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Creating a Professional Development Plan

Do you have a current professional development plan in place or are you typically rushing to earn CPE credits before your license renewal deadline?

The best way to ensure you are making the most of continuing education is through professional development planning, an often-overlooked and under-practiced activity. As a professional, consider integrating a professional development plan into all stages of your career planning. As CPAs, once we earn our license, we commit to lifelong learning. Many of us have the first few years of our professional development courses mapped out for us, but ultimately each of us are responsible for determining what we need to learn and for managing our own CPE activity. We must take part in webinars, conferences, or course work to meet these mandatory CPE requirements. However, beyond the requisite credit hours, what we focus on and learn is entirely up to us.

The creation of your professional development plan will allow you to explore a variety of learning and developmental opportunities available on-the-job, online, or in a group setting, to help you progress from your current position to where you want to be in the future. To be effective, take into account your individual learning style and preferences. Be creative when developing your plan and consider learning opportunities beyond the traditional classroom setting to help you meet your objectives.

Questions to Help You Get Started

  • Where are you now in relation to your career objectives?
  • What skills are important for maintaining or increasing the quality of your performance in your current role?
  • Where would you like to see yourself in two, five, ten years’ time? How will you get there?
  • Are you interested in developing a new service line or process improvement at your firm?
  • What new skills do you need to develop to help your organization meet its strategic goals?
  • What new expertise and skills does your firm want you to learn?
  • What experience, training, development, and education will you need? Who or what can help you with this?
  • What measures can you put in place to ensure that you know when you have achieved what you set out to achieve?

A well-developed plan will help you to identify specific learning needs, based on expectations of your current job, performance reviews, input from a manager, professionalism, and career aspirations. The next step is to meet those needs. And remember that professional development is a continuing process of assessment, analysis, action, and review.  Update your plan each year and with any job change.

Tips to Build Your Learning Plan

  • Identify any mandatory learning requirements. This will include the CPE requirements for your license or credentials and perhaps training for a new job.
  • Assess your current skills and competencies.
  • Identify learning needs in terms of skills, knowledge and experience you must develop in order to achieve your desired career goals.
  • Identify appropriate learning activities. When defining these, be sure they are clear, detailed and specific. For example, state the actual course or conference you would like to attend.
  • Build your Professional Development calendar around one key reoccurring training event (e.g. CPAs involved with employee-sponsored benefit plans should attend the AICPA Conference on Employee Benefit Plans each year).

Download this sample professional development plan worksheet to help you obtain your CPE goals.

Michael Ramos, Director of CPE and Training, American Institute of CPAs. Mike sets the strategic direction and manages operations of the professional development business unit at the AICPA. He combines his understanding of technical audit and accounting issues with his communication skills and experience to advance AICPA CPE offerings. He is the author of many books and training courses on SOX 404, internal control and other auditing matters.

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