Developing Together Social Work  Teaching Partnership

About Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Continuing Professional Development, often referred to as CPD, is the process of tracking and documenting the skills, knowledge and experience that you gain both formally and informally as you work, beyond any initial training. It’s a record of what you experience, learn and then apply. The term is generally used to mean a physical folder or portfolio documenting your development as a professional.

The terms ‘training’ and ‘development’ are often used interchangeably, though there is a distinction. Training tends to be formal and linear. It’s to do with learning how to do something specific, relating to skill and competence. Training can be as simple as using a PC application and as complex as learning how to be a pilot. Development is often informal and has a wider application, giving you the tools to do a range of things and relating to capability and competency. It involves progression from basic know-how to more advanced, mature or complex understanding.  Alternatively, it can be about widening your range of transferable skills like leadership, managing projects or organising information.

CPD is often a requirement of membership of a professional body; for example, Social Work England requires social workers to evidence their CPD in order to remain registered as a social worker. However, CPD can be useful in many other ways and allows you to:

  • provide an overview of your professional development to date
  • remind you of your achievements and how far you’ve progressed
  • direct your career and help you keep your eye on your goals
  • uncover gaps in your skills and capabilities
  • open up further development needs
  • provide examples and scenarios for a CV or interview
  • demonstrate your professional standing to clients and employers
  • help you with your career development or a possible career change.

When considering or recording CPD, you should include both formal and informal learning, for example:

  • learning from colleagues or shared learning from networking
  • reading about new technologies, new methods of working, legislative changes
  • shadowing or assisting an experienced colleague
  • insights and learning points from coaching and mentoring
  • reflections, insights and learning points from taking on a new responsibility
  • organisational or role change
  • temporary job swaps within the department/organisation
  • deputising or covering for colleagues
  • insights and lessons learned from mistakes
  • lessons learned from critical incidents or events

Make a note of any outcomes of each learning experience and what difference it has made to you, your colleagues, your students (if relevant) or your employer.

Social Work England

Continuing professional development (CPD) is an important part of Social Work England’s (SWE) professional standards, which aim to improve public safety and confidence in social work. It is the reflection and learning activity that social workers do throughout their career to maintain and improve their practice.

You should record at least one piece of CPD to meet SWE’s registration renewal requirements – four times a year would be good practice. The renewal period is between 1 September and 30 November every year. All social workers who want to continue to practise in England must renew their registration annually.

In this video, SWE shows you how to log in to your Social Work England online account and record CPD using the structured and unstructured forms.


  • Structured form: 2:42
  • Unstructured form: 4:15


Reference: Johnston, L., 2020. What Is Continuing Professional Development (CPD)?. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 17 September 2020].