Why CPD is important for accountants

  • Person icon Mercia Group
  • Calendar icon 15 July 2022 11:39
Open notebook on a lap of a person in a conference room.

What is the purpose of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for accountants and why is it so important for practitioners to use this process of lifelong learning to keep their professional skills up to date?

The process of continuing professional development is essential for anyone who wants to be a successful and reliable accountant. There are many benefits to keeping your CPD records current. This is achieved by a range of activities that can be completed through training courses and online learning, through training providers or self-guided learning.

In this blog, we look at the benefits of continuing professional development, what the requirements are and what you need to do to meet them.


Key Highlights

  • Assessing continuing professional development and why it is necessary.
  • Examining the benefits of CPD for accountants and businesses.
  • Looking at the different means available to achieve CPD points.
  • Choosing the topics that will benefit you as an accountancy professional.
  • A look at the yearly requirements professional bodies require.
  • What to do if you miss your CPD targets.


On this page:

What is CPD

What are the benefits for CPD

What counts as CPD for accountants

What topics are covered as CPD for accountants

How many CPD units does an accountant need

What happens if you don't complete CPD hours


What is CPD?

Continuing Professional Development, or simply CPD, is the term used to describe the learning activities professionals engage in to develop and enhance their abilities.

The aim of CPD of a learning programme is for development to be proactive rather than reactive. It demonstrates the commitment of professionals towards the enhancement of personal skills and proficiency throughout their careers.

CPD can be achieved through a number of different means including training workshops, conferences and events, e-learning programmes, best practice techniques and ideas sharing.

This helps employers across industries, including accounting and finance, to retain key staff and develop the skills and knowledge in their organisations to maintain a sustainable and competitive advantage.

Engaging in CPD also ensures that both academic and practical qualifications do not become outdated or obsolete.


What are the benefits for CPD?

The benefits of CPD are twofold, firstly for the employee themselves and secondly for their employer and their business.

Benefits for employees

  • Keeping knowledge and skills up to date.
  • The standard of professional qualifications and registrations is maintained.
  • Confidence and credibility are built and enhanced.
  • The ability to showcase their achievements with recognised qualifications.
  • Equips employees with the tools to cope positively to change.
  • Aids career progression.

Benefits for employers

  • Company standards are kept high and consistent.
  • By providing CPD training opportunities, work engagement and commitment is increased throughout the workforce.
  • Having a variety of employees undertake CPD, concurrently or over a period of time, allows the sharing of best practice and support.
  • CPD courses can be used as a benchmark for appraisals or any other staff progression.
  • Legal CPD requirements are met.

What counts as CPD for accountants?

A number of different activities count as CPD. These must be relevant to your current role or future career aspirations. An accountant will often need to complete a recommended number of structured CPD hours each year to maintain their membership within their professional body.

Structured CPD includes:

  • attending accountancy training courses
  • conferences
  • seminars
  • completing online courses.

Another type of CPD is reflective learning, which includes:

  • reading relevant accountancy industry updates
  • videos
  • webinars.

When planning your CPD and choosing activities, the most important thing to focus on is the relevance. Make sure what you’re learning is relevant to your role and your career ambitions.


What topics are covered as CPD for accountants?

CPD can cover a wide range of topics and those working in accounting and finance teams will need to keep their technical skills up to date. Professional development should also include management skills and personal development.

You can tailor your continuous professional development to your own goals by selecting topics that interest you and will aid your career growth. It's important to consider your interests and what topics would be helpful to your own professional development and career progression.

You should include new skills or areas that you want to learn. But, also consider your weaknesses and how they can be addressed through self directed learning.

Common CPD topics for accountants include:

  • Accounting
  • Auditing
  • Taxation
  • VAT
  • Financial Reporting
  • Corporate Finance
  • Payroll
  • Risk and Fraud
  • Excel and Data Analytics
  • Leadership
  • Technology and digital innovation
  • Regulatory and professional updates.


How many CPD units does an accountant need?

Typically the professional bodies that cover the accounting industry require their members to complete at least 40 units of CPD each year. One unit equates to one hour. This 40 hours must be made up from 20 hours verifiable (structured) CPD and 20 hours non-verifiable (non-structured) CPD.

If you’re working less than 770 hours a year, so around 17.5 hours a week, then you can do the part-time or semi-retired route. This means you will only need to do 19 hours of non-verifiable CPD.

The bodies say this will provide you with the skills needed for your job, and to help your career prospects. It also increases your productivity, confidence and credibility in the eyes of employers.

Keeping accurate records of the CPD courses covered and making an annual declaration is also essential.


What happens if you don't complete CPD hours?

Those who don't complete their CPD hours will need to let their professional body know as soon as possible. They may be eligible for a different route to achieve their CPD requirements or even a waiver. They still have to make an annual CPD declaration, but will need to state that they haven’t managed to complete their annual requirements.


Final thoughts

CPD is a vital process for finance professionals including accountants. It helps keep technical skills and knowledge up to date and provides opportunities to develop your career progression in new areas too.

A programme of CPD can be achieved by a number of different methods including courses, online learning, webinars and reading and is a valuable asset. You can structure your learning to suit your needs and choose the areas you want to develop or learn new skills in.

Meeting and reporting your progress with a CPD declaration allows you to meet the requirements of your professional body and provides reassurance for your clients.

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