Why Professional Development Matters!

Sep 18, 2022

Many organizations and companies encourage continuing education or professional development, but do we really understand why they matter?

Having worked in higher education as both a faculty member and a counselor for 36 years, I took every opportunity to engage in professional development and continuing education. While working in the field of international education, it was my professional development opportunities that led me to becoming an intercultural and DEIB trainer in addition to my academic career.

The two terms continuing education and professional development can be synonymous, but they are not exactly the same. Many that work in education, counseling, psychology, social work, healthcare, are required to take continuing education on an annual basis and maintain so many Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to maintain their certifications.  At its core, “professional development” is an umbrella term that describes employees learning new skills and knowledge that they can apply to further success in their field. The term “continuing education” describes one type of professional development in which an employee—typically someone who already has completed an academic degree—pursues additional learning from a higher education institution.

I was fortunate that I worked for an organization that supported professional development and one of the core values of the institution was life-long learning. I too believe that we are all life-long learners and that we never stop learning. So, I guess it’s no surprise then that I became involved with SIETAR USA and find myself the Professional Development Director.


Why Then is Professional Development Important?

Professional development provides one with many opportunities such as:

  • Developing and applying new skills
  • Keeping up to date on current trends
  • Assessing our skills and abilities
  • Building our confidence and credibility
  • Increasing our expertise in the field
  • Allowing us to expand our toolbox
  • Expanding our knowledge base in our current or new field
  • Providing networking opportunities to meet and collaborate with others in the field
  • Providing opportunities to find mentors or to be a mentor to others


Professional development and continuing education are about continuing to improve ourselves both professionally and personally. When we engage in continuing education and training throughout our lives, we continue to grow and learn. By increasing our knowledge and skills we stay relevant in the field and grow as individuals.

By engaging in professional development and continuing education activities you are staying relevant and up-to-date in your field. It keeps you fresh and up-to-date on what’s happening in the field and in the workplace. I found that It helped me become a better trainer, teacher, professor, consultant and coach.

Not only is professional development important, personal development is equally important—particularly for those of us who work as intercultural and DEIB professionals.  If we are to work with clients, patients and students and help them understand the importance of the work we do, then we must also be willing as interculturalists and DEIB professionals do the introspective work that is needed to be effective in this field. We can’t ask others to do the work unless we are willing to do it ourselves. This is particularly true during a time in society where Critical Race Theory (CRT) and diversity training are being attacked. Professional development helps us to assess and learn more about ourselves. It allows us to see what areas we need to improve upon and what our strengths are.

Professionals in the intercultural and DEIB fields are fortunate that professional development opportunities are available and easily accessible. Although the gold standard for continuing education was the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication no longer exists, there are a number of workshops and programs that offer advanced intercultural and DEIB education. Conferences are one of the best opportunities for professional development since they offer a wide variety of sessions. You can find sessions that share your focus as well as some that are a stretch and take you in different directions. It is easy to talk with the presenters before or after their sessions, getting to know them better, and exploring their work as well as sharing your own. Many joint projects have gotten their start at SIETAR conferences over the decades. SIETAR USA conferences provide an added learning experience with their Master Workshops preceding the conference. These half-day workshops go into more depth and are carefully chosen to reflect what is current in the Intercultural and DEIB fields.

SIETAR USA offers many opportunities for professional development in addition to the national conferences-such as our monthly webinars, Saturday seminars and virtual conferences and master workshops. If you haven’t already registered for the upcoming SIETAR USA Conference Mind | Culture | Society: Integrating Interculturalism and Inclusion, consider joining us November 3 – 6 , 2022 in Omaha, Nebraska at the Omaha Hilton Hotel. The early bird registration deadline is September 30. For more information on the conference go to our website link:  https://www.sietarusa.org/conference-registration-hotel

“CherylCheryl Woehr, Director
Professional Development