Why is Professional Development Important and Why Do I Need a Plan?

Professional development (PD) is key in any specialized career. By participating in professional development opportunities, you are able to increase your knowledge about a topic, learn new ideas and implement new strategies to advance your line of work forward.  PD also shows a level of commitment to and respect for your occupation.  In the field of early care and learning, PD “requires knowledge of how children grow and develop, skills to communicate effectively with children and parents, and a great amount of dedication and love for the work” (NCICDP, 2001).

The Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) requires yearly professional development training (DCDEE Contact Hours) hours for all early care and learning providers in the state, which vary according to the level of education already attained. DCDEE also requires everyone who works in a child care setting to have on file an individualized professional development plan. This plan is designed to outline professional development goals and the resources and action steps required to achieve those goals. As goals are achieved, they are recorded in the PD plan since the plan is a living document meant for continuous review and revisiting. Consider how to celebrate each action step and goal accomplishment in a way that is exciting and meaningful to you. Celebrations are not just for show, they help keep you focused and motivated to continue learning and growing.

Since DCDEE requires the PD plan to be present in an employee’s file, they are often overlooked as living documents. PD plans do more than check a box when  consistently being used for personal and professional reflection. Sometimes, written goals are too big to accomplish or too small to build any kind of career momentum. When goals are tweaked to the proper level of challenge and reward, achieving them feels fulfilling. Sometimes, goals become outdated as we have ongoing experiences and growth opportunities. Updating your PD plan keeps you moving in the right direction.

Professional development consists of a variety of activities that go far beyond formal coursework and education. PD can be training from your local or regional Child Care Resource and Referral, Smart Starts and other agencies as they are offered in-person or virtually. Other PD examples include: “participating in skill-based training, attending informal/formal conferences, collaboration, career advancement and performance evaluation.” (Boatner, 2021).

Are you looking for ways to enhance your professional development? NC Birth-to-Three Quality Initiative Specialists and Anchors are prepared to assist early care and education professionals in creating PD plans that are living documents. They accomplish this by getting to know each individual participant and learning what unique goal(s) they are interested in working toward, either through regular practice-based coaching partnerships or as a part of cohort-based learning communities. They provide updated, relevant resources and help with action step planning along the way.  Email us at b3qi@childcareservices.org or visit our website to find your Regional Birth-to-Three Specialist coach.


Boatner, J. (2021, August 27). Training and professional development overview. NC DHHS: Division of Child Development and Early Education. https://ncchildcare.ncdhhs.gov/Provider/Training-and-Professional-Development 

North Carolina Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development (NCICDP). (2001, October). Planning for professional development in child care: A guide to best practices and resources. https://www.ncicdp.org/documents/best.pdf