for your field.

And professional development isn’t just helpful for you — it’s helpful for your employer, too. By having opportunities to learn, increase your skill sets, and stay up-to-date on industry trends, professionals like yourself increase your own worth while also adding to your company’s overall value.

Professional development and professional training opportunities provide many other specific benefits for both young and experienced professionals. Some of these benefits are listed below, but this list is by no means comprehensive.

What Are the Benefits of Professional Development?

Professional development and continual learning will provide multiple benefits to every professional who actively engages with these opportunities, but many of the benefits of professional development will depend on the professional’s specific career goals.

Benefits of professional development include:

  1. Professional development expands your knowledge base. Professional development and continuing education opportunities can expose both young and experienced professionals to new ideas, solidify their knowledge, and increase their expertise in their field. Those who actively seek out these learning opportunities are those who will benefit most from them.

  2. Professional development boosts confidence and credibility. By increasing professionals’ expertise through professional development, their confidence in their work will increase as well. No one likes to think they’re missing important skills in their industry. Professional development courses, continuing education, and training opportunities allow professionals to build confidence and credibility as they acquire new skill sets and professional designations.

  3. Professional development increases earning potential and hireability. Professional development and continuing education offers both young and experienced professionals with opportunities to boost their earning potential and future hireability by increasing their knowledge and updating their skill sets. Professional credentials, certifications, and designations — most of which can be accessed and obtained online — also provide easy ways to increase a professional’s value. Professionals with the right skill sets who seek out and take advantage of upskilling opportunities are certainly more bankable than those who don’t.

  4. Professional development can provide networking opportunities. Many professional development opportunities such as workshops, conferences, and other networking events allow professionals to branch out and meet other people within their industry who may be able to help them with career opportunities in the future. When you decide you want a change or are ready to move up in your career, your professional network and the professional relationships you forged will come in handy.

  5. Professional development keeps professionals current on industry trends. Professional development and continuing education and learning opportunities are great ways to stay up-to-date on industry knowledge and trends. Every professional industry is constantly evolving, so employees should use professional development and training opportunities to expand their knowledge base, learn new practices and techniques, and embrace new technology.

  6. Professional development can open the door to future career changes. For professionals who are looking to make a complete career change or to pivot within their industry, new skills acquired through professional development training could be critical to opening new doors within their field or to transition to a new industry.

How Can I Improve My Professional Development?

There is no universally “right” way to plan for career growth and career development. But to find the right professional development opportunities that are best for you, you need to start with your career goals. Once you know your goals, it is easier to seek out and take advantage of the professional development opportunities that are right for you.

While continued learning and training opportunities are always important, there are many ways you can augment your professional development and invest in your career. Ways to improve your professional development include:

  • Develop a timeline with career milestones. If appropriate, take your timeline to your boss or manager during your one-on-one meetings or annual reviews and ask them to help you manage your career to reach your milestones.
  • Take advantage of any and every training program and professional development opportunity your company offers and you think would be helpful to your career.
  • Find a mentor you look up to and whose career growth you would like to imitate. A mentor is a great way to learn about new opportunities, and learning from someone else’s experience can give you an edge over other professionals.
  • Consider a lateral move within your industry to broaden your experience. Having an understanding of and being able to perform multiple related jobs can be very helpful as you progress in your career.

Most importantly, have a career plan. A career plan should include your timeline and milestones mentioned above along with your career goals and how you plan to achieve them. The most successful people in any industry who are satisfied in their careers proactively planned what they wanted from their career. As your career progresses and you gain a better understanding of your industry and what you want from a career, be sure to update your career plan.

What Are Examples of Professional Development?

There are many types of professional development opportunities, some of which we’ve listed below. Remember the specific professional development opportunities that are right for you will depend on your personal goals and, if your professional development is required for your job or license, what types your company or licensing board will accept.

Examples of professional development opportunities include:

  • Attend a professional conference. Conferences are great opportunities to learn from experts in your field, network with like-minded professionals, and have a good time. If an out-of-town conference is not possible, there are still many online conferences and webinars professionals can register for.
  • Participate in workshops. The purpose of workshops is to bring together professionals with specific expertise to discuss problems and offer solutions. Unlike most conferences, workshops require active participation from those attending. This hands-on experience can be especially useful in learning new skills.
  • Complete your CE/CPE. Continuing education is required to maintain most professional licenses and designations. Some people view continuing education as a chore they have to get out of the way every year, but proactive professionals take advantage of their continuing education courses to hone their knowledge and update themselves on their industry.
  • Take advantage of microlearning. Microlearning is an effective learning method especially useful for busy professionals. Also known as “bite-sized learning”, microlearning consists of brief learning units that give brief, focused bursts of content (usually between 1 and 10 minutes long) allowing professionals to fit short learning sessions into their busy schedules.
  • Shadow a colleague. If opportunity presents itself, it may be useful to shadow a colleague or superior whose type of job or skills you’re interested in. Shadowing another professional can be a positive learning experience that can offer a lot of clarity about your interest in that career.
  • Read a book that can help you in your field. There are going to be a lot of books out there, no matter what industry you’re in. If you’re unsure of what to read, ask your manager or mentor what they recommend.

Obtain a Certification, License, or Professional Designation

Obtaining a professional certification, license, or designation can help your career — and your salary. Have you ever been passed up for a job because other applicants had more training or certifications? The truth is relevant certifications, licenses, and designations for your field will only help your career.

For one, obtaining a designation or completing a certificate program not only demonstrates your training and knowledge but also a commitment to your career. Companies will rightfully think you truly want to contribute to their success and thereby your own success.

If there are specific certifications or designations often required or desired in your industry, do what you can to obtain and maintain them. Whenever you have the skills sought after by employers, you’ll find it much easier to achieve your career goals — and make more money doing it.

Completing an online certificate program demonstrate a real commitment to your career. It means you’re serious about contributing to your company’s success by helping it operate more efficiently and profitably. It means you set goals-and achieve them. When you obtain the skills employers seek, you’ll find yourself in demand, with real advantages for career success. And you can do this through convenient online training.

Professional Development by Industry

Let's brake down professional development for a few specific industries.

Professional Development for Insurance Professionals

Successful insurance professionals always invest in their professional futures. Whether you specialize in life/health, property/casualty, or various limited lines, the insurance industry is constantly changing, and insurance producers in every market will always have to compete with new competitors. That’s why professional development is essential for insurance professionals who are ready to improve their marketability and outmaneuver the competition.

Learn More About Professional Development for Insurance Producers

Professional Development for CFP® Professionals

Every CFP® professional understands the importance of professional development. After all, the CFP® certification has been the standard of excellence for financial professionals for over 30 years. But how should you invest in your professional development?

Learn More About Professional Development for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS (CFP® Professionals)

Professional Development for Accounting & Tax Professionals

Successful Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and tax professionals know investing in their career is important. The professional world is always changing and is becoming more and more competitive. This makes professional development crucial for CPAs, tax preparers, and Enrolled Agents (EAs) who are ready to grow in their career and outpace the competition.

Learn More About Professional Development for Accountants & Tax Professionals

Professional Development for Real Estate Professionals

Successful real estate professionals understand how important it is to invest in their career. The real estate world is constantly changing, and you will always have to compete with new competitors. That’s why professional development is essential for real estate licensees who are ready to advance their careers, improve their marketability, and outmaneuver the competition.

Learn More About Professional Development for Real Estate Agents and Brokers

Professional Development for Funeral Professionals

A funeral directors’ duties once consisted of only a few tasks (many, many years ago). However, current funeral directors and professionals are much more than that — they are managers, legal officers, CEOs, CFOs, and COOs — and many are often their own customer service reps, answering their own phones, and handling their clients’ needs from beginning to end. Because their duties have expanded, so has the need for professional development.

Learn More About Professional Development for Funeral and Cremation Professionals

Begin Your Professional Development With Online Learning

At WebCE, we know education is an important part of professional development. Whether you’re pursuing a new career, fulfilling your CE/CPE requirements, or want to enhance your industry knowledge, we have superior online courses with live support professionals designed to help professionals like yourself move your career forward.

WebCE offers online learning opportunities for professionals in several fields, ranging from insurance, finance, tax and accounting, real estate, and funeral. Our courses cover a broad range of subjects and are more than just required CE — they’re courses you’ll actually want to take. Propel your professional development and your career today with WebCE.