University of Illinois System

System Offices Professional Development Guidelines


The System Offices are committed to providing opportunities for employees to broaden their knowledge and skills, to keep current with changes in their profession, to network with other professionals, to foster employee engagement and satisfaction, and to increase their potential for assuming greater responsibility.  The System Offices support this objective through various learning opportunities.

The purpose of these guidelines is to provide general parameters for system office units when developing employee and unit professional development plans, including budget allocations. These guidelines are subject to annual budgetary allocations/resources and the System Offices reserve the right to modify or discontinue this program at any time. Information on low to no-cost opportunities may be found on the System HR website at


In support of this program, system office departments are strongly encouraged to allocate sufficient resources to develop employee knowledge, skills, and abilities through various internal and external opportunities. Departmental funds reserved for this program may be used for costs associated with:

  • Conferences, workshops and seminars
  • Professional certifications
  • Certificate programs
  • Membership in professional organizations
  • Self-directed learning/e-learning
  • Professional magazine and journal subscriptions
  • Degree programs (employee tuition waiver policies apply)

The opportunities available for an employee to participate may vary based on title, responsibilities and duties, scope of authority, span of control, FLSA exempt status, length of service, return on investment, and business need. The manager and/or department head reserves the right to determine which training functions and association memberships are in the best interests of the university and department. Policies related to pay and overtime for non-exempt civil service staff must be followed.

Conferences, Workshops and Seminars

In general, employees are encouraged to attend conferences, workshops, or seminars. For budgetary and operational purposes, departments may need to stagger employee attendance on a biennial or triennial basis. Attendance must have a direct relationship to the duties and responsibilities of the job. Other local events may be attended where no travel is required at the discretion of the department.

Professional Certifications

Professional certification programs must be pre-approved by the department and the employee must be able to demonstrate that the designation and/or coursework is related to the job they currently perform or could reasonably perform in the future. Examples of such programs include, but are not limited to AAP, ASFMRA, CEBS, CECP,CFA, CFE, CIA, CIG, CIPM, CISA, CPA, CPCU, CIC, CTP, PHR, PMP, SPHR, SHRM-CP or SCP, etc.

All course work towards a designation program must be taken through the appropriate supporting professional organization or sponsor. Costs related to exam preparation materials and classes may be provided by the department. The employee’s department will pay for an employee to take an exam once. If the employee does not pass the first time and chooses to take the exam again, the department may choose to pay for a second exam upfront, or the employee may be asked to pay for it him/herself and then be reimbursed if a passing score is achieved.

Certificate Programs

Specialized training in a particular discipline can be an invaluable tool for employees to become and remain experts in their field, as well as, important for departments to provide the best level of service possible. Participation must have a direct relationship to the duties and responsibilities of the job. Costs incurred for participation, travel, and ongoing continuing education to retain the certification should be paid for by the department.

Membership in Professional Organizations

When applicable, employees may be permitted to join professional associations and membership fees may be paid for by the department. The association must have a direct relationship to the employee’s job. Institutional memberships in other organizations may also be available for use by employees where available.

Self-Directed Learning/E-Learning

Departments are encouraged to grant employees periodic time during the regular work schedule to engage in self-directed learning, such as webinars, self-paced learning modules through, focus groups, etc. Participation must have a direct relationship to the duties and responsibilities of the job. Time spent on these learning opportunities is in addition to the Know Your U program and should not impact the employee’s ability to meet the expectations of their position.

Professional Magazine and Journal Subscriptions

When applicable, employees may be permitted to subscribe to professional publications paid for by the department. The publication must have a direct relationship to the employee’s job. When possible, departments and employees should take advantage of free, online publications or provide a departmental subscription that can be shared among employees.

Degree Programs

Academic Professional and Civil Service employees may be eligible for an employee tuition waiver from any of the three University of Illinois universities. Civil Service employees may also be eligible for a tuition waiver at the other State Universities Civil Service System institutions, including: Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Governors State University, Illinois State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, and Western Illinois University.

Degree program course textbooks, syllabi, documents, student fees, travel, parking and other ancillary expenses are typically not covered but are also at the discretion of the department. Courses should not interfere with employee’s regular work schedule unless appropriately pre-approved on a semester-by-semester basis.

Employees may apply for the System Offices Educational Funding Program to assist in paying for degree program costs not covered by an employee tuition waiver.


Academic Professional and Civil Service employees with a 50% or greater appointment that have been employed a minimum of six months* in a System Office department may be eligible for professional development. System Office departments reserve the right to defer requests for future consideration based on budgetary constraints.

*System Office department heads, or his/her designee, have the discretion to approve requests prior to the completion of six months service if warranted.


An eligible employee may submit a professional development request through the appropriate process within their department. Employees are encouraged to discuss their interests early in the calendar year to ensure their request is considered when the department head is preparing their fiscal year budget request.  

The employee may incur expenses only after receiving approval from their manager or department designee. When possible, all expenses should be charged to a university purchase or travel card in lieu of the employee making the payment and requiring a reimbursement.

After concluding training, the employee should submit a certificate of completion or similar document and a professional development report (when applicable) to their manager to be filed in the employee’s personnel file.


The department head on a case-by-case basis will handle exceptions and deviations from these guidelines.  System Offices management reserve the right to change any provisions described herein at any time, with or without notice.