How to plan your accountancy CPD

  • Person icon Mercia Group
  • Calendar icon 26 September 2022 15:37
Closeup of a notepad open on a persons lap whilst they're are sat watching a conference.

Have you ever wondered what the purpose of continuing professional development (CPD) is or best to how to plan your accountancy CPD?

In this blog we will look at what CPD is and examine what the benefits are to those working within the accounting industry. We will look at how methods including structured CPD, courses, self-guided research, conferences, seminars and webinars can all help you stay ahead of the requirements for CPD.

We will also look at how to make a strong plan and carry out your CPD requirements throughout the year in order to maximise the benefit for your career and business.

Key Highlights

  • What is CPD, what are the benefits and how can it be undertaken.
  • How CPD relates to professional accountants and how it can develop their technical skills.
  • What are the topics and courses that are most appropriate for the accountancy profession.
  • How to plan and undertake CPD studies for accountants.
  • How to put your CPD into practice.
  • Measuring the success of CPD activities and sharing them with colleagues.


On this page:

What is CPD?

Why do accountants have to do CPD?

What CPD topics can accountants do?

Introducing 7 stage CPD cycle


What is CPD?

CPD stands for Continuing Professional Development. It is the term commonly used by professionals for the learning activities they engage in to develop and enhance their abilities throughout their careers. CPD should be planned and undertaken as a holistic approach towards the enhancement of personal skills and proficiency throughout the lifespan of your .

CPD encourages professionals to look forward and identify opportunities to improve their skills or learn new ones, refresh their existing knowledge and stay 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 studying new aspects of a job.

The aim of CPD is that learning should become conscious and proactive process. However, it is imperative that the individual thoroughly documents and keeps an accurate record of the CPD hours they undertake throughout their career. Professionals must also ensure they partake in a minimum number of hours or points of CPD annually to maintain their skills at the necessary levels.

This can be achieved through a combination of different activities, including training courses, seminars, workshops, conferences and events, webinars, research and online e-learning programmes. CPD can also include sharing best practice techniques, thoughts and ideas.

CPD is an ongoing process of frequently improving skills and competencies. Ultimately, it is a commitment to ongoing lifelong learning.


Why do accountants have to do CPD?

Accountancy CPD combines different methodologies such as CPD seminars, training workshops and accountancy CPD online courses for an accountant to improve their skills. The accountancy industry together with its professional bodies has long had a structured and recognised approach to CPD.

Engaging in CPD ensures that accountancy qualifications do not become out-dated or obsolete. It allows chartered accountants to continually ‘up skill’ or ‘re-skill’ themselves, regardless of age or educational level.

The UK’s accountancy professional bodies often set yearly CPD requirements for their members. CPD requirements for accountants are typically around 20 to 30 hours of learning every year in order to maintain professional membership.


What CPD topics can accountants do?

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 CPD 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 CPD and career progression.

You should include new skills or areas that you want to learn before you search for topics. 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.


Introducing 7 stage CPD cycle

The CPD cycle is a cyclical process and your learning is continuously evolving. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) have outlined a seven-stage cycle to help accountants other finance professionals to make the most of their continuing professional development.

This involves going through the CPD process systematically to ensure that personal objectives are set properly and met by the learning cycle. Below we look at the seven stages of the CPD cycle.


Stage 1: Identify learning objectives

When starting your CPD journey, it is recommended that you start with the ‘Identify’ stage in order to gain perspective and ask yourself fundamental questions. These can be based on your either personal or your business needs, or both, they can include:

  • Where am I on my career path?
  • Where do I want my career to go?
  • What business objectives do I need to meet?
  • What skills am I currently lacking?

Answering these questions should help you map your capability against and pinpoint gaps in your knowledge and behaviours.  Once you have successfully identified your objectives you should be able to make a CPD plan that advances your overall career progression.

Stage 2: Plan your learning actions

The planning stage can be started at any point throughout the year, but you may find it useful to align it with your annual development or performance review. 

It is vital to identify the training providers that can help you reach your potential. The reputation of these providers will be a factor, as will the quality and types of training they offer.

Providers should be able to offer a mix of structured CPD requirements and unstructured learning opportunities that can help build your technical knowledge, as well as further guidance around CPD courses.

To help you achieve these goals Mercia provides a range of different online courses and face-to-face training. Please search our website for further information and guidance on the right ones for you.


Stage 3: Action your learning plan

Your CPD plan will include a mixture of keeping up to date with your area of expertise, learning about the external environment and developing new skills. 

It is imperative that you prepare properly and are ready for your CPD activities.

Make sure your diary is updated with time blocked out in your schedules. Try to remain focussed during training sessions and block out any potential distractions. Switch off your phone if possible and make sure your 'out of office' is on.


Stage 4: Reflect on your learning

After training sessions, reflect on what you learnt. Learning reflection is a proven way to help embed your learning and enhance your professional practice. 

Ask questions like:

  • Did you get out the session what you wanted?
  • How can the learning help advance your career progression?

These will help you consider what you’ve learned and how that could have a wider positive impact in your business. The answers will show how you have developed and changed as a result of your learning, which is part of everyone's continuing professional development.


Stage 5: Implement your learning

For CPD to be worthwhile once you have completed the courses, you must apply your new knowledge and training in your work. opportunities where you can continually revisit learning through application will ensure the benefits are long lasting. This might mean starting a new project at work, volunteering for new challenges outside your comfort zone or simply a case of continually seeking feedback from those you work with.


Stage 6: Share your learning

Sharing your knowledge so that others in your network or business may feel the benefits.

Sharing learning is a great way to collaborate with others, build networks and exchange ideas.

You can use social media to share how effective certain training has been and will always find communities on LinkedIn, Twitter or other platforms. But whether you use social media, blogging platforms or even collaborative learning tools, it’s a great way to showcase yourself to employers or clients and take control of your online identity.

Of course, you can also share offline. There’s a wealth of opportunities to do so through our branch network and special interest groups, or via conferences and industry exhibitions throughout the year.


Stage 7: Measure impact of your learning

It is important to identify when your learning has had a positive impact

You should focus on how you’ve actually applied this new learning and how this supports you, your team and/or organisation. Ideally these will be measurable outcomes e.g., how and what have you done to improve services, reduce costs, increase revenue, save time, etc.

It can also be helpful to evaluate progress against the objectives you set at the beginning of the year. To help you along, it's important to take the time to reflect upon your experience through each of the cycle stages. Some questions you might want to ask yourself are:

  • How have I applied this this learning at work?
  • What was the impact of this learning on my team and my organisation?
  • Am I completing work quicker?
  • Have I improved the service provided to clients?
  • What lessons can I take from this experience?

These questions will help identify which learning objectives have been successful, and which need more development.


Final Thoughts

CPD is essential for chartered accountants. It enables them to keep their professional skills sharp and industry knowledge up to date. It also helps maintain membership of the professional accounting bodies and gives reassurance to clients.

However, planning CPD activities carefully, undertaking them diligently and implementing the results in your current role is fundamental if the process of continuing professional development is to be worthwhile.

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