Professional development is the skills and knowledge an employee gains to optimize her personal development and job growth. It includes learning opportunities, such as college degrees and coursework, or attending conferences or training sessions. This development is an extensive and collaborative process; upon completion, an evaluation of progress is usually performed. Many different professionals engage in such learning opportunities, including teachers, lawyers, healthcare professionals, and engineers. These individuals often have a desire for career longevity and personal growth, and they are, therefore, willing to undergo the necessary training to obtain these goals.
For some specialized fields professional development is critical. In the United States, some states require teachers to participate in career development. For example, in the state of Arkansas, teachers are required to have 60 hours of these learning activities yearly. Additionally, an engineer may have to undergo career development to stay on top of new technology and practices.
The opportunities involved in career development can range from workshop attendance, to an entire semester of academic courses, to different services provided by various development providers. An individual can participate by taking the necessary classes on her own or taking advantage of the benefits offered by some corporate human resource departments. The main advantage of doing it on the job is the opportunity to learn and develop leadership abilities or specific task skills. Furthermore, individual training may cost the employee financially, which she may not be able to recover if the company does not have a reimbursement program.
There are various approaches to professional development. One approach is the Case Study method, a teaching approach in which the teacher gives the students a case, making them the primary decision makers in solving a related problem. Consultation is another strategy. By utilizing a specific problem-solving process, individuals learn how to address their immediate concerns.
The Coaching approach teaches individuals how to improve their skills in a particular area through the process of observation, reflection, and action. With the Communities of Practice approach, the individual learns with others who have a common goal. The Mentoring approach helps the person to become more self-aware while refining her professional abilities through reflection and observation.
Individuals who engage in professional development share the common goal of enhancing their job capabilities. In recent years, there has been a growth in online career development. Many content providers have implemented discussion boards and collaborative websites to engage and facilitate interaction and enhance training effectiveness.