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How Professional Development Programs Work

Specialized Professional Development Programs

Professional development programs are as diverse as those who participate in them, and how they are administered is often dictated by the schedules or workloads of those involved. Some approaches may require intensive classroom lectures that culminate in an exam or certification test, while others can be taken completely online at an individualized pace suited to the user. Other approaches may include professional consultation or coaching, mentoring, or certification.

Workshops are popular for companies interested in training groups of employees simultaneously. These are typically instructor-led, either by a manager within the company or an outside specialist hired to provide specific training. Workshops tend to be more interactive, with exercises built into the course to help participants demonstrate mastery of a particular topic.

Another way employees can facilitate professional development in a group setting is through seminars. These are less interactive than workshops and usually consist of a lecturer and little interaction among participants. Another difference between seminars and workshops is that seminars generally cater to large, industry-wide audiences because the subject matter is more broadly applicable. Workshops, on the other hand, are usually narrower in scope with the emphasis being on one particular company or division within a company.

And, of course, professional development can take place in a traditional classroom setting as well. Lectures and instruction that require practical application of knowledge, such as laboratories for healthcare professionals or studios for artists, usually take place in person with a live instructor.

Finally, online courses have also had a major impact on the availability of professional development programs. Ubiquitous Internet access has made many programs of these programs more accessible because employees can participate without having to leave the office -- saving employers travel expense and some lost productivity. And most industry conferences these days archive the content they present at a live event and make it available online. So, even if you were not able to attend, you can still benefit from presentations, demonstrations and keynote speeches you might have missed in person.

If you're thinking a professional development program might be for you, read on to learn some of the pros and cons of participating.