Why is Professional Development important?

Why is Professional Development important?

06 Jan 2022

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In today’s changing world, we are constantly learning as new standards and best practices are being introduced which are redefining the way that we do business. Whether it is in our professional or personal lives, the need for ongoing education has never been more important than it is now. This article will provide a brief introduction to professional development, its primary purpose, and how to keep a professional development plan.

What is professional development?

The term Professional development usually refers to the process of tracking and documenting the skills, knowledge and experience to enhance an individual’s current work practice and future career. It is a record of any experiences, learning and practical applications gained beyond any initial training.

At its core professional development is about you, and your commitment to your ongoing learning and ethical practice. It encourages looking forward and identifying opportunities to learn something new, refresh your knowledge and skills, or keep up to date with the latest developments within your profession. In practice, it could mean everything from taking a new qualification to learning new aspects of a job, or taking a professional training course to refresh existing knowledge.

While job training is an essential part of professional development, this concept encompasses an extremely broad range of topics and formats and relates to an array of specialized training, formal education, or advanced professional learning. Your learning activities will vary according to your role, sector, and experience. This could include professional development courses, industry conferences, e-learning programmes, and training workshops. However, it can also occur in informal contexts such as discussions among work colleagues, independent reading and research, observations of a colleague’s work, or learning from a peer.

Professional development isn’t just a qualification, but an ongoing process of continually improving an individual’s skills and competencies to enhance work place performance and future career prospects. It works best when it’s relevant, collaborative, recognised and personal. Sometimes you’ll be doing CPD without realising that you’re doing it and other times you will have a structured approach to your development.

"Actively pursuing professional development ensures that knowledge and skills stay relevant and up-to-date. It also allows employees to be more aware of changing trends and directions in their industry."


What is the importance of professional development?

No matter what industry we work in, all of us are expected to continue learning about our field and doing our jobs to the best of our abilities. The marketplace, the employees you're tasked with leading, and the customers you'll interact with are always changing. As the worldwide business landscape evolves, so does the importance of professional development programs.

Engaging in professional development training ensures that both academic and practical qualifications do not become out-dated or obsolete; allowing individuals to continually ‘up skill’ or ‘re-skill’ regardless of occupation, age or educational level.

Well-crafted and delivered professional development ultimately delivers benefits to the individual, their profession and the public. The process is usually an ongoing one, since the ever-changing dynamics of the market constantly demand that employees keep their knowledge base properly updated.

The importance of professional development is to:

  1. Demonstrate an ability to self-improve
  2. Keep qualifications up to date
  3. Stay on top of the latest developments
  4. Ensure your capabilities maintain the same standards of others in the same field.
  5. Ensure you maintain and enhance the knowledge and skills you need to deliver a professional service to your customers, clients and the community.
  6. Uplevel a CV

Those who require professional registration, such as registered nurses and doctors, will typically be required to undertake Continuing Professional Development, or CPD, as part of the registration renewal process. An individual’s professional or regulatory body will provide details on the standards that must be met, including how many hours of learning must be undertaken, in what setting and how it must be recorded. 

Often some form of professional development is mandated by codes of conduct or codes of ethics, but is mostly a personal responsibility of professionals to keep their knowledge and skills current. If you are looking for somewhere to log and record your ongoing professional development training, please go to the free myCPD Portal record tool.

Understanding the importance of Professional Develoment

How can professional development help your career?

Engaging in self-development activity helps you to demonstrate a willingness and ability to improve skills, identify knowledge gaps, and invest in your own career, while giving you the opportunity to progress to a new specialism without the commitment of full time education. Professional development courses and other forms of training can help target the specific skills employers are looking for, helping you upgrade your CV and toolbox in order to stay competitive in today’s ever-changing job market.

Undergoing regular professional development shows a clear commitment to self-development and professionalism. Simply put, the CPD process allows individuals to become conscious and proactive, rather than passive and reactive in their own learning and to resolve these in a recognisable approach to improvement. It helps you manage your own development on an ongoing basis. Its function is to help you record, review and reflect on what you learn.

The professional development framework has three complementary purposes:

  • to enable you to develop your knowledge, skills and experience for your present role and any potential future roles
  • to demonstrate to your employer that you have planned, updated and maintained your knowledge, skills and experience in a structured manner
  • to provide a means for your employer to demonstrate that you are professionally competent. This information is recorded in a retrievable manner 

The professional skills and knowledge you require will vary considerably, depending on your professional role and discipline. It is for you to decide the areas of skill and knowledge that are relevant to your role. As your career evolves, your skills and knowledge needs will change and your professional development will help you steer and manage your own route into the future.

Different types of professional development

Professional development is not always formal and linear, and a wide range of activities and methodologies can contribute to your learning. This may include on the job development, formal training and qualifications as well as informal and experiential learning. Beyond this, professional development can refer to any different types of relevant educational or training opportunities relevant to a professional’s work or career.

Remember it is not about the quantity of the activities but the quality of the reflections linked to them. What you choose to do will ultimately depend on the areas that you wish to develop. It is for you to recognise needs and opportunities both inside and outside your workplace and to take advantage of developing your own professional development programme.

The availability of a mixture of learning opportunities, including both formal and informal professional development activities is imperative in today's modern workplace and can be broadly defined into three types:

Structured – Active learning

Structured CPD adopts an interactive approach underpinned by participatory learning. The method's integral activities are training courses, workshops, conferences, seminars, lectures, and e-learning courses. Structured professional development also covers career orientated assessments and exams. Bear in mind, however, that the study and revision for these exams are regarded as self-directed learning (see below).

Reflective – Passive Learning

Reflective CPD is one-directional and passive, and there is no participant-based interaction involved. Examples include reading relevant news articles, case studies, and industry updates, as well as listening to podcasts. Some informal meetings fall into the Reflective CPD bracket, so long as their learning objectives are specified in an individual's overall professional development plan.

Self-Directed – Unstructured Learning

Self-directed learning constitutes all unsupervised professional development activities, including reading articles and publications, either online or in print. Unstructured learning material includes peer-reviewed books and studies, industry journals, trade magazines, and industry-specific news feeds. Remember: Professional development doesn’t just cover on-the-job training. It also includes any outside form of education or learning which can help improve a professional’s skills and knowledge.

What are the benefits of professional development?

Benefits of online professional development

Training opportunities can include both online as well as blended learning (a mix of online and face-to-face). Online professional development courses can provide a high-quality professional learning experience, but have the added benefit of being completed around any existing time restraints.

Online development courses can typically vary from full eLearning programs carried out over several months or even a year, through to short bite-size videos and webinars, and can useful for keeping skills up to date suitable for any ongoing Professional Development obligations. Be aware that Online and eLearning can vary significantly, both in the depth and quality of the subject matter they cover as well as the levels of interactivity for the student or learner.

A professional development certificate is typically obtained on completion of any online training, ideal for showcasing your newfound skills, knowledge and experience. This usually includes the number of CPD hours, which can be added to the individuals personal record to show the professional development they have achieved for that year.

Whether you’re looking to complete a full Personal and Professional Development training suite or an individual bitesize course, there should be some form of online professional development to suite any individual requirements.

The CPD Courses Catalogue has thousands of certified courses, of which approximately half of these are now online learning. All of our Provider’s courses are designed to enhance your skills and knowledge in the workplace and help you advance your career or to meet the mandatory training requirements in your profession.

How to track and record your professional development

To be effective, professional development requires thoughtful planning followed by careful implementation with feedback to ensure it responds to an individual’s needs. A CPD log or PDP, personal development plan, provides a record of all the learning activities you have undertaken. It enables you to track your learning and development and show how your skills and knowledge have developed over a set period of time.

Planning your own professional development can help an individual to be more efficient with their time, and keeping a proper record provides evidence of learning, which can be useful for any professional body obligations. The myCPD Portal is a free record tool which can make it easier to manage any ongoing professional development requirements, set annual CPD targets and store certificates in one simple place.

The most successful personal and professional development is done in a systematic and intentional manner. In order to fully embrace the benefits of personal and professional development, you should set goals for yourself. What do you hope to get out of your development activities, and how will you go about reaching those goals?

The most important thing to keep in mind is that all goals must be SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timely 

In order to create a plan for yourself (or for your employees), you should keep a folder or portfolio of all your development activities, drawing on your learning diary. Your plan is personal to you and your own development needs, and therefore any activities must be fully owned and managed by you.

We ask you to ensure that any personal development plan should:

  • relevant to you and your career
  • able to support the development of your knowledge and expertise
  • planned, executed, recorded and evaluated to demonstrate the impact on you and your role
  • varied – this is because we recognise that individuals will have differing access to resources and activities that support their own professional journey. 

Tip: Keep a learning log and record your thoughts in whatever way suits you best. You may find it helpful to write things down in detail, for example, or to make notes on key insights and learning points. The process of writing makes you think about your experiences at the time and makes later planning and reflection much easier.

Where to find professional development courses

Whether you are wanting to continue learning in the industry you are currently in, or you want to put some transferable skills on your CV, there are a wide range of courses and trainings to cover all personal development requirements.

CPD certified courses help to enhance your professional skills, develop and update your knowledge, and give you or your employees a competitive edge within your ever-changing environments and industries. Professional development or CPD can also be carried out in order to expand your professional skills while giving you exposure to other aspects of your chosen field.

All training offered by our CPD Providers, and listed in our course catalogue are checked against our criteria developed over the past 25 years, meaning that the learning has reached the required industry standards and benchmarks. This includes professional development opportunities in industries including information technology, business, education, healthcare, and more. Explore the CPD Industry Hubs section of our website, where you can find a full scope of CPD providers and courses covering a range of subjects.

CPD accreditation of professional development courses

CPD accredited professional development training has been assessed to ensure meets the expectations of Continuing Professional Development within the profession. By providing CPD certified professional development courses, events, eLearning, webinars, or workshops, you can help to demonstrate the steps you have taken to deliver the highest learning criteria within your industry or field.

The CPD Certification Service was established in 1996 and is the leading and largest CPD accreditation organisation. We work with members from consultancy firms to large online training providers, universities, corporations, conference & events organisers, further education colleges, Government departments, local authorities and councils. Many organisations that offer professional development training and educational events may be suitable to become a CPD Provider.

We hope this article was helpful. To Find out more about how to become an accredited CPD provider please contact our team to discuss in more detail.

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CPD News Team

For more information from CPD News Team, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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