Note: I completely support professional development for museum staff. The sole intent of this commentary is to start a conversation.

Throughout my career, I fortunately had supervisors who not only encouraged professional development, they specifically dedicated portions of the annual budget to it.

When I started on my career path, attending professional development conferences and workshops was both enjoyable and beneficial. I learned new skills, built a network of colleagues, and brought useful ideas back to my institution.

As a mid-career professional, attending conferences and workshops allows me to share my experience and support the field of work I love. What’s most rewarding is how conferences and workshops invigorate my work. They give me the energy to work harder and implement the best practices.

But do these reasons justify the expense? With today’s economic climate, small museums often can’t afford professional development. Should the institution pay for professional development? Or should we rely on individuals to pay their own way? Or is there some way they can share the expense?

If institutions commit to funding professional development, should everyone on staff have the opportunity? Or just senior staff?

I recently told my staff of six that our museum would cover the registration expense (within reason) for one professional development conference/workshop per year per employee. But as the museum’s development officer, I need to find a way to cover these costs.

Is it worth it?

How have you handled this situation?