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Continuing professional development

CPD means continuing professional development, or CPE is continuing professional education. These are terms used to describe the learning activities professionals engage in to develop their knowledge, skills and best practice techniques. They do so to take that new learning and ideas sharing and apply these in their work to improve their proficiency and advance their careers.

If the learning has been CPD-accredited, it can be undertaken in different formats as follows:


Structured CPD learning


Structured CPD or active learning comprises of interactive and participation-based study meaning being proactive by attending or undertaking any of the following:


  • Classroom courses
  • Organisational (in-house) courses
  • Online programmes (e.g. online courses and webinars)
  • 1-1 trainer-led instruction
  • Conferences
  • Workshops
  • Seminars
  • Lectures
  • Other structured forms of learning and events


Structured CPD learning is also when professionals actively take career-orientated exams and assessments (the study and revision would be considered self-directed learning, as outlined below).


Self-directed CPD learning


Self-directed CPD is more informal than structured CPD and is often a one-way directional form of learning that does not necessarily follow a consistent and methodical approach. It can include undertaking a wide range of learning activities that could include the following:


  • general research and industry study
  • watching relevant educational videos
  • reading blogs, news articles, or books
  • informal discussion groups
  • reflective analysis


Structured or self-directed CPD must be relevant to what an individual is hoping to achieve in their career as well as fulfilling basic obligations as set out by their professional body.

Structured CPD or active learning involves interactive and participation-based study. It is typically proactive and can include attending or undertaking any of the following:


  • Training course
  • Conference
  • Workshop
  • Seminar
  • Lecture
  • CPD-certified event
  • Online and e-learning courses
  • Other structured forms of learning

CPD active learning is also when professionals take career-orientated exams and assessments (the study and revision would be considered self-directed learning, see self-directed CPD).

Accredited CPD training means the learning activity has achieved the required continuing professional development standards and benchmarks, and the learning value has been inspected to ensure a certain quality and integrity.

CPD helps individuals, organisations or entire industries keep their knowledge and skills current. Providing CPD enables organisations to become a knowledge bank for those with a vested interest in the organisation. CPD-accredited events allow professionals to use their learning towards individual CPD requirements.

An individual keeps track of their annual CPD activities on a CPD record (self-assessment) form or log and must ensure it is correct, up-to-date and meets the requirements of their professional body or association. The CPD activity is recorded in terms of learning outcomes and how the learner practically intends to apply their new learning. The accredited CPD provider does not normally keep an ongoing learning record for each of their delegates.


At CPD Qualification Standards, we can provide guidance to individuals as to how many CPD hours or points are achievable from the completion of any CPD activity we have certified such as a conference, training course or seminar. This will help any individual to record the correct level of CPD hours for their professional body.


Continuing professional development undertaken is recorded by a CPD certificate of attendance and personal CPD record forms.  Once a CPD-certified activity has been delivered, the attendee can update their CPD record and attach the associated certificate.

Most industries are involved in CPD training.  Professionals from any industry, sector, career level, job role or responsibilities can undertake CPD and they are increasingly expected to do so. It is important to understand the continuing professional development requirements for your organisation or industry to understand what their CPD requirements are (e.g. how you are expected to record CPD learning and how many hours are required per year).


Most professions have CPD obligations. For example, medical and legal professions are subject to continuing medical education or continuing legal education requirements and these vary by jurisdiction.

Most professional bodies require at least 50% of CPD to be completed in a structured format.  The differences between the two are the following:

Structured CPD:

  • is considered a formal learning environment which typically includes training courses, online e-learning programmes, workshops and seminars that have been accredited and conform to CPD guidelines and standards.
  • consists of two-way interactions between trainer and delegates and follows a methodical approach to learning that can be delivered consistently time and time again.
  • will often contain case studies and examples within the training as well as Q&A, breakout discussion groups and possible assessments to ensure that key learning has been embedded.

When a delegate has completed structured CPD training they will in most instances be provided with a CPD certificate of attendance/completion which can be used as part of the individual’s personal CPD record for submission at their professional body, where relevant.

Self-directed CPD:

is considered more informal and is often one-way directional learning that does not necessarily follow a consistent and methodical approach to knowledge sharing.

  • can be quite broad in terms of the activities completed and can include:
  • reading news articles, blogs or books
  • general industry study and research
  • watching relevant educational videos
  • informal discussion groups
  • reflective analysis

Once self-directed learning is completed, individuals must elaborate further on their personal CPD record as to what new knowledge has been obtained, what will be put into practice and how long in duration the self-directed learning has taken.

Self-directed CPD must be relevant to individual career aspirations and any fundamental obligations set out by their professional body.

Undertaking CPD is the responsibility of the professional (not their organisation), regardless of industry.  This is done to improve skills and knowledge for personal as well as professional development.

When completing CPD, it is important for an individual to:

  • keep a record of the training completed each year
  • record what learning objectives have been met
  • note what skills will be put into practice to improve and increase proficiency

The training record is kept by an individual.

The training record that is kept by an individual is typically called a CPD portfolio.  A CPD portfolio helps the learner to keep track of their progression from year to year. The portfolio is proof of their continuing professional development obligations for their professional body or association and demonstrates that the learning has been completed.


Contained within a CPD portfolio would be:


  • CPD record form or register of learning activities (such as educational events, workshops and training courses)
  • the delegate’s CPD certificates for each activity

Professional bodies review their members’ CPD portfolio to ensure they are meeting their annual continuing professional development requirements.

A CPD portfolio should demonstrate a range of different methods of learning and the different impacts on future capability.

Different industries and professional bodies use the terms ‘CPD points’, ‘CPD units’ or ‘CPD credits’ diversely depending on preference. However, these all relate to the same thing – CPD hours.

A CPD hour is the time that an individual spends undertaking “active learning”.  Active learning defines the actual time spent learning something relevant for the individual’s continuing professional development objectives.


An example of this would be:


A one-day accredited CPD training course.  If the training starts at 9 am and ends at 5 pm with a one-hour break for lunch, the CPD hours would be seven CPD hours.


Most professional bodies use CPD hours as their CPD measure and that, where the terms CPD points, units or credits are used, these are in a typical 1:1 ratio with CPD hours, i.e. one CPD point, unit or credit equals one CPD hour.

Online CPD is becoming a more popular alternative to traditional learning methods. Working professionals with limited available time have found many benefits to the flexibility provided by online CPD.


Advantages of online CPD learning for the provider are:


  • It is low cost
  • Course materials (such as textbooks and handouts) can be made available online
  • Online CPD courses can be delivered more than once
  • Many of the elements of online CPD courses can be automated to streamline the process and reduce time wastage
  • It has a wider reach


Advantages of online CPD learning for the learner are:


  • It is a more affordable option than traditional learning methods
  • It does not involve any commuting costs for delegates (or trainer)
  • You can study in a more comfortable learning environment
  • Many of the stresses around learning are removed
  • Online courses enable more introverted individuals to participate in class discussions more comfortably than in face-to-face classes
  • Improved concentration as there are fewer distractions
  • It is flexible and convenient
  • You can study at a personal optimum time
  • Work and family commitments can be balanced
  • It encompasses built-in evaluation techniques and feedback loops
  • Learners (and providers) can see the results of tests, grades and certificates of learning immediately

As a provider offering CPD certified courses, you are helping professionals to enhance their personal skills and work proficiency throughout their careers.

Providing CPD accredited learning benefits your organisation through:


  • recognition and increased brand perception
  • enabling you to meet the right target audience
  • the ability to present knowledge as industry experts
  • providing structured accredited CPD to delegates
  • distinguishing you from competitors
  • increasing delegate bookings for your courses and events
  • the creation of new alliances and business opportunities
  • encouraging and promoting a healthy learning culture for your organisation, leading to a more fulfilled workforce and the ability to retain valuable staff

Many organisations have staff with CPD obligations as members of professional bodies. In circumstances where internal CPD training resources are low, organisations can use outsourced CPD training providers to meet staff requirements.

Outsourced CPD providers are typically training companies, online learning resources, events and conference organisers.  They are experts in their field and provide practical learning opportunities through CPD events, seminars and accredited CPD courses.

Some CPD courses are one-to-two hours long and can be delivered in a seminar or classroom-style environment. Other accredited CPD courses can be a full six to 10-week programme split into structured, manageable modules.

Professionals from any industry, sector, career level, job role or responsibilities can undertake CPD.  In fact, there is an increasing expectation for them to do so.

We can help you to formalise your knowledge into a structured and recognised approach to meet the expectations of professionals. As such, we can ensure that your CPD materials are formally certified and therefore more likely to become accepted and welcomed by your audience.


Organisations wishing to adopt CPD practices can display their commitment through membership of CPDQS.

We work with various organisations ranging from small consultancy firms to large training providers, multinational corporations, conference and event organisers, universities, further education colleges, local authorities, councils and government departments.

We have a range of packages at a yearly cost of:

£385 – Up to 5 learning activities

£499 – Up to 15 learning activities

£999 – Up to 30 learning activities

£1,999 – Up to 100 learning activities

For 100+ learning activities, please call us for a quote


Access the following link for further information:

There are four simple steps:

Step 1 – Complete our application form and submit this with your payment

Step 2 – Receive membership approval within 24 hours

Step 3 – Send us your learning activities material and event-related literature

Step 4 – If your learning activities and event-related literature meet our standards, receive confirmation as a fully approved and accredited training provider within three working days

Access the following link for further information:

You can expect to receive the following ongoing support:

  • review and advice regarding organisational CPD requirements
  • we licence you to use our CPD member logo on company marketing materials
  • we licence you to use our CPD certified symbol on approved CPD course materials
  • we give you a presence in our CPD member directory for user validation and searching
  • the administration of delegate CPD certificates post-activity


We can be reached via email at or speak to us by phone on 020 3880 7215.

You can expect to receive the following service:

  • Free learning activities page redirect link
  • Your own branded learning management system
  • Free job portal listing
  • Free quality improvement workshops
  • Free monthly live webinar by industry experts
  • Certificates – PDF, £2 each; hard copy, £5 each and sent by first-class post
  • Live chat support
  • Professional CV review for your learners