What is Continuing Professional Development (CPD)?

CPD Explained

CPD stands for Continuing Professional Development and is the term used to describe the learning activities professionals engage in to develop and enhance their abilities. CPD is a holistic approach towards the enhancement of personal skills and proficiency throughout a professional’s career.

What is CPD?

Continuing Professional Development is a commitment to ongoing lifelong learning. CPD encourages looking forward and identifying opportunities to learn something new, refresh existing knowledge, improve skills, or simply keep up-to-date with the latest developments within a particular profession or industry.

In practice, CPD can mean everything from taking a training course or attending an educational event, to studying for new qualifications or learning new aspects of a job.

Continuing Professional Development enables learning to become conscious and proactive, rather than passive and reactive. It involves an individual documenting and keeping a record of the increasing skills, knowledge and experience they gain throughout their career.

CPD combines different methodologies to learning, which includes training courses, seminars, workshops, conferences and events, webinars and online eLearning programs. CPD can also include sharing best practice techniques, thoughts and ideas, all focused towards an individual improving within the work environment.

More about CPD

Engaging in CPD activities ensures that both academic and practical qualifications do not become outdated or obsolete, and allows for individuals to continually ‘up skill’ or ‘re-skill’ themselves regardless of their occupation, age or educational level.

Continuing Professional Development is an ongoing process of frequently improving skills and competencies to enhance workplace performance and future career prospects.

Different methods of CPD learning

There is no one-size-fits all approach to CPD, however a blended approach to learning that incorporates a full range of different types of CPD can increase chances of knowledge retention and engagement. From experience, we advise that at least 50% of Continuing Professional Development be completed in a structured CPD / active learning environment. The remaining learning can be balanced across both reflective and self-directed types of CPD.

Training Courses

A CPD training course is the most well-known method of completing Continuing Professional Development, and can vary in length from one day up to several days or over several weeks. Training courses will often be specific to one subject or offer skills in a particular area of industry.

CPD training courses can also sometimes encompass others forms of learning such as lectures, seminars and workshops, and can be delivered either in-person such as classroom style, or online, or even possibly a hybrid of both.


A seminar is a type of short course and typically only a few hours long up to one day. CPD seminars provide an opportunity to focus on a particular subject matter in detail. They are usually conducted in a group setting with no more than 20 participants.

CPD seminars will typically include group work, activities and interactive discussion, in order to allow individuals to contribute which can lead to better retention of knowledge.

Seminars can also be a chance for individuals to network with others from different areas of their own industry or other sectors. 


A workshop is an interactive educational group session typically involving between 1 to 3 days of learning. Workshops and seminars are similar, but there are a few key differences.

CPD workshops are less theoretical and tend to offer a more hands-on, practical skills approach to learning which may include practical exercises, breakout sessions and role plays. Workshop groups are usually smaller than seminars.

As CPD workshops are primarily activity and exercise based, it gives the group a chance to apply theoretical knowledge in a practical context and offers a hands-on approach to enhancing skills and knowledge. 


Webinars are an online learning activity held virtually and attended by an online audience. Often, the main objective of a CPD webinar is to educate and inform professionals in a short and concise manner about new and relevant information.

CPD webinars can provide opportunity to interact and participate, ask questions to the hosts, complete polls or surveys, and share documents between attendees. CPD webinars are useful in that they do not require attendance at an in-person event and therefore provide opportunity for wider, often international, participation.


There are a number of different forms of learning that can be considered CPD events. For instance, there could be a live speaker session delivered in the format of a guest presentation or a panel discussion.

Other forms of CPD events includes conferences, usually held at venues, beginning with a keynote session and then offering breakout learning by topic. Seminars and workshops may also feature as part of wider CPD events.

Organisations can choose to host or sponsor a particular industry trade show which are usually held in large spaces, with hundreds of products and services being showcased, and in doing so may add an educational CPD learning opportunity within the trade show itself.

Online Courses

Online CPD courses are an increasingly popular method of learning, and can offer convenience and affordability, in that there is no need to attend an in-person event and course materials can be shared free online.

Online courses offer flexibility for individuals to participate at a suitable time and schedule around other work and family commitments.

In many instances, online CPD courses can be spread over a period of time rather than requiring participation on a given day.

CPD for Individuals

CPD encourages individuals to maintain consistent and high standards, as well as making it easier to demonstrate commitment and dedication towards a particular job role or profession.

CPD offers a functional platform for individuals to build a career progression plan that supports their objectives towards new job openings, development within an existing role, or even possibly higher earnings opportunities.

CPD can be an excellent self-motivation tool, acting as a reminder of personal achievements and progression over time. CPD provides flexibility and diversity in terms of different methods of learning available so each individual can find a learning style that suits them best. To that extent a professional is able to find much greater appreciation for the positive impact they can make at work. 

CPD for Organisations

All organisations that face competition need to find new ways to retain key staff and help differentiate themselves as leaders in their industry. CPD can be used to advance the body of knowledge, skills and technology within an organisation. The application of CPD in the workplace shows a mindful decision and commitment towards both clients and employees that professionalism is important.

Organisations are able to recognise that Continuing Professional Development can be used to ensure quality levels remain high across all departments. CPD can help to identify potential skill gaps in the workplace, and highlight areas where the business can be improved. CPD encourages a healthy learning culture which can lead to a more fulfilled and valuable workforce.

Continuing Professional Development should be used to attract a higher level of candidates when recruiting for new roles, by encouraging better talent towards the organisation. CPD is a tool for improvements in business performance and efficiency, whilst also helping staff with their individual learning requirements.

What is accredited CPD training?

Accredited CPD training means the learning activity has reached the required Continuing Professional Development standards and benchmarks. The learning value has been scrutinised to ensure integrity and quality. The CPD Certification Service provides recognised independent CPD accreditation compatible with global CPD requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are CPD points, hours and credits?

The majority of institutions and professional bodies provide Continuing Professional Development targets generally set on an annual basis. These targets are defined by the accrual of CPD activities through attendance in training courses, eLearning and events, as well as other forms of structured learning. Most professional bodies use CPD hours as their measure, and where CPD points or credits are used, these are typically a 1:1 ratio with CPD hours. By this, 1 CPD point would be equal to 1 CPD hour.

How should I allocate my CPD time?

The majority of institutions and professional bodies will allow members to choose subjects of relevance to them, whilst a minority will require their members to seek CPD training on a particular range of core subjects. All professionals must understand how CPD should be recorded and how much learning time is required for their role each year. As a general rule, we advise that at least 50% of CPD be completed in a structured CPD / active learning environment.

What is the CPD Cycle?

The CPD Cycle is a practical tool that helps individuals to structure their Continuing Professional Development learning easily throughout the year, and to identify regular and measurable improvements in work-related skills and knowledge. There are five key stages of the CPD Cycle that are important when planning professional development activities for the year. These include Stage 1 - Identifying Your Needs, Stage 2 – Planning, Stage 3 - Acting/Doing, Stage 4 - Reflecting on Learning, Stage 5 - Implement your New Learning.

How do I log and record CPD activities?

CPD is something that most people will do on an ongoing basis as part of their career. To reflect and keep track of learning, it is important to maintain a regular and up to date record of any completed learning and development activities, as well as future goals or professional achievements in the work environment. A CPD log and record of learning activities undertaken can be kept using an online purpose-built CPD recording tool, such as the myCPD Portal.

What is myCPD Portal?

myCPD Portal is a free online record tool that allows individuals and organisations to log, track and manage their Continuing Professional Development in one simple place. Users can set annual CPD targets, review training records, store attendance certificates and monitor learning progress. This makes it easier to reflect on knowledge and skills that have been obtained throughout the year.

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