Fields for Professional Development

Depending on the skills you are hoping to obtain, professional development is possible for virtually anyone. For some fields, however, it is clearly an obvious requirement. The legal and medical professions, education fields, and technology arenas call for members of their industries to be continually learning and growing. As industry trends evolve, and as new developments arise, professionals need to do their best to stay current in their fields and remain experts in their realms.

In a special article for the St. Petersburg Times, Marie Stempinski wrote, “No matter how proficient you are at what you do, there are always new skills you can learn.”

But, skills development doesn’t always have to come from a work-related standpoint. Many people feel a measure of personal satisfaction in studying and mastering a new skill. You can take steps to advance yourself at any point in your life, whether you are looking for a career change or are simply pursuing a goal to learn something you’ve always wanted to know more about.
Recognize that your professional development plan will change as your industry does and as your goals and interests adjust, too.

Educational Areas

As an educator, you’ll be required to stay abreast of new teaching styles and standards at the institution for which you work. Your professional development will be important to help ensure that you are offering your students the best education possible.
With the right professional development opportunities and resources, educators can keep up with new teaching strategies and national education standards. This isn’t necessarily just “training,” according to a definition provided on the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory Web site but also cultivating support resources.
Along with this form of learning, some teachers also choose to obtain certifications beyond what is required to earn their teaching licenses. A voluntary certification may be earned through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. In addition to the financial benefits such certification may provide, nationally certified teachers may be allowed to use their licenses in more than one state.

Public school teachers in any state are generally required to have at least a bachelor’s degree.

In certain states, instructors must also have technology training and a minimum grade point average during their schooling. Other states also require that teachers obtain their master’s degrees within a set time frame after they begin instructing students.
Additional schooling can help an instructor assume other responsibilities as an educator, like working as a librarian, reading specialist or guidance counselor. Others may move on to administrative positions and help newer teachers learn the trade.
For teachers, professional development can be a trick to schedule. Depending on the requirements of the school where you work, training during the school day may or may not be an option. Some instructors are required to cover substitute teacher fees themselves. Evenings and weekends work if you don’t mind a lengthier day or extra time away from family. Summers are also a possibility for those who don’t mind unpaid work days, Alfred Thompson wrote for the Computer Science Teacher blog. Ultimately, the decision that works best for you will be personal, Thompson advised. And, what’s right for you won’t necessarily be the best choice for the next teacher.

The Medical Profession

As one of the largest industries in the United States and one that changes continually, the medical field, requires professional development. Health care encompasses a wide variety of individuals, including physicians, nurses, dentists, and other medical research personnel.
How you guide your career will be determined largely by your personal interests and by your medical specialty or the area in which you practice. The institution you work for will also influence your professional development.
Doctors spend years in school learning about medicine in general and focusing on a particular specialty. Those who wish to advance even further professionally often choose voluntarily to become board certified in their particular specialties. The certification process demonstrates that a physician possesses a certain level of skill and knowledge to care for others, beyond that of what his or her medical license requires.
Nurses can take their careers to another level through professional development and varying degrees of education. For instance, nurse practitioners are authorized to diagnose and treat certain health issues. They have a “care and cure” approach to health care, according to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. They earn graduate-level degrees in most cases, and some even have doctorates; their education is beyond that of registered nurses.

Other Advancement Possibilities
Like other industries, you can also advance in health care by finding a qualified mentor who can help you learn more about your field and make sound career development decisions. Training grants from your institution or from other sources are another means of potentially furthering your skills.
Because medicine is an ever-changing field, members of this industry must be willing to become lifetime learners. Continual study is required to stay abreast of new medical developments.

Legal Profession

Your collegiate education is not the only way to further yourself professionally as a lawyer. You can train in specific legal skills at work and can also continue developing other leadership and business skills that will help you become successful in the career path you choose. By taking time to plan even in law school, your professional development decisions can help you craft the future you’ve always envisioned for yourself.
Whether you are early or farther along in your legal career, seek out employers who have plans in place to help their lawyers advance personally and professionally. Certain firms take training seminars and skills development very seriously. Look for places that will help mentor you, and will allow you to work in a legal subspecialty, if that’s your desire. Some firms also place serious emphasis on having younger lawyers work with more seasoned individuals in order to put a mentoring relationship in place.
For those who are still in law school, don’t wait to start thinking about how to improve yourself for your career. The Association for Legal Career Professionals also has programs for professional development for law students and has included work groups such as E-professionalism and Social Networking, Professionalism Standards, and Law Student and Lawyer Professional Development Sections Collaboration among its work group listings.
Your career and professional development choices are up to you. In an article titled “Find Satisfaction in the Law,” Terri Lynn Eberle wrote that, whether in law school or otherwise, individuals should use their degrees and knowledge to craft the career they want—not necessarily what they think others are expecting of them.

Technical Career

Technical careers encompass a wide array of industries and educational possibilities. People in technical occupations work in fields such as agriculture, business and marketing, public safety, security and trade, and industry. According to the Association for Career and Technical Education, the term “career and technological education” is constantly evolving with the global economy.
Depending on your aspirations, your schooling requirements for entering a technical field could range from high school and postsecondary certificates to two- or four-year college degrees. Whether you attend a four-year college is up to you and your personal goals.
If your career warrants knowing at least a little about how businesses work, your professional development plan may warrant including business courses in your course of study. Also, spend time reading about current affairs, finance, or business-related issues, the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering has encouraged. Your reading should include new trends and updates in your industry.
In today’s world, computer skills are becoming an absolute necessity across industries. You can improve your career skills in this arena by taking distance learning courses, reading technical magazines, using the Internet for help, and looking for training beyond what is usually necessary in your field.
As you work to stay abreast of trends in your industry, you can determine whether you need to acquire or fine-tune certain skills. For example, those in the agriculture industry could learn more about sustainable agriculture practices. A person working in public safety may seek a certificate in risk and emergency management or supervisory leadership.
Thousands of U.S. workers are employed in technical occupations. With the right professional development plan, you can make your career a satisfying one that you truly enjoy.


Technology impacts lives daily. “Next to health care, there’s no industry with greater opportunity than technology,” U.S. News & World Report declared. As computers and other technological devices improve and evolve, the professionals working in the industry need to adapt by learning new skills, as well, and keeping up with the educational opportunities available.
In the workplace, employers want to know their workers can understand software and technology used within the company. Oftentimes, professional certification is not required, but achieving this status is one means of proving your knowledge and expertise in an area. Generally, certifications are product-specific and offered through companies who produce that software or hardware. For example, Microsoft offers certifications in Microsoft Office, Windows Client, and other products. Information technology (IT) professionals can become certified with Cisco; the company offers five levels of general IT certification.
As technological changes continue their rapid pace, security measures will also become increasingly important. Systems security and even computer forensics professionals are finding niches in the marketplace. Ensure that the educational opportunities you pursue also include a well-rounded course of study to help perfect your problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.
Your professional development plan should also include building your understanding of business practices. IT, for instance, is essential to businesses, and employees in this department must be able to make good business decisions, have strong communication skills in order to explain subjects to others, and be good leaders. Find opportunities to keep learning. Technology is continuing to move forward, and you’ll have to as well.