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Professional development FAQs

Frequently asked questions about professional development.

What is professional development?

ICAEW Chartered Accountants are known for their professionalism and expertise. Professional development is an essential component of the ACA qualification as it prepares you to successfully handle a variety of situations that you will encounter throughout your career.

You will be required to demonstrate professional skills in your exams and within the workplace.

Professional development is made up of seven key topics, also known as ‘ladders’, which you will work your way through while training for the ACA.

Each ladder represents a theme, or related set of skills. Where you start and how fast you progress up each ladder is flexible and will be managed by your employer. The seven ladders are:

  1. Communication
  2. Team working
  3. Decision making
  4. Consideration
  5. Adding value
  6. Problem solving
  7. Technical competence

Each ladder contains seven or eight steps, each representing a skill. You are required to demonstrate each skill by providing an example from your practical work experience. Guidance is given to show the type of skill required, and a sample response is also provided.

How do I record my professional development progress?

If you are following the ICAEW professional development ladders, you will record and maintain your progress via your online training file within the professional development tab.

Within this tab, you will see seven ladders on the right hand side of this screen. Halfway down the page you can select one of the seven skills. Within each skill there are goals, when you have demonstrated you have met one or more of these goals you can use the ‘Add’ button to provide evidence. Some skills are related to your ethical progress or the skills which relate to the Case Study exam, your progress with these are clearly shown on this screen.

Where you start and how fast you progress within each ladder is flexible and will be managed by your employer. At each six-monthly review, your employer will review your professional development progress. They will provide feedback on the steps you have achieved and clarify further development. If they are satisfied with your examples you can confirm this achievement within your online training file.

How often should I record my professional development progress?

You should record your progress regularly – and discuss your professional development progress (along with your practical work experience, ethics and professional scepticism and exams progress) at your six-monthly reviews with your employer or principal. You must make sure that you have all your records up to date and your progress is agreed with your employer or principal.

Whichever professional development scheme you are following, you should build your professional development skills throughout your training – don’t leave it to the end.

Can my employer or principal view my professional development progress?

Yes. Your employer or principal can access your online training file at any time to view your progress.

Is professional development linked to the exams?

Many of the skills within each ladder are linked to the Case Study and ethics, so we recommend that all steps within each ladder are completed before you attempt the Case Study exam. When you have attempted all ACA exams, and only have the Case Study to attempt, your employer will be able to review your professional development progress to evaluate whether they you are ready to take the final exam.

My organisation has their own professional skills development programme. Do I have to complete that and the ICAEW scheme too?

As an ACA student, you will either follow ICAEW’s professional development ladders or complete your employer’s professional development training programme.

If in doubt, your employer or principal will be able to advise you which path you are on. The good news is, whichever path you’re on, you can access the ICAEW professional development resources available.

If you are following the ICAEW professional development ladders, you will record and maintain your progress via your online training file within the professional development tab.

What resources are available to help me to develop my professional skills?

We provide a variety of resources to support your professional development.

  • Check out our live monthly webinars, designed to help you build some of the key skills you will need to be more effective in the workplace. Sign up at icaew.com/acawebinars
  • All of our webinars are available for you to watch on demand. You will find them saved under each professional development ladder, along with a host of useful articles to support your learning. Visit icaew.com/listenagain
  • We’ve developed a series of pep talks to help support you on everything from developing assertiveness to adding value in the workplace. Perfect if you’ve got a spare 10 minutes. Visit icaew.com/peptalk
  • Keep an eye out for our quarterly student magazine, Vital, which features articles and top tips from professional development experts. Read the online magazine at icaew.com/vital
How do I prepare for my six-monthly review?

You will review your professional development progress with your employer as part of your six-monthly reviews. It is your responsibility for completing and updating your professional development log, as well as organising your six-monthly reviews with your employer.

Before your six-monthly review update your professional development tab in your online training file with specific examples of how you have met the steps within each ladder. This means that you can discuss your professional development progress with your employer or principal at the six-monthly review.

What is discussed at my six-monthly review?

During your six-monthly review, show your employer or principal all your work-based examples that you have already added within your professional development tab. If they agree that you have demonstrated that skill within the last six months, you can then enter the feedback your employer or principal provides and tick the ‘Did you achieve it?’ box. You then need to click save so that step of the ladder is signed off as complete.

Do I or my employer sign off my professional development progress?

At the end of your training agreement, you will need to have completed the professional development requirement of the ACA. You employer or principal will sign off your online training file to approve your practical work experience, professional development and ethics. This confirms that you are ready to become an ICAEW member.

What happens if I don’t complete the professional development requirement of the ACA before the end of my training agreement? Can I complete it at a later date?

You must complete the professional development requirement of the ACA during your training agreement period.

It is important that your professional development progress is discussed with your employer or principal at each six-monthly review. This ensures that all aspects of the ACA are monitored and completed in a timely manner.

I’m still following the Initial Professional Development programme. What do I need to do?

If you started your ACA training agreement before July 2013 and you are following the Initial Professional Development (IPD) programme requirements.

To complete the IPD requirement, please complete your IPD sign off process by downloading either the IPD declaration form A or IPD declaration form B. If you have entered information in to the online sign off process up to 1 July 2015, this will be captured and saved. However, if you still have IPD stages to complete after 1 July 2015, please submit this information using one of the declaration forms.