Student Advice

What is CPD?

Ben Maples  · Jun 29th 2022  · 5 min

Though you may not need to worry about your continuing professional development (CPD) when at university, it is something to start thinking about as you draw ever closer to entering the working world.


A CPD is an essential part of expanding your skill set, knowledge and abilities. CPDs are essential methods of ensuring you're constantly learning new skills, building on previous knowledge and constantly up-to-date with changes in your industry.

CPDs are essential whether you’re looking to become an accountant or a teacher. CPDs are an excellent way for companies to invest in upskilling staff and give you the confidence to grow in your role.


What is continuing professional development?

A continuing professional development is known as a CPD. It is a process used to monitor and document the experience, knowledge and skills you have developed in your work after your initial training and will present you with a CPD certificate. All CPD training is regulated and set by the CPD certification service and must be CPD certified and CPD approved.

There are three specific ways CPDs are categorised, which are:

  • Reflective CPD (passive learning): This involves no active participation in courses or lessons but will rely more on industry-related research or informal meetings, though you will need to make the learning objectives of the meeting clear in your CPD development plan.
  • Structured CPD (active learning): This is a CPD that involves active and structured learning that is not done in your place of work, usually with one or more professionals assisting you.
  • Self-directed CPD (unstructured learning): This is sometimes referred to as an informal CPD. Here, you will carry out the professional development activities required on your own and without a formal syllabus. This is generally recommended for more experienced workers.

The route you choose to follow is up to you. Some organisations, such as the NHS, may request that you follow a specific route, at least initially, and will then allow you to choose a new route from there.

All CPD routes generally involve the same basic learning structure.

Which jobs require a CPD?

Not all jobs require a CPD. As a general rule of thumb, you will need to study a CPD if you work in a sector that is formally regulated, for example, by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Employers could ask for CPDs, even if they are not in a regulated industry. This will occasionally be a mandatory requirement from the employer, but the onus is usually on you to carry out a CPD.

Most jobs in the National Health Service (NHS) will require a CPD. The NHS offers a CPD opportunities for all staff members in accordance with the Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) as long as they are under the Agenda for Change (AfC) payscale. Even if you are not required to carry out a CPD, you will have a mandatory annual personal development review. Most NHS jobs requiring a CPD will be jobs that, like other professions, are industry-regulated.

CPD certification

What CPD activities are there?

All CPD routes generally involve the same basic learning structure. These routes will involve conferences, group events, meetings, seminars, training courses and workshops, though some have been known to involve studying case studies, podcasts and industry news.

Despite this, there are specific activities that are unique to certain CPD routes. For instance, a formal CPD (structured CPD) will involve formal training and education, whereas a self-directed CPD will have more informal means of learning.

The most common activities in a CPD are:

Conferences, meetings and seminars

These conferences must be offered by an institution that meets the CPD requirements. If the institution is not a formally recognised institution for CPD, then its content must at least help further your professional career.

Formal education and training

Formal education and training include distance learning, face-to-face education, formal on-the-job training and short courses. These will make up a maximum of 50% of your CPD unless you are already studying for an undergraduate or postgraduate degree.

Industry involvement

This is a less common CPD type and is also not a requirement for most CPD routes. This will involve anything from consultancy services to the supervision of industry research.

Informal learning

Informal learning involves reading books, journals and research. This is generally considered to be on-the-job training and will essentially tie into the training and development programme your employer has set out for you.

Institution activities and events

This is an education route which involves membership in an industry-standard institution. Your job may require you to be registered with a professional institution for precisely this reason. Institutions will have industry events, professional review interviews, and course accreditation and will also offer papers for study.

The type of CPD you undertake will depend on where you are working. Some employers will ask you to study specific types, while others will leave the choice down to you.

Drawing up a CPD plan is an essential part of beginning a CPD course.

What are CPD accredited training courses?

This is training that you have undertaken that meets the required standards of the CPD certification service. CPD accreditation is essential for any training provider. Your CPD accredited training is globally recognised and will have passed a quality-assurance testing process.

Not all jobs require CPD training. Most employers will have training courses of their own, however, some employers do not have the facilities to provide in-house training so may ask you to undertake CPD training instead.

CPD training meaning

What is a CPD plan?

A CPD plan is your plan for learning and development. This is usually discussed as part of an appraisal with an employer, however, you can also have a personal CPD plan too.

These plans are good ways to track the learning you are going to be undertaking. It gives you a chance to see what you are trying to achieve, and your career goals and also should outline how you want to achieve those goals.

A continuing professional development is known as a CPD.

How do I make my CPD plan?

Drawing up a CPD plan is an essential part of beginning a CPD course. You will need to start off by establishing what your career goals are. Where do you intend to get to and what timeframe are you considering? With these in mind, you can start selecting training or CPD types that are relevant to each step of your career progress timeline.

Speak to your managers and colleagues. They will have a very good understanding of the latest training and development courses that are available for you and will be able to help you book onto relevant courses.

Another important aspect of a CPD plan is your targets. Make sure that you are making tangible progress with your CPD and assign targets to make sure you’re staying on track.

Measuring your progress is also an essential part of a CPD plan. Planning does not just take place beforehand, you will need to keep the plan up-to-date and will potentially reconsider certain aspects if anything changes. Keep track of courses you’ve studied, the grades you received for pieces of work and how you are progressing in your various goals.

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