Why is Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Important in Accounting?

CPD, meaning ‘Continuing Professional Development’, refers to the vital learning and ongoing training that all accountants and bookkeepers need to complete to improve their skills, keep up to date with the latest trends, and maintain membership with their chosen professional accounting body.

CPD is important in accounting as it can help your career progression, ensure that you remain compliant, and improve your overall skill set. Although CPD is a great way of improving your accounting skills, it’s also a mandatory part of your accounting membership.

With professional accounting bodies like ICAEWACCACIMA, and AAT requiring their chartered accountants to complete CPD courses throughout the year, accountants like you need to keep on top of your CPD requirements and ensure that you always meet the minimum threshold each year.

In this article, we’ll look at the following topics:

  • Why accounting CPD is important
  • What are the minimum hours of required CPD
  • What are some key benefits of accountancy CPD training
  • How can you keep up to date with your accounting CPD

First, let’s discuss why CPD is so important in the accounting industry and how you can keep on top of your continuous professional development.

Why is CPD Important For Accountants?

CPD is vital for all accountants. Leaving aside the fact that all major accounting bodies require that you complete a minimum number of hours of CPD per year, accounting CPD can dramatically improve your skills and earning potential.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) defines continual professional development as activities that can strengthen your accounting skills, improve your professional credibility, and develop your understanding of financial ethics and accounting best practices.

CPD training can come in a variety of formats:

  • Completing projects
  • Listening to accounting podcasts
  • Watching webinars
  • Academic or professional qualifications
  • Internal and external training sessions
  • Online accounting courses
  • Work-based learning
  • Secondments
  • Receiving coaching sessions or mentorship
  • Mentoring or training other accountants
  • Learning from peers and colleagues
  • Accounting events
  • Practical training courses
  • Developing soft skills like leadership
  • Research
  • Discussion forums
  • Reading accounting journals and technical reports

Here are several reasons why you need to complete quality CPD courses regularly:

Keep Yourself Updated

Completing high-quality accounting CPD courses ensures that accountants like you remain updated about the latest regulations, requirements, and best practices within the accounting industry.

As a practising accountant, the last thing you want to do is give incorrect or outdated advice to a client or employer.

With this in mind, CPD courses are excellent ways of staying on top of the latest rules and confirming that your skills, methods, and processes align with what the industry expects of professional accountants in 2024.

Advance Your Career

CPD courses aren’t just there to fill your minimum hour requirements – they’re ideal for learning new skills and methods that you can instantly apply to your accounting role.

With most CPD courses, you get what you put in.

If you choose a CPD course that isn’t hosted by experts or a seminar that isn’t teaching you valuable, current information, what’s the point?

That’s why it’s critical to work with an accountancy CPD course provider that offers high-value, expert-led courses that provide relevant, actionable advice.

At White Horse Training, our CPD courses are ideal for practising accountants who genuinely want to learn new techniques, stay up to date with industry changes, and become experts in their field.

Not only will high-quality accounting CPD courses boost your professional development, but they will also prove to your employer that you’re serious about upskilling and contributing to the organisation.

These traits will put you on the fast track to promotions, bonuses, and long-term career progression.

Remain Compliant with Regulatory Standards

All accountants need to comply with regulatory accounting standards – breaching these regulations can result in severe punishments.

The ICAEW defines accounting regulatory standards as “authoritative statements of how particular types of transaction and other events should be reflected in financial statements” and explains that, without proper compliance, financial statements cannot be considered correct, fair, or true.

On top of this, AAT teaches accountants that there are five fundamental principles that all practising accountants need to follow to remain compliant and within regulations:

  1. Act with integrity
  2. Act with objectivity
  3. Act with professional competence and due care
  4. Act with confidentiality
  5. Remain professional at all times

Unethical or uncompliant accounting behaviour can result in financial errors, a damaged reputation, and in the worst cases, criminal charges.

Avoid all of these problems by regularly completing CPD courses and keeping up to date with the latest changes and best practices in the accounting industry.

Build Authority and Trust

Clients and companies are far more likely to trust your judgement as an accountant if you’re consistently completing CPD courses, frequently improving your skills, and maintaining your membership with a professional accounting body.

Accountants who do the bare minimum may find that companies and clients don’t trust their expertise as much.

On the other hand, an accountant who diligently completes their CPD requirements and showcases themselves as an expert in the field is far more likely to generate trust and loyalty from clients and customers.

How Many Hours of CPD Training Do You Need to Complete?

Although different accounting bodies have different requirements, all accounting associations recommend that you complete at least some CPD courses each year.

ICAEW – CPD Requirements

ICAEW (The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) have a strictly defined set of CPD requirements that every practising accountant needs to complete each year.

Depending on your specific category, you may be required to complete between 15 and 40 hours of continuous professional development to maintain your ICAEW membership and confirm that your accounting skills are relevant and reliable.

ICAEW strictly defines their categories – we’ve shared some of the most common CPD category criteria below, but accountants that are members of ICAEW should visit their website for a full, comprehensive list of criteria.

ICAEW’s official CPD categories from their website. View the original chart from ICAEW here.

Most practising accountants in Category 1 operating under an ICAEW membership will need to complete a minimum of 40 hours of CPD per year with at least 30 ‘verifiable hours’.

Verification methods could include certificates, video proof, project evidence, or written testimonies from course leaders and speakers.

ICAEW’s annual minimum CPD requirements. View the original chart from ICAEW here.

ACCA – CPD Requirements

Some accounting bodies like ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) require members to complete 21 units of ‘verified CPD’ and 19 units of ‘unverified CPD’ per year.

1 ‘unit’ is equivalent to 1 hour of CPD study, and accountants can ‘verify’ their CPD training sessions by providing attendance forms, certificates, evidence of completion, and evidence that the course was relevant to their career.

AAT – CPD Requirements

AAT uses a loosely defined CPD system without a hard minimum hour requirement. Instead, accountants who work with AAT are expected to adhere to their CPD guidelines and maintain a consistent level of high-quality CPD training.

Although AAT does not prescribe a specific number of recommended CPD hours per year, they conduct audits of members to ensure that they are completing CPD courses.

AAT recommends that accountants follow a four-step process to plan, do, review, and record their annual CPD training.

4-step accounting CPD plan recommended by AAT.

AAT measures CPD requirements not by the number of total hours but instead by the “outcomes and benefits that members derive from doing CPD” – for them, it’s all about “quality, not quantity”.

Summary of Accounting CPD and Why CPD Is Important

To summarise, it is extremely important for all practising accountants to continually improve their skills and complete vetted CPD courses to maintain their professional accounting membership.

With severe consequences for accountants who breach financial guidelines or provide inaccurate, outdated advice to a client or company, accountants like you need to keep on top of your annual CPD training to remain compliant.

Although compliance is a major factor, CPD training should also be done for its own sake. By completing high-quality CPD courses, you will develop your skills faster and can establish yourself as an industry expert. This will increase your client’s trust in your abilities and recommendations and can help to fast-track your professional career.

Different accounting bodies have different minimum annual CPD requirements. Make sure that you understand what your accounting body requires you to do each year to ensure that you don’t lose your professional membership.

Finally, CPD is critical for accountants of any skill level. It can be time-consuming and stressful to find high-quality CPD training that also provides documents and proof that you can use to ‘verify’ your CPD hours.

At White Horse Training, we’re run by accountants, for accountants. With over 40 years of accountancy experience, our courses are ideal for accountants of any level. View our CPD courses today.

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