Why is professional development so important? College and university programs cannot provide the extensive range of learning experiences necessary for a life-long career. Following graduation, and licensure and/or certification, professional development is necessary to continue the learning process. Even experienced professionals must challenge themselves. Industries are constantly changing. Professional development is essential to stay current on the latest developments, skills, and technologies required in a given field. Furthermore, professionals in the field of human services have also indicated the value of professional development. For example, a survey presented by the American Public Human Services Association (2005), reported that a lack of professional development opportunities was a notable reason for resignation from an organization.
For these reasons, many fields require professional development inclusive of formal continuing education. Applied behavior analysis is one of them. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board,® Inc.’s (“BACB®”) Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts (2014), states that behavior analysts must maintain knowledge of current scientific and professional information in their areas of practice and pursue ongoing efforts to maintain competence. Behavior analysts have an obligation to provide clients with individualized and effective evidence-based treatment. Effective treatment procedures have been validated as having both long-term and short-term benefits to clients and society. Professional development helps to ensure that behavior analysts rely on science-based knowledge when making professional judgments in human service provision, or when engaging in scholarly, scientific or other professional endeavors.
The term “professional development,” is used broadly and can include formal continuing education processes such as conferences, seminars, workshops, or a course at a college or university. However, professional development can also occur in various informal social contexts such as discussions among work colleagues, meetings among peers focused on a shared need or topic, mentoring, or observations of a colleague’s work. Another vital form of professional development is engagement in independent reading/study of current research. Furthermore, one can also expand this literature base by conducting applied research. Applied behavioral research is the use of behavior analysis to solve or ameliorate socially significant problems faced by our clients. Therefore, this type of research has potential benefits for the client, the family, others facing similar challenges and the field of ABA. It is also an intensive and unique professional development learning opportunity.
People often use other names to refer to professional development, including staff development, in-service training, professional learning, or continuing education. Regardless of the term, the purpose is the same — to continuously invest in and improve one’s skill set. Today’s professionals must commit to a ‘career-long learning’ philosophy that enhances effectiveness and furthers the knowledge they have already gained. This philosophy undoubtedly benefits all parties involved by improving short and long-term service quality and bolstering overarching advancements in the field.
Learn more about professional development opportunities through BCI.
American Public Human Services Association (2005). Report from the 2004 Child Welfare Workforce Survey: State Agency Findings. Washington D.C., February www.aphsa.org
Behavior Analyst Certification Board,® Inc. (“BACB®”) The Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for behavior Analysts © (2014). All rights reserved.