Looking for ways to spend your professional development stipend? You’re in the right place. Whether you’re serious about advancing in your career or just looking to spend your company’s money, here are 12 popular ways to get the most of your professional development stipend in 2021.
13 Professional Development Ideas for Your Professional Development Stipend
- Courses and Classes
- LinkedIn Premium Subscription
- Books and Audiobooks
- Graduate Degrees
- Productivity Tools
- Professional and Career Assessments
- Career Coaching and Mentorship
- News/Newsletter Subscriptions
- Memberships and Associations
- Language Learning Opportunities
- Role Specific Items and Products
ATTENTION: Before making a purchase, verify that the item is covered by your company’s professional development benefit policy.
What is a Professional Development Stipend?
Often referred to as a learning stipend or an education stipend, a professional development stipend is an allowance provided by a company for employees to spend on learning opportunities relevant to them and their career.
Thousands of companies offer professional development stipends to up-skill employees. They are typically offered annually, bi-annually or quarterly. What is classified as reimbursable varies from company to company, but generally cover things like courses, conferences and books. Continue reading for lesser-known ways to spend your professional development stipend.
1. Courses and Classes
Courses and classes are the foundation for professional development and learning. You’ll find material on any topic on the best e-learning platforms like Coursera, Skillshare, Masterclass, Udacity, EdX, and Udemy. You’ll find courses on specific topics like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, to more general topics like Management Strategies for Business Leaders. Don’t have the time to search through individual courses? Some of these companies also offer all-you-can-access packages that you can purchase at a discount.
Pricing and Additional Information:
|Coursera||Our favorite way to spend your professional development stipend is through Coursera Plus, which will cost $399/year and provides unlimited access to 7000+ online courses across dozens of subjects. Coursera also offers Specializations which include a set number of curated classes in a specific subject matter and will vary in price. You will also find individual certificates and courses on this reputable e-learning platform. They also offer Coursera Degrees which range from $15,000-$45,000 and are legitimate alternatives to traditional degrees. All great options for you to advance in your career on your company’s dime.|
Skillshare is another online learning platform that provides unlimited access to $1000’s of courses for an annual or monthly fee. The cost is $165 if billed annually or $13.75 per month. It’s the cheapest “all you can access” deal out there. Skillshare is particulary good for working professionals in creative spaces like UX/UI designers and web developers, but there are hundreds of courses available focused on professional development across dozens of categories.
Masterclass features classes geared towards lifelong learners taught by world renowned figures like Gordon Ramsey, Serena Williams and Bob Iger. It will cost you $180/year for an all-access pass to 100+ classes. At the time of this writing, this is the only option available; however, they are continually expanding their class selection and their caliber of teachers is unmatched.
|Udacity||Udacity offerings, also known as nanodegrees programs, are professional certificates verified by the professional community that start at $399. If you know exactly what skill or course you’re interested in taking and are willing to commit, Udacity is for you. Specializing in tech skills such as IT, Software Engineering and Web Development, Udacity can you help you make that job switch or get that promotion. Udacity doesn’t currently offer a plan for unlimited access to course content.|
|EdX||EdX has a wide range of offerings from professional certificates to bootcamps to online master’s degrees. EdX acts more of a curation site for large tech companies and universities across the world, so pricing will start at $400 for certificates all the way to 5-figures for graduate degrees. The great thing about EdX is that all courses on here are definitely eligible for reimbursement through your professional development stipend.|
|Udemy||The best deal on Udemy is a subscription to the Udemy Personal Plan. It gives you unlimited access to 6,000+ courses for as long as you subscribe at a cost of $30/month or $200/year if paid up front. The Udemy Personal plan gives you access to the top 6,000 curated classes on the platform geared towards professional development. Individual courses range from $15-$200 and frequently go on sales. You can search through all course offerings on Udemy’s website.|
All of these are highly reputable online learning platforms to get ahead at work and in your industry. Looking for a more in-depth breakdown of other online learning platforms? Refer to this article for the best online learning platforms of 2023.
2. Books and Audio Books
Audible Plus Subscription – Buy it on Amazon
There are tons of books and audiobooks dedicated to professional development. You can purchase subscriptions to an audio or ebook subscription service like Amazon Audible ($14.95/month) or Scribd ($9.99/month). I personally pay for an entire year worth of Audible credits ($249.99) with my professional development stipend (and shhh don’t actually use it for professional development). If it’s related to your profession (or not), you can also buy a real book at your local bookstore or online and have that covered with your benefit. We like audio and e-book subscriptions because they might cover your expenses for reading material outside of the professional development genre in addition to giving you a head-start in your career.
3. Graduate Degrees
Browse Online Master’s Degrees on EdX
If you’re planning on getting a Master’s degree or an MBA, you can use your professional learning stipend. An advanced degree is a proven way to build knowledge, your network and your career. Additionally, you’ll build your reputation, increase salary, and allow you to jump career paths. A professional development stipend can act as a discount on up to a few thousand dollars.
You can find fully accredited Online Master’s Degrees and Programs on EdX.
4. Productivity Tools
Time is money. Productivity tools are a great way to spend your professional development. Whether for work related tasks or organizing your personal life – there are options galore. For professionals that do a lot of writing, you might consider a Grammarly subscription for automated proof reading. Note-taking and organizational products such as Otter.ai are great tools to stay on top of your to-do list at work. AI is all the rage these days, and for good reason. Subscriptions to AI tools like ChatGPT plus may be covered by your professional development stipend.
In this day and age, there are so many products to save you time and boost productivity.
5. Linkedin Premium Subscription
Did you know that you can purchase Linkedin Premium with your professional development stipend? Linkedin Premium provides unlimited access to Linkedin Learning, a robust library of online courses for professionals. Linkedin Premium will also provide you with additional features for networking and job seeking. Some of those features include applicant insights, salary information, and resume help. Don’t you wonder who is viewing your profile?
Conferences are another great way to spend your professional development stipend. These events are a great way to build your network, level up your domain specific knowledge and have a fun time doing it. Most companies will also pay for travel and hotel accommodations! Dreamforce in San Francisco is one of the largest professional conferences and is more of a party than a conference. In 2019, Alicia Keys, Bruno Mars and U2 performed to over 100,000 Dreamforce attendees. Events in America is a good resource for finding conferences in the United States.
6. Professional and Career Assessments
Career Assessment by Dr. Rodney L. Lowman, PhD – Buy it on Amazon
Another approved way of spending your professional education stipend is on assessments. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment ($49.95) is a psychometric tool that helps you understand what makes you, you. The CliftonStrengths Assessment (starting at $19.99) was designed for people to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Workplace assessments are a fun and informative way to use your cash.
For a list of resources to find best workplace assessments that you can spend your professional development stipend on here.
8. Public Speaking Practice
Toastmaster’s is an organization dedicated to helping people practice public speaking and improve communication skills. With over 15,000 clubs and 300,000 members throughout the world, there may be a location near you. For a new membership fee of $20 and a bi-annual fee of $45, you can be a part of this prestigious organization and become a polished public speaker in no time. Since covid, many clubs offer virtual meetings. Other in person clubs will have their own schedules and typically meet once a week. Don’t have a Toastmaster’s near you? There are tons of paid programs and courses to help you practice and improve public speaking. Another one of our favorites is Ultraspeaking.
9. Career Coaching and Mentorship
Hiring a career coach or mentor is another great way to level up your career. Companies like Betterup provide personalized career coaching using a blend of AI, tech and 1:1 virtual coaching sessions for career and life endeavors. Sites like Noomi and The Muse specialize in connecting customers to coaches and offer other personalized career services. Expect to spend $75-$500 per session with a professional coach, and $25+ for tech-enabled subscriptions for career services.
For a list of resources to find career coaches you can go here.
10. News or Newsletter Subscriptions
Another popular way to spend your professional development stipend is on news or newsletter subscriptions. If you’re in the world of business or finance, try out a monthly subscription to The Wall Street Journal. If you’re a tech or startup employee, try out a premium subscription to TechCrunch.
You can check out a list of other news and content related subscriptions here.
11. Memberships, Associations and Clubs
Another great way to use your learning stipend is on fees for memberships, associations and clubs. Building your network and interacting with like-minded professionals in your space is a great way to jumpstart your career. There are associations for almost every profession you can think of. Organizations like Toastmasters are dedicated to helping people hone their public speaking skills. Jobstars has a phenomenal resource for finding other organizations. Many people find jobs, get new clients, and find amazing events through these sorts of associations. They are also a great way to find other events, products and items to spend your professional development stipend on!
12. Learning a New Language
Language Learning Subscription – Learn on Babbel
Some companies may approve costs of learning a new language to be covered by your professional development stipend. You can find a list of some of our favorite at-home language learning services approved to spend your professional development stipend below.
13. Role Specific Items and Products
Depending on your role in an organization, the items you can purchase with your professional development expense will vary. Software Engineers and Computer Programmers (or aspiring ones) can check out learn-to-code products like CodeAcademy. Data analysts and data scientists can spend their professional development stipend to gain access to pay-to-use datasets hosted on websites like Kaggle.
You can browse professional development products related to your role in our shop.
Are Professional Development Stipends Taxable?
As a general rule of thumb, stipends provided to employees by employers are considered taxable income. If you receive a professional development stipend, you should set aside money to pay taxes at the end of the year. Social Security and Medicare taxes do not need to be paid because stipends are not wages earned.
How to Get Reimbursed for Professional Development Expenses?
Please refer to your company’s professional development stipend policy for information on how to get reimbursed for your purchases. Most companies use software like Expensify to track and manage reimbursements.
Why do Companies Offer Professional Development Funds for Employees?
Companies offer professional development stipends to attract new employees, retain old employees and for tax purposes. Yes, companies get tax breaks for offering stipends! There is no reason to feel bad about spending every penny of your learning or education stipend. Furthermore, there’s no reason you shouldn’t try to cover a personal purchase that you would make without the stipend: as long as you get company approval!
If you want to know more about why companies offer this amazing benefit you can read this Forbes article.
Like this guide? Feel free to explore Spend My Stipend for more ideas and products to spend your professional stipend based on role, industry and more. Spend My Stipend has helped hundreds of employees spend what’s theirs in many other categories. Find what else you could be spending here.
Have other items you’ve purchased and had approved to purchase with your professional development stipend? Please leave a comment below – we’d love to hear from you!