1 University of Wisconsin-Extension, Green Lake County 571 County Road A, Green Lake, WI 54941

2 Professor Department of Agricultural Education and Studies Iowa State University, 201 Curtiss Hall, Ames, IA 50011


The purpose of this study was to determine the importance of eleven professional competencies related to needs assessment and program development; a secondary purpose was to identify the best time these competencies should be learned. The study followed a survey research design, in which 441 randomly selected extension educators in the North Central Region of the United States responded to a questionnaire through an online survey. Results suggest that respondents perceived nine of the eleven competencies as highly important for their professional development. High percentages of the respondents also reported that six competencies should be learned on the job. Stepwise regression analysis revealed the demographics of “gender” and “education” as statistically significant predictors in determining respondents’ perceptions. Findings indicate a need for flexible staff development programs for extension educators through graduate education, in-service programs, and on-the-job training. Findings have implications for designing new policies for employee selection, training, professional development, and performance appraisal. Further study was recommended to determine whether the findings would be valid at the national level.


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