Professional Development Courses

Many employers see the benefits of ensuring that their employees have opportunities to develop themselves both personally and professionally during the course of their careers. In this article, we look at a range of options which may be available to you to enhance your professional development.

What types of course are available?

Professionally-accredited courses provide the opportunity to study for a qualification which is recognised in a specific field. At Birmingham City University, we offer a range of professionally accredited programmes endorsed by professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, the Chartered Institute of Building, the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Royal Institute of British Architects. These can be offered at various levels including professional certificates/ diplomas, degrees or postgraduate qualifications.

Some courses actually provide options to develop professionally from ‘unqualified’ to ‘qualified’ status, such as teaching or nursing. Teaching assistants and care assistants may progress to the next stage of their career by achieving such a qualification. 

Foundation degrees are a relatively new type of course which may appeal to those who are working in a particular area and want to complete a Higher Education qualification. In many instances, foundation degrees can count towards a degree qualification which students may choose to progress onto once the initial qualification has been completed. They are often delivered on a part-time basis with some courses requiring elements of the programme to be completed within the course of employment. Foundation degrees are becoming an increasingly popular way to work towards gaining a bachelors degree.

What are the benefits of professional development courses?

Career enhancement and progression:

One of the most obvious benefits of studying for a course which will develop you professionally is the opportunity for you to improve chances for progression in your chosen career. In some professions, industry recognised qualifications can be a clincher when it comes to demonstrating to an employer that you have the necessary skills and knowledge for a particular job. For example, human resources professionals often need to have completed, or part completed, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) qualification to apply for specific job roles.

Some employees may have gained significant experience within a particular professional area but don’t have a recognised qualification to support their level of skills and knowledge. Completing a professional qualification can aid them to consolidate their experience and gain a qualification which reflects the level of their professional competence.   

Professional development courses can allow you to gain new skills which allow you the potential to make a more effective contribution within the workplace. They can also demonstrate to your employer your willingness to commit to developing yourself and to progress within your profession – which may be appealing to both current and future employers.

Flexible study options:

Professional development courses are typically offered on a part-time or flexible basis to enable full-time employees to study whilst they’re working. Study attendance could involve attendance during the day, evening or there may be opportunities for online study depending upon the course being taken. 

This can benefit both you and your employer as flexible study allows for the least impact on time spent at work and means that you are studying for the qualification in the course of your employment. Some students are supported by their employers not only with time off work to attend classes but also by either partially or fully paying their fees.

Considerations for studying whilst working

Studying whilst you’re working requires a solid commitment to the course. As private study is also usually a requirement of studying on such programmes, you’ll also need to think about how this will fit in around your home life: 

  • How much time will you need to set aside to undertake this?
  • When will you do this?
  • What other things might you need to rearrange to organise your time effectively?
  • How can you adapt your daily routine (family, friends, hobbies, social life, etc.) so that you can achieve a good balance between all the different elements?  

Motivation is paramount. There are some days when you’ll tumble through the door after a hectic day at work, slump on the sofa and cringe at the thought of opening a book or trying to write a coherent piece of work. For those of you who set time aside at the weekend for study, these challenges may manifest themselves as impromptu shopping trips or the lure of the football game. This is the fight or flight moment. You can choose to fight it and knuckle down or, more dangerously, let your motivation and commitment fly out of the window. The odd lapse on this front isn’t usually devastating and you shouldn’t have to sacrifice all of your spare time to study, but it can become easier to find excuses to not complete coursework and fall behind. There is only one thing that can stop the procrastination monster from growing to gargantuan proportions: your own self-discipline.

Planning your study strategy can help to focus on splitting up your study into manageable chunks and make climbing the mountain seem more achievable.  Be realistic when deciding how you’ll tackle this; you’ll need to take account of the possibility of unexpected events cropping up and have some degree of flexibility towards your commitments.

Don’t overdo it – you’ll run the risk of ‘burning out’, feeling overwhelmed by the course and, at worst, unable to continue with studying. Your course tutor should provide you with a guide as to how much additional study is required outside of university. Try and plan your private study time based on this and try and stick to the number of recommended hours. If you find that private study is taking longer than the advised time, it’s important to talk to your tutor about this. 

It’s not all work, work, work!

The time and effort you put into completing a course is an investment: an investment for you and your employer, present or future. The return on this investment may present itself in a variety of ways. Developing increased confidence, gaining more earning power, benefitting from learning through shared experience and from different perspectives, and having the opportunity to meet new people and build up your network of professional, or even social, contacts are just a handful of possible beneficial outcomes.

Find out more…

If you’d like to talk about study options at Birmingham City University in more detail, whether you’re an employer considering staff development courses or an employee seeking to develop professionally, contact an adviser at Choices. We’ll be able to go through what’s available to you, or signpost you to alternative sources of information if required.

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