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What is professional development and why is it important?

Professional completes a professional development course online from their office
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This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee. 
Read more about our editorial process.

Kathryn Uhles, MIS, MSP, Dean, College of Business and IT

This article was updated on 12/01/2023.

At a glance

If you need career-relevant skills that you can quickly apply in your current or future job, skills-based professional development courses can help. Short, skill-based online courses can boost your resumé. They can also help you build a toolkit of in-demand skills and get you job-ready.

We’ll look at some ways that you can cultivate career growth through short, skills-based, professional development courses that provide immediate value.

What is professional development and why do I need it?

Professional development is a catchall term for courses, classes, training, and educational initiatives. They are designed for an employee (or an unemployed person looking to beef up their skills or resumé) who wants to keep learning or stay relevant within their company or industry. "Professional development helps employees continue to not only be competent in their profession but also excel in it," according to

After a college graduate lands a job, they may focus entirely on the tasks and goals of their employer and on developing good working relationships with colleagues and managers. However, many don't set aside time and energy for occasional skills training. With the rapid acceleration of technology and the need to remain relevant, professional development can help employees keep pace with a constantly changing world.

Although there is no right or wrong time to pursue professional development (also known as skills enhancement), it can be critical for remaining competent in your profession. So consider it a career-long objective: For as long as you’re working, you should be exploring ways to grow professionally.

Professional development is not just for college graduates. It is really for anyone who needs to enhance their skills for a job — whether their current or future job. No degree or experience is necessary to take University of Phoenix’s professional development courses. Nearly anyone in any sector can continue to develop and hone their skills. There are professional development opportunities in industries including information technology, business, educationhealthcare, and more. No matter your career choice, there are opportunities to continue to learn.

Staying up-to-date with changes in your industry or workplace

According to, "Actively pursuing professional development ensures that knowledge and skills stay relevant and up-to-date. It also allows employees to be more aware of changing trends and directions in an industry."

Say you work in digital marketing and a new social media or digital platform comes along that people are flocking to. You may not instinctively know which types of ads are best suited to that platform. You also won’t know what the demographics of the typical user are, or which times/days of the week are busiest on the platform. But a course in digital marketing or one that covers that specific platform can help you learn how to adapt your marketing strategies — and being ahead of the curve is always a good idea when competing for different roles.

This is especially viable if the professional development opportunity is a flexible or online course that’s available 24/7. Such courses are often easier to work in since they don't require long, continuous time commitments during business hours.

Upskilling in your industry

Mastering new skills not only helps you in your job but also for your entire career. As mentioned, a number of industries are constantly evolving, and employees risk falling behind if they don’t keep pace.

When most people think of professional development, information technology may be the first industry to come to mind. These professionals routinely acquire certifications in their specialized areas. However, many organizations are also looking for these employees to be problem-solvers and process managers. A Scrum framework has become relatively ubiquitous in the IT field. It's also a skill set IT professionals can benefit from as more companies transition to Agile teams.

As the IT industry grows, so too does the healthcare industry’s reliance on technology. Today, much of ensuring quality patient care is managed electronically. From billing and coding to privacy and integrity, healthcare employees may benefit from an expanded knowledge of the IT side of healthcare. However, these highly-regulated practices often require a deep understanding of terminology, policies and laws.

Similar to healthcare, the education sector has changed rapidly as a result of technology. Online education has become a common and accepted practice and may continue to be an ongoing theme in the future. Today’s teachers can benefit from a foundation in virtual teaching. Rethinking how to build successful learning experiences in the digital world requires an understanding of how to apply tools and platforms from the traditional classroom online.

Marketing is another industry that must keep pace with constant change. Updates to online algorithms and changes to social media platforms require marketing professionals to remain up to date. Helpful skill sets to have include learning today’s most powerful web-based tools and understanding how to drive web traffic and improve user experience.

Completing professional development courses may bring additional benefits to you outside of your present employment. When you’re looking for a new job, or there is no room for growth at your current company, professional development courses can help target the specific skills employers are looking for. These skills can help you upgrade your toolbox and be competitive in today’s ever-changing job market.

Taking your career in a different direction

There are many reasons that professional development and/or continuing education programs may be beneficial. Professional development courses can help you prepare for career opportunities. You can put a certificate of completion and the skills you’ve learned on your resumé and LinkedIn profile relatively quickly. This can be extremely beneficial (or even required) for advancement in your current company or for a future job.

If you’re interested in pursuing professional development opportunities, visit to learn about our short, online professional development courses.

Michael Feder


Michael Feder is a content marketing specialist at University of Phoenix, where he researches and writes on a variety of topics, ranging from healthcare to IT. He is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars program and a New Jersey native!

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