Continuing professional development

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Continuing professional development (CPD) or continuing professional education (CPE) is the means by which people maintain their knowledge and skills related to their professional lives. It is continuing education as applied to professional development.

CPD obligations are common to most professions. Many professions define CPD as a structured approach to learning to help ensure competence to practice, taking in knowledge, skills and practical experience. CPD can involve any relevant learning activity, whether formal and structured or informal and self-directed.


In an article by Mac Van der Merwe and Alta van der Merwe (2008) the authors focus on the personal and situational tensions impacting on the use of a mathematics-friendly interactive online discussion forum environment as a reflective tool for the CPD of advantaged and disadvantaged mathematics teachers in South Africa.[1]

For different professional domains[edit]

Medical professionals[edit]

CPD is defined as the education of health care professionals following completion of formal training. CPD consists of any educational activity which helps to maintain, develop or increase knowledge, problem-solving, technical skills or professional performance standards all with the goal that physicians can provide better health care. CPD includes 'formal' activities, e.g. courses, conferences and workshops, as well as self-directed activities such as preceptorship and directed reading. The Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FMRAC, the organization composed of the Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons or Medical Boards of all the provinces and territories), has stated that all licensed physicians in Canada must participate in a recognized revalidation process in which they demonstrate their commitment to continued competent performance in a framework that is fair, relevant, inclusive, transferable, and formative. In BC, the revalidation process came into effect January 1, 2010, and consists of mandatory compliance with CPD requirements of either the RCPSC or the CFPC.

Safety practitioners[edit]

In almost all European countries the vast majority of safety practitioners, safety officers, safety managers, safety specialists, safety consultants, or safety advisors are legally obliged and in some instances legally bound to partake in CPD with at least one of the following two institutes:

The International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM) which was established in 1975 as a professional body for health and safety practitioners. CPD is compulsory for Fellows or Specialist Fellows of IIRSM.[2]

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) which is a UK organization for health and safety professionals. All IOSH Chartered Fellows, Chartered Members, Graduate and Technical Members have to carry out CPD to safeguard their professional membership status.[3]

Also in the UK the Safety Practitioners who offer the highest levels of service and/or advice should ideally appear on the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register unless in-house competence is proven. The Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register is commonly referred to as 'OSHCR' (Phonetic 'osh-ker').

OSHCR was established in response to the UK Government’s Common Sense, Common Safety report, which recommended that all Health and Safety consultants should be accredited to a professional body and a web-based directory be established. The register aims to assist businesses to find advice on general health and safety management.[4]

Lawyers and advocates[edit]

In many countries lawyers (advocates, attorneys, legal practitioners, legal executives, solicitors, or barristers) are encouraged or required to complete a certain number of hours of CPD or continuing legal education (CLE).

In England and Wales, all solicitors and legal executives who are in legal practice or employment, or who work 32 hours or more per week, are required to complete a minimum of 16 hours of CPD (= 16 CPD points) per year.[5]

In Scotland, all solicitors who are in full-time employment and wish to retain their Practising Certificate are required to undertake a minimum of twenty hours of CPD per year.[6]

In India, there is CPD through continuing legal education (CLE) platforms organized and conducted by the Bar Council of India through state bar councils, national law schools, universities, bar associations, tax bar associations and at other various professional levels to enhance professional knowledge, professional skill, professional acumen, analytical ability & accountability, legal ethics, professional management & business skill etc.

In Queensland, Australia, each legal practitioner is required to undertake ten hours of CPD each year to acquire ten CPD points. Within each year, the practitioner must include one point for each of three core areas:

  • Professional skills,
  • Practical legal ethics, and
  • Practice management and business skills.

Many of the major legal publishers run seminars for the profession. A variety of providers ensures practitioners have adequate choice of content and style of delivery.

IT practitioners[edit]

Since 2012 there has been an expectation for IT practitioners to hold a valid certification to prove their skills and experience in their field. IT official vendor courses such as the CompTIA, Microsoft or CISCO range are governed by ISO 17024, which states that a qualifying certification lasts for a limited period.[citation needed] For IT technical, this period is three years. For IT software development the period is two years. There is now an expectation for the individual to hold a relevant certification at interview and to retrain regularly throughout their career.[7]

Opinions on this differ in different countries, fuelled by the subsidy the employer can claim to encourage them to upskill their workforce. This can be demand-driven (e.g. a when new software is adopted this results in a need for the relevant IT staff to be retrained). The training itself is a 'win-win' situation: The employer can recoup training costs, get tax breaks or other incentives to ensure that they keep their workforce current (in EU and the US). The employee sees the employer as a good and caring employer but both parties benefit from the training. The caveat is that the employee also has to hold the relevant certification after completing the training course. This can often be a tricky process as the courses are quite complex and will test the abilities of the individual.

For the US Military, there is a mandate (DoD 8570.1M - "Information Assurance Workforce Improvement Program") which requires officer-grade military personnel and also civilians operating on US bases to hold relevant certification in order to obtain credit to meet the DoD requirement. The individual has usually a period of 6 months to upskill and training is paid for. [8]

Definitions and scope[edit]

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors[edit]

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (UK) define CPD as a commitment by members to continually update their skills and knowledge in order to remain professionally competent and achieve their true potential.[9]

This approach emphasises:

  • continuing, because learning never ceases, regardless of age or seniority;
  • professional, because it is focused on professional competence in a professional role; and
  • concerned with development, because the goal is to improve personal performance and enhance career progression, which arguably is much wider than just formal training courses.

Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport[edit]

The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) in the United Kingdom defines CPD as: The systematic maintenance and improvement of knowledge, skills and competence throughout a professional's working life. It is about maintaining and improving standards of competence and professionalism. The onus is on the learner to take responsibility for developing and directing their own career.[10]

The Association of Personal Assistants[edit]

APA (The Association of Personal Assistants) defines CPD as 'any process or activity that provides added value to the capability of the individual through an increase in professional knowledge, skills and personal qualities necessary for the appropriate execution of professional and technical duties, often termed ‘competence’.

American Academy of Financial Management[edit]

The American Academy of Financial Management requirements for continuing uses CPD and continuing education as part of its ongoing requirements for members. Members must complete 15 hours of recognized professional each year to retain their qualification.[11] The AAFM Board regulates certifications worldwide such as CWM Chartered Wealth Manager Certification.[12]

Institute of Administrative Management[edit]

The Institute of Administrative Management (IAM) requires candidates to complete the following:[13]

This is intended to help the individual carry out some initial thinking about your strengths and weaknesses. In addition, you will need to think about possible directions for your career development and to highlight potential threats.

  • Personal and professional development

Development of your PPDP is based upon the individuals SWOT analysis. Its purpose is to assist them to formulate a set of development activities covering a period of twelve months. Long-term career plans should cover development activities for the next twelve months in the light of their intentions over the next three years.

  • Implementation

Implementing of the individuals plan does not imply that they cannot or should not change it once implementation is underway. Situations and circumstances can and do change.

  • Learning diary

It is vital that the individual records their efforts and assess the benefits of their planned activities. The activities that they undertake may not always generate the results that were intended. Time spent reflecting on how they have tackled each activity and in assessing the outcomes will enable the individual to adjust their PPDP for the following year. Moreover, by recording their activities they will be building a complete record of their professional/personal development that can form the basis for long-term career progression.

  • Annual review/summary

At the end of the twelve-month period, having reviewed the individuals activities they are required to complete the Summary Sheet. The process is repeated for the second and subsequent years by reviewing and updating your SWOT analysis and then drawing up a new PPDP.

Registration for CPD shows the individuals own commitment to learning and allows them to consider best practice within the workplace.

CPD for Sustainability Professionals[edit]

The Institution of Sustainability Professionals requires all full Members (MISP) to undertake a minimum of 25 hours CPD per year as an essential component of professional life to ensure that they have the knowledge and experience to undertake their role as a sustainability professional in an effective manner.

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development[edit]

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD),[14] CPD should:

  • be continuous - professionals should always be looking for ways to improve performance
  • be the responsibility of the individual learner to own and manage
  • be driven by the learning needs and development of the individual
  • be evaluative rather than descriptive of what has taken place
  • be an essential component of professional and personal life, never an optional extra

European Federation of National Engineering Associations[edit]

FEANI defines CPD as the acquisition of knowledge, experience and skills, as well as, the development of personal qualities. It contains both the acquisition of new skills, to broaden competence, and the enhancement of existing skills to keep abreast of evolving knowledge.[15]

See also[edit]