Continuing Professional Development (CPD): What is it, and why does it matter?

Working professionals need to regularly acquire new skills and knowledge to advance their careers. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is non-negotiable in fields such as accounting, and highly beneficial in most others. Let’s take a look at CPD and explore the reasons behind its importance in today’s workplace.

What is Continuing Professional Development?

CPD is a term used to describe learning activities that professionals take part in to develop and enhance their skills. This could include courses, workshops, informal learning opportunities, or vocational education that helps to expand knowledge or add new skills related to a chosen career. In addition, anyone who works in a sector that is formally regulated (such as accounting, health, engineering, and law, to name a few) is likely to have CPD requirements that are compulsory to fulfil. In other cases, home study courses are often an effective way to kickstart CPD. Courses that you can study in your own time are highly valuable for helping you stay relevant and for boosting your value to potential employers.

CPD also includes some activities that you may well be doing already, such as reading this blog post or learning from your mistakes.

The importance of CPD

It has been widely recognised that qualifications need to be supported by ongoing skills-based or practical learning. Here are some of the benefits of CPD:

CPD ensures you can upskill throughout your career

Engaging in CPD ensures that your qualifications never become outdated. You can continually upskill yourself and update your existing skills, no matter your age, occupation, or educational level.

CPD lets you take control of your own development

CPD is a process normally driven by you – not your employer or anyone else. Unlike traditional learning, it requires a conscious, proactive approach. Through CPD, you’re able to see how far you’ve come, reflect on what you’ve learned and plug up any gaps in your knowledge or experience. You’ll also be building a portfolio of skills that you can show to employers or clients.

CPD allows you to adapt to the evolving workplace

The industries of today never stand still: change is occurring faster than ever. Employees have to keep up with the rapid pace of change brought about by advances in technology; they have to adapt quickly to their new circumstances. While qualifications alone used to be the main factor when hiring someone, strong CPD credentials attract equal attention today.

CPD keeps your career exciting

All careers offer the opportunity to learn something new. Without exploring these opportunities, there’s a good chance that you’ll become uninterested in your work over time. Learning about multiple aspects of your particular career is not only beneficial for your future, but for your morale and confidence too.

How to get started with CPD

If you’re a member of a professional accounting body, you’ll normally need to complete a certain number of CPD hours to retain membership. This may be a straightforward process, but to truly realise the power of CPD, you need to actively pursue it. You can start the CPD process by following these steps:

  1. Keep a learning log to record your thoughts and insights on any areas you’re learning about. You can then reflect on these experiences, and see what you’ve learnt from them and how they could possibly be explored further.
  2. Ask yourself where you are in your career and where you want to be. You can then start identifying how to get there through CPD.
  3. Make sure you know whether there are any compulsory CPD requirements that you have to fulfil for your current position or professional memberships, and set aside time to meet them.
  4. Seek out CPD training activities that meet your personal learning needs. Distance or blended learning courses are a great place to start. Some employers may even contribute to CPD plans, so take advantage of this if you can. Investigate informal CPD methods too. Reading blogs and books, learning from a colleague in the workplace, or finding out about new technology can all be part of the practical CPD process.
  5. Take on roles outside the workplace. Activities outside the workplace can provide you with valuable transferable skills that can be applied to your career. For example, you could develop your leadership skills by coaching a school sports team, or your organisational skills by becoming a club secretary.

Once you’ve developed your plan and the CPD process is underway, you can review your progress every three, six, or twelve months.

By committing to CPD, you’re committing to constant improvement. It may seem like hard work, but it can be plenty of fun, too, and the rewards for your career are well worth the effort.

If you want to discover online courses that will help you continue developing and acquiring new skills, click here.

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