But it’s not just about finding a course which fits the industry. When your professional career is at stake, what can you do to find out if the course you’ve chosen is the right one for you? It’s all about asking the right questions …
Before you even think about signing up for a particular CPD course, there are plenty of key questions to ask yourself to be sure you’re considering the right kind of courses:
What’s the bigger picture that this course is part of?
Career progression, greater professional knowledge or formal qualification to consolidate experience …knowing where you want the course to take you can be a key factor in identifying the steps which will take you there.
What subjects interest me?
Thinking both professionally and personally here will help you to identify core subjects which you might want to look explore.
What do I want to change, as a result of studying?
If you’re in a career rut but want to stay within your sector, undertaking CPD within your industry might change how you view your role and career and can open up new challenges as well as opportunities. Alternatively, if you’re in a career rut and looking for a complete career change, try to identify what direction you want this change to take, particularly whether it’s to establish yourself in a whole new industry or to improve your salary and prospects generally.
How much time can I commit to my studies and can I organise my time to fit it in?
Time questions have to be answered realistically because the difference between success in part-time study and failure in full-time study can often be down to fitting in the demands of the respective types of course. If you need to earn whilst you earn, part-time courses might be more realistic but again identify the practicalities of fitting this in alongside other responsibilities, such as family or additional limitations such as budget or access to courses.
How do I like to study?
If studying alongside others is something which brings out the best in your performance, then signing up to an in-venue course may offer you the best chance of success. However, if you prefer to study alone and without distraction for the most part, then online or distance learning may suit you better.
Once you’ve answered your own questions, you’ll be able to identify more readily the types of courses that may suit and be in a good position to look closely at what they are offering to see whether they align with what you’re looking for.
Starting to look into what the course involves, how it is delivered and what kind of qualifications are on offer is a great way to identify if the course is going to be the right one for what you need. Look closely at each of the possible courses and ask yourself …
How is the course delivered?
Full or part-time study? Distance learning or by attending for lectures, seminars and workshops, or is there a mixture? The answers to any of these questions may have an impact on what you decide.
How is the learning organised at a practical level?
This includes the time commitment for study as well as whether this involves travel, attending at venues, the routines and demands of the schedule and the demand for attending workshops etc. Look closely at the programme outline to help you find the information you need.
How up to date is the content?
Read up about the industry and consider the trends and requirements of the industry you want CPD for to see whether the course content includes any aspects which complement these. For example professional risk assessment which reflects current legislation is a significant requirement for the events industry, whilst digital technology is a rising trend, so does your proposed event management course include the latest training in these topics?
How is the course assessed?
Looking closely at the assessment schedule for your proposed courses can tell you a lot about the quality of the course and the standards of the qualification you’ll be earning. Whether your learning is going to be measured in exams or practical assessments, you need to know so that you’ll be able to plan, prepare for, commit to and cope with these. These aspects are important to check before you sign up and the provider should be happy to answer these questions.
Does the course offer enhanced career opportunities?
Courses which include instruction by industry experts or work placements with high profile companies can offer great networking opportunities. They also often work as a graduate pool for employers to pick prospective employees from, so have a good look at the programme of study to see if work placement opportunities are included.
Do the course activities appeal to my learning style?
If you learn best by doing and the main method of study for your chosen course is by reading about then applying theory, you may still be successful but you’ll find the course less enjoyable and your progress may well be slower than you’d like. Ask questions about how the learning content is delivered to see if it complements your learning style. It’s also important to do this if you have any additional learning needs or are feeling a bit overwhelmed about returning to study (for example if you’re re-training for a whole new career).
Finally, once you’ve interrogated the courses you’re interested in, it’s time to …
An early essential is to find out if the training provider has a good reputation, and also find out if it’s an industry specific provider.
It also helps to identify prospective employers and try to find out if they value the courses and qualifications run by this provider – much better to do this before you start, than spend a year studying for something from a provider that turns out to be less than well respected in the industry.
Does the training provider offer additional credentials and accreditations?
Research the training provider as well as the courses they run to see if their good reputation extends into actual accreditation. Accreditation by a well-known body helps not only to raise the profile and value of the provider but also for the courses they run. For example, Event Academy courses are fully accredited by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CMI), making them internationally recognised as leading qualifications in the events field.
Does the training provider offer robust student support services?
Reputable course providers should show empathy for the whole of what their students are trying to achieve – not just put them through a course and churn them out at the end. Training providers who offer enhanced student services such as career days and events, work placement opportunities and regular student support events are providers who have all aspects of their students’ continued success in mind.
Above all, a professional CPD provider will be able to show that they understand exactly where their course fits into your life, career and progress. They will endeavour to uphold that professional aspect of your development not only by the courses they offer, but by the outcomes that they deliver. Make a good match of these to the outcomes you desire and you’re well on the way to finding the right CPD course for you.