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Professional development: overview

Learning material

Updated: 26 Jul 2023 Update History

This element of the ACA will give you the skills to handle a variety of situations throughout your career. ICAEW Chartered Accountants are widely known for their professionalism. They know how to spot and communicate risks and provide interventions. They also know how to adapt to changing circumstances and engage with technology.

Professional development skills

During your ACA training, you are required to demonstrate your competence across seven professional skills areas (also known as ladders). Each area or ladder contains six to eight steps, each representing a skill. You will develop these skills within the exams and the workplace. You will keep a track of your progress with each skill you develop within your online training file and discuss this with your employer or principal at each six-monthly review.

Many of the skills are linked to ethics and the Case Study exam, 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 you are ready to take the final exam.

Your professional development framework

The seven professional developments skills you will follow are shown within your online training file and include: 

  1. Adding value
  2. Communication
  3. Decision making
  4. Ethics and Professionalism
  5. Problem solving
  6. Teamwork
  7. Technical competence

Your professional development log

You will follow one of two paths to log your professional development, either:

  1. ICAEW professional development ladders; or
  2. Your employer’s professional development training.

If in doubt, your QPRT, Councellor 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 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.

Tips for updating your training file

  • You need to provide specific examples from your day-to-day work experience to show how you have met each of the 52 professional development skills.
  • Block out 15-30 minutes in your diary each month and use this time to review the skills you have demonstrated at work over the last four weeks.
  • Critically review each example and check that they describe the situation you faced, action you took and a positive outcome as a result of your action.
  • Record each skill within your training file, and include feedback from your QPRT, counsellor or principal. Make sure you use complete and structured sentences when adding the feedback. You must not use generic responses such as ‘agreed’ or ‘completed’.
  • Before your six-monthly review you should also identify any outstanding skills that you cannot yet demonstrate. This will enable you to have a productive conversation with your employer about your development over the remainder of your training agreement.
  • Your progress through the skills should mirror your time in training. We suggest you complete 8-9 new skills for every six-monthly review meeting.
  • Ensure you have acquired all the skills before you attempt the ACA Advanced Level Case Study exam.
  • More hints and tips when recording and documenting your professional development.

Six-monthly reviews

It is a requirement of the ACA training agreement that you and your employer meet at least every six months. These meetings are to discuss and monitor your progress on professional development, ethics and professional scepticism, practical work experience and exams. It is your responsibility to update your records within your online training file.

The six-monthly review guide for students gives more information and guidance on how to prepare for a six-monthly review, the topics to cover during a review and how to submit your training file at the end of your training agreement.

Resources for your professional development

More resources to help you excel at the professional development element of your training can be found here.