How Professional Development Programs Work

Professional development programs can help you learn new skills and get ahead in your career.
Professional development programs can help you learn new skills and get ahead in your career.
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Professional development programs -- activities designed to enhance professional acumen or advance a person's career -- are popular among both employees and employers. Many companies value basing hiring decisions on a candidate's overall fit into the corporate culture as well as matching a specific set of needs with skills. The idea is that in the long-term, they would rather invest in a candidate that has the right attitude and compatible personality, even if he or she may not initially have the entire spot-on skill set needed for the role.

But there are also professional development programs that are used to build mandated or government-defined skills into a workforce. For example, teachers may be required to maintain certain credentials, or workers in technical professions may have to stay abreast of the latest industry developments.

Whatever the basis for the program, the goal of any professional development curriculum is to enhance someone's knowledge or understanding of a particular topic to benefit him or her at work. These types of programs often occur on the job, meaning participants are taking part in order to address an aspect of their current profession. It may be a prerequisite for a promotion or part of a corporation's internal training or orientation cycle, and in some cases it may be required by a manager to improve an employee's performance.

And the methods by which people participate in professional development are just as varied as the programs and fields these programs serve. Many companies conduct their own staff development tracks and may even have people on staff whose jobs are to manage employee development programs. Others outsource the curriculum to consultants or agencies that specialize in tailoring their programs to fit the schedule and needs of professionals.

These programs are available in nearly every line of work, and in the next section, we'll explore some of the industries in which professional development is particularly popular.