Main Content

Furthering Your Career: Pursuing Professional Development vs. Earning A Degree

The job market is as competitive as ever. In order for your resume to stand out among a selection of potential candidates, or pursue opportunities for advancement within your chosen field, additional education and training are a must. There are two options to gain this edge – taking professional development courses or obtaining a degree in higher education. While both routes can help you reach your ideal position, there are benefits to each that differ from one another. To help, we’ve compared the two so you can make an informed decision on what might serve you best.

What professional development and pursuing a degree have in common

If you’re looking to elevate your expertise, both professional development and earning a degree will set you up for success in performing at your highest potential. Each path explores a high level of industry knowledge and provides a skill set that will make you essential to your future team. With guidance from professors, mentors, and experienced professionals, you are set to enter your role equipped to take on relevant work scenarios and obstacles.

With advances in technology and resources readily available, you can pursue either education option from anywhere. Most universities offer in-person and online undergraduate or graduate degree programs, allowing you to further your career no matter where or what stage of life you’re in. Similarly, professional development offers various opportunities to learn from relevant leaders in your industry through conferences, webinars, and certification programs.

One of the most valuable takeaways for both of these options is the immediate application to everyday life. Once you enter the workforce, it’s important to keep growing professionally and to constantly sharpen your skills. Professional development and degree programs ensure you’re gaining the most relevant experience and industry knowledge needed to apply yourself in the workforce while growing in your profession. Companies not only recognize these endeavors, but commend them when it comes to filling positions and promoting from within.

How professional development and pursuing a degree differ

While there are benefits to both of these professional avenues, they also offer differences that may make your decision to pursue one over the other more apparent. Many professional development courses or workshops can be free or range in the hundreds while obtaining a degree costs thousands of dollars on estimate. Depending on the takeaways you’re looking for, the financial investment is something to always consider during your journey of furthering your skills and abilities.

This investment is not only financial, but time as well. Professional development courses can happen within hours to months, while obtaining a degree can take months to years. Professional development offers opportunities to enhance your skills at the level you’re currently at, while a degree will prepare you to take on positions that require specific credentials. Becoming a student requires meeting specific deadlines, continuous communication with professors, and collaborating with peers. Professional development is a much more independent endeavor.

In addition to the time and financial investment requirement, the credentials received through both of these educational tracks contrast drastically. Professional development is reflected through CEUs and certifications while enrolling in a university provides you with a degree.

Thankfully, most employers encourage their employees to further their knowledge through professional development or by getting a degree. Some will even offer financial assistance. Both of these options will make you a vital part of any organization and set you apart from the competition.

Wondering if higher education is right for you? At ACU Online, we offer undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs in a flexible and thought-provoking environment. Choose from programs in these areas of study: business, healthcare, technology, education, theology, counseling and communication. Get started today by contacting us at 855-219-7300 or viewing our online programs at

SHARE: [Sassy_Social_Share type="standard"]