What is a Professional Development Plan?

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  • Written By: Alison Faria
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2019
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A professional development plan is a set of guidelines used to improve or redirect a career or business. For example, this plan might be used by business owners to ensure they have the right resources and strategies in place to efficiently achieve their business goals. Individuals might also create such a plan to improve their work methods and to focus their career goals.

Plan development usually begins with an outline. This outline typically indicates the overall goal of a business or individual and what will be needed to reach it. Time is usually very important in achieving goals, so the outline will often include anticipated time frames. Training plans often are included in a development plan as well.

In a bigger business setting, a business owner might even consider it appropriate to have a professional development committee formed. This way, there can be a greater variety of input. Such a committee generally consists of chosen stakeholders, managers, or other executives. Meetings will typically help monitor progress, and adjust plans accordingly. Despite the presence of a committee, some businesses might also choose to hire a professional development director to make sure plans stay on task.


The first step in creating a professional development plan usually involves a self-analysis. Typically, the creator will write down several things that he or she wants to accomplish in their career and how those accomplishments might be achieved. If, for example, an art instructor wanted to work on having a more creative teaching style, he or she might visit local museums and take notes on the ways that knowledge is presented.

Research is generally an important part of a professional development plan. Teachers, for instance, could look for trends and statistics in student learning behaviors to determine what teaching styles could be the most beneficial. The next step generally involves taking the self-analysis and research information and placing it in a template. The template basically is a form to fill out to organize thoughts and get the plan on paper. For example, the template might include such areas as goals, objectives, steps, and strategies.

Conversations with successful members of a career field can be beneficial to creating a professional development plan as well. Discussing goals and strategies with a successful profession the desired field can offer insights and ideas one might not think of otherwise. Some schools offer professional development courses or seminars to facilitate an exchange of ideas.

Once the professional development plan is completed, it is typically time to start implementing the goals and activities. At the completion of a unit, course, or school year, instructors are sometimes required to give a portfolio to their administrators to see how effective their plan was. Portfolios might include selected lesson plans, photographs, videos, and examples of student work.


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Post 2

Many educators also need teaching professional development plans; while some jobs might require them to do training and other forms of licensing to keep their jobs, it can also help a teacher or professor figure out how he or she can improve, or get a better teaching job if that is the goal, or otherwise keep their career interesting.

Post 1

People who work for themselves, such as actors, musicians, or freelance writers, would do well to have their own individual professional development plans, which they can check regularly, edit if they change their goals, and remember when they feel less motivated.

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