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A New CPD System

John Talbot & Chris Eccles (Chartership Committee) set out the features of a new, simplified, less time-consuming scheme.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is changing!  We are introducing an improved system with a significantly reduced time requirement; featuring straight, unweighted hours (no longer weighted points-based); a much wider range of relevant CPD activities; a more structured ‘plan → act → reflect’ annual cycle, set within a longer (three to five year) Career Aspiration Plan cycle; and introducing user-friendly CPD reporting for smart devices, as well as computers, to facilitate easier and quicker recording of your CPD events.

CPD is now also a requirement for all Chartered Fellows, not just the more recently Chartered, Scrutineers and those aspiring to be Chartered.  The good news is that doing (and recording) CPD should now be less of a chore and (dare we say it?) even enjoyable!

The Society introduced Chartership in 1990 and has operated the same CPD system for Chartered Geologists and those working towards Chartership for many years.  Over this period, practice across all professional sectors has evolved and a review was overdue. 

This began in late 2015, with a comprehensive web-based survey of the present CPD arrangements of a wide range of professional bodies across the English-speaking world, in order to assess the existing GSL requirements for CPD in relation to current good practice.  A detailed paper presented the findings of this survey and made recommendations for an improved system.  Forty Chartered Fellows were asked for feedback, with a view to producing a new system in line with current best practice. 

CPD Activities

CPD is the systematic acquisition, maintenance, improvement and broadening of knowledge and skills, and the development of professional competence and personal qualities necessary for carrying out professional and technical duties throughout one’s working life.  A vital component of this process comprises tracking and documenting the skills, knowledge and experience that professionals gain, whether formally or informally and self-directed. 

CPD can involve any relevant learning activity beyond initial academic training.  It is a commitment to life-long learning, invaluable to all people across every professional segment of society.  There is now an expectation that all professionals must undertake and record CPD, regardless of their role, sector or level of responsibility.

CPD obligations are now common to all professions worldwide; it is no longer an optional extra to be undertaken according to the random needs or wishes of the individual or to meet some ill-defined, short-term organisational requirement.  Its recording is essential to demonstrate that the professional is indeed maintaining the necessary competencies, so that all parties are assured of this.  Planned and structured CPD is now vital for survival and prosperity in an increasingly litigious society and it has become particularly important to undertake high quality CPD in today’s fast-moving technological world, where knowledge is the key to success and the pace of change can soon make previous learning out-of-date.

Employers, professional bodies and academic institutions look for individuals to complete structured learning as part of career development and professional competence.  This continuous learning also helps to improve industries as a whole.  Performing effective CPD is a win-win for the individual, his or her clients, employer and profession, and the nation.


To justify the name, CPD needs to be a documented process; to be self-directed, driven by the professional needs of the individual, not those of his or her employer; to focus on learning from experience, reflective learning and review; to help the individual to set development goals and objectives; and to include both formal and informal learning.

There are no fixed or standard approaches to continuing professional development training and learning, but outcomes of CPD learning should always be clearly apparent, applicable and relevant to the individual.  CPD combines different learning methodologies, focused on individual improvement.  Professionals should maintain a CPD record of their learning and update it with the details of each CPD event.  CPD is a personal commitment and each individual should determine what they wish to learn and what they aspire to achieve in terms of their career development.  The great majority of people undertake CPD on technical and business related issues that have a day-to-day bearing on their work.  It is thus perceived as being highly pragmatic and relevant.

kjh To maximise benefit from CPD, Fellows should embody recursive or reflective practice as a framework for their learning process.  In its simplest form, the three-stage cycle (termed an Experiential or Brathay learning cycle) of recursive CPD practice is represented as a plan → act → reflect cycle (left), frequently termed a ‘personal development plan’, or ‘PDP cycle’ and is normally conducted on an annual (or sometimes a bi-annual) basis.


At the beginning of each year, one’s personal needs for CPD should be evaluated in relation to current and planned professional activities, as required by many employers’ management schemes.  At the end of the year, a review and reflection should be made on the extent to which planned CPD objectives have been achieved.  The conclusions should then be recorded and analysed as an input to planning CPD needs for the following year.


‘What CPD to do’ will depend on an individual’s job and their personal circumstances and professional ambitions, but in simple terms the answer is anything that adds to their relevant skills, knowledge and experience is deemed to constitute CPD.

Geologists are employed in a very varied range of jobs and at all levels of responsibility, and it is recognised that their continuing learning needs will be equally varied.  The range of subjects that could, in principle, be included in a CPD programme is almost limitless.  However, it is recommended that geologists may need to undertake CPD in the following general areas, in order to develop their expertise on a broad front:

  1. developing technical knowledge, experience and skills in their current field;
  2. broadening technical knowledge, experience and skills into fields parallel to their own, thus enabling them to move into another job should the desire, need or opportunity arise;
  3. acquiring non-technical knowledge, experience and skills, such as: Business practice; Management techniques; Communication and presentational skills; Legal aspects (Health & Safety, Environmental, Employment); Finance; Languages, etc., thus preparing them to assume wider or greater responsibilities when the opportunities arise.

The new system sets out six main categories of activities identified for CPD: ‘Formal learning’; ‘Informal learning’; ‘On-the-Job learning’; ‘Professional practice’; ‘Self-directed study’, and ‘Other’.  Each category contains a number of sub-categories and activity types.  The range of possible activities is illustrated in the form of a ‘Mind Map’, (Figure 2), below.  This listing is not wholly exhaustive; there may be other valid activities that Fellows might offer as CPD.




Table 1 provides a comparison between old and proposed new activity areas under which CPD can be categorised.  Because an attempt is being made to classify and group a wide range of diverse things, it is necessarily an artificial and imperfect grouping; there are other equally valid ways of ‘slicing the cake’.

Table 1 Comparison between Old and Proposed New CPD Activity Categories

New System’s CPD Activities

Old System’s CPD Activities


CPD category

CPD category


  • post-qualification academic study
  • academic research
  • developing/organising/attending courses
  • foreign language study

formal learning

Enhancing and maintaining skills and knowledge

  • formal learning (tested)
  • formal learning (untested)
  • informal learning
  • self-directed study
  • preparing/presenting training material
  • sharing knowledge and skills with others
  • job secondment
  • attendance at technical meetings
  • watching training films & tv

informal learning

  • contributing to knowledge
  • helping younger professionals
  • literature reviews and case studies
  • networking
  • expert witness
  • formal role in learned and professional bodies

professional practice

Acquiring knowledge and skills by deployment

  • professional practice
  • developing technical skills
  • private studies
  • reflective CPD practice

self-directed study

  • management
  • active participation in meetings
  • work shadowing
  • participating in webinars

on the job learning

  • developing business skills
  • strategic thinking
  • working groups
  • promoting geology to non-professionals
  • preparing and leading field courses and excursions
  • volunteering


Participating in the geoscience community

  • non-work activities
  • contributing to knowledge

How much to do

The amount of CPD that an individual carries out will vary throughout a career, more or different types of CPD becoming necessary as roles and responsibilities change.  The Society’s former system set out a minimum number of points to be achieved, based on a system of weighting hours spent on different activities.  The new CPD system is based on unweighted hours. 

While there is no upper limit to the amount undertaken in any year, there is a minimum requirement of 90 hours per annum for those in full time employment.  CPD in excess of the minimum (up to but not exceeding 20% - 18 hours) may be carried forward to the next year.

CPD is to be recorded over at least 3 different categories with at least 70% of this focused on career development and skills enhancement associated with work, and with half of this (ie, 35% of the total) in the ‘On-the-Job learning’ category.  The other 30% may either continue the focused programme or can be opportunistic or used for broadening knowledge of the geosciences overall.  Fellows who are retired or not in work for any reason have different required minimum amounts of CPD, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2 – Minimum Amounts of Annual CPD for Chartered Fellows in Various States of Work

Work Status of Fellow

Min annual CPD, total hr

Min total CPD hr (%) in On-the-job learning

Max annual carry-over of excess % (hr)

Early career (pre-Chartership) Fellows

≥ 90

32 (35%)

≤ 20% (18h)

All Fellows in full time employment, or on sabbatical leave

≥ 90

32 (35%)

≤ 20% (18h)

All Fellows in part time employment (eg, work sharing)

≥ 50

18 (35%)

≤ 20% (10h)

All Fellows on extended leave (carers, parental leave, prolonged illness, etc) (but with special pre-arranged GSL dispensation, 50% of these hours may exceptionally be allowed)

≥ 40

≥ 0

≤ 20% (8h)

Retired Fellows offering occasional professional services or who wish to retain their chartered status, and unemployed Fellows

≥ 50

≥ 0

≤ 20% (10h)

Retired Fellows not offering professional services or who do not wish to retain their chartered status


≥ 0


Who should do it

Previously, the Society recommended that all professional geologists undertake CPD, but only required Fellows with CSci or EurGeol, those aspiring to Chartership and those having gained CGeol since 2011 to do so and to submit CPD records.  When reviewing CPD requirements of other professional institutions it was found that all of them required all of their chartered professionals to carry out CPD.  Therefore, in line with these other institutions, the Society now requires that all of our Chartered Fellows perform CPD.

We also recommend that all professionally active Fellows - irrespective of whether or not they are Chartered - should also carry out CPD, as this helps to demonstrate compliance with the Code of Professional Conduct (Regulation R/FP/07).


We have endeavoured to produce a revitalised and improved CPD system for Fellows which is easier to use.  Later this year, the online CPD recording system will be relaunched on this website, as part of wider improvements to the ‘My GSL’ area.  We also plan to provide an electronic career portfolio of personal and professional data and records, to complement and supplement those for CPD.


More information, downloads and regulations are available at