Why Continuing Education Isn't a One-Time Thing

When I completed my undergraduate degree, one of the thoughts I had was, “I am done!” At that time, there was no amount of money anyone could give me that would convince me otherwise. Laughing? You had that same thought, huh?

Almost 20 years later with a master’s degree under my belt, that uncomfortable feeling I had of lagging behind, that feeling of not having ownership of my professional career has pushed me to become a life-long learner.

As I continue to work in the training and development industry, it is imperative for me to invest in opportunities to perfect my craft. In fact, in any industry investing in increasing your skill set creates an automatic return on investment (ROI) not only for yourself, but also for everyone you meet. Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In states, “At a certain point, it’s your ability to learn quickly and contribute quickly that matters.”

You may be finished with sitting in a large room and having a professor test you on theories and statistical equations. No problem! But here are a few suggestions that make professional development and continuing education exciting today and enables you to contribute quickly:

Social Media

I use my LinkedIn account and groups to see what others in my industry are doing, how they are doing it, and read informative articles other professionals present. I have created a community of like-minded people who are investing in professional development opportunities as well and are willing to share.


Join association(s) or organizations that focus on your craft and will provide support and motivation to help you succeed. The benefits are invaluable, including the continuing education offered. Professional development and continuing education provided by associations can lead to professional certifications that can set you apart from your colleagues – in pay and credibility! Based on the 2013 Survey of Salaries and the Payroll Profession, the average starting salary for payroll professionals with a Certified Payroll Professional certification (CPP) is higher than non-CPPs, with some positions earning 18 percent more. The 2014 Salary Guide from Robert Half further supports this research, finding that accounting and finance professionals with an industry-recognized certification or advanced degree can receive starting salary offers above the market average.

Per the American Society of Training & Development, the U.S. Census Bureau just began to measure the alternative education credentials, which includes professional certifications. The Census Bureau shows one-fourth of adults possess educational credentials other than an academic degree – credentials that lead to higher earnings in a fun, non-traditional learning format.

Conferences and Workshops 

Investing in opportunities such as conferences and short workshops not only give quick snippets of learning, but provide motivational boosts in your career! For instance, the American Payroll Association offers continuing education opportunities for payroll professionals at our Annual Congress.  The conference – this year slated for May 13-17 in Minneapolis – is attended by professionals looking to expand their knowledge base and their professional networks. The feedback we receive is overwhelmingly positive. Most see the conference, now in its 32nd year, as invaluable for their job performance and career advancement.

So, you thought you were finished with furthering your education? You are never finished with learning by any means; it just may be in a non-traditional format. Whether you or your employer is paying for your professional development or continuing education, the investment is much cheaper than the cost of incompetence.

Nicole Filostrat Smith Nicole Filostrat Smith is the Senior Manager of Education Services and Learning Development for American Payroll Association. She identifies and cultivates new educational programs and evaluates existing programs, curriculum, and delivery methods to enhance their value and effectiveness.

The APA has been an authority in payroll education since 1982 and is an alliance partner with Robert Half.