What is Professional Career Development?

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  • Written By: Deborah Walker
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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When a person undertakes professional career development, he or she learns new job skills to enhance current career opportunities or to enter a different field altogether. Some professional fields, for example, require a certain number of continuing education or professional development hours in order to maintain certifications and licenses. There are many different ways to learn new skills for such development, including earning an undergraduate or graduate degree, in-service classes sponsored by the employer, conducting research, reading professional journals, or attending workshops or conferences. Many employees are required to develop a professional development plan based on current job performance, outlining their professional goals for a particular period of time, usually a year or longer. Although not absolutely necessary, some people use a career counselor to assist them in making career development plans.


Professional career development takes place both in the public and private sectors. Many school districts, for example, schedule regular in-service days for all employees to help them hone their teaching skills. Teacher in-service may involve guest speakers, working on individual professional development goals, or skills training with other teachers in small groups. Engineers, physicians, lawyers, accountants, among many others, are often required to complete continuing education hours in order to maintain and renew their licenses and/or stay on top of their field. They can participate in college classes, attend seminars, participate on committees, mentor newcomers, or write or present workshops, among other things. Businesses often bring in motivational speakers, trainers, and consultants to help find solutions to boost staff morale or teach new skills related to the industry.

Nearly every industry does some type of annual performance review of its employees' strengths and weaknesses. When supervisors meet with staff members, one of the topics discussed will likely be professional career development and how specific goals can be used to improve job performance. An employee may decide on the goals independently in advance of the meeting, or the employees and supervisor can work together to create a development plan going forward.

In some instances, people who want a promotion, to move to another department, or to find a completely different line of work, may seek out the services of a career counselor that specializes in professional career development. Through self-assessment, reflection, reading, aptitude tests, and discussions with the career counselor or coach, an employee can explore the career development options that are available to him or her. Following this, the employee work with the career counselor to create a plan that best meets his or her long- and short-term career goals.


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