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Career breaks and professional development

If you are taking a career break, whether to:

  • raise a family
  • travel round the world
  • look after a sick or elderly relative

or for any other reason, the time, resources and normal professional development opportunities are potentially limited. The RTPI's definition of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is deliberately wide to allow members considerable discretion in selecting the forms of professional development activity most suited to their current circumstances.

If you are considering taking a career break, careful preparation or revision of your Professional Development Plan (PDP) is essential. This will enable you to focus your limited time and resources on the type of professional development activity which interests you and may be already your specialist area.

Maintaining your membership and CPD obligation

There is no need to resign your membership if you are able to satisfy the normal requirements of the Institute's CPD obligation for members. You are required to participate in professional development activity for up to 50 hours over a two-year period, and you will see below that we have provided ways in which members can do this while not in their usual workplace. If you decide to resign your membership and wish to be reinstated later, you are required to provide evidence of professional development activity of 50 hours over the previous two years in any case.

You will also need to undertake professional development activity during your career break in order to maintain and indeed enhance your personal marketability and to keep up to date with changes in your professional field.

CPD is not, of course, just about going on courses. Structured reading on particular themes or topics, meeting needs identified in your PDP, is every bit as valuable. This could even be a structured approach to updating yourself during your break. Some examples of such an approach are:

  • Use of the Planning index and/or website to structure your reading of past issues of the journal to keep yourself updated on relevant issues.
  • Using the Internet to read reports of the Planning Summer School proceedings and to research many other topical issues.
  • The reading of books on relevant issues (if your local library does not hold such material they will be able to order it from a neighbouring library for you).

If you are taking a career break for caring reasons and are an RTPI member, you may be eligible for discounts and/or a carers allowance for RTPI conferences and Branch events. Contact your RTPI Nation or English Region CPD Co-ordinator or RTPI Conferences for further information.

Local and regional activities

You might prefer to go out to attend a local course or seminar and to network with local professionals. Contact your local college or university and ask them for details of their short courses (or longer courses, if you wish). These will tend to relate to the updating or learning of new generic skills such as management, communication, presentation, IT etc. Most colleges have creche or nursery facilities but you will need to book these well in advance. If you have a planning school in your area, you might be interested in attending some of the lectures or modules.

Don't forget your local RTPI Region or Nation. Find out what events are being run. Some RTPI Regions & Nations may have carers' funds. Details will be available from your RTPI Regional or National CPD Co-ordinator. You might also be interested in undertaking Planning Aid work, some of which may count as professional development activity.

Finally, the local press is a very useful source of information about local courses. You may have a business supplement published regularly throughout the year. You will find details of local, low-cost courses advertised in such publications.

Distance learning

Distance courses may lead to a qualification or may be simply for used for training and developmental purposes. The Open University offers a wide range of courses, including many on environmental issues, and there are many other training providers offering distance learning courses.

Other resources

Your local library and learndirect, the Government's lifelong learning initiative providing wide-ranging accessible learning material, could offer further opportunities for CPD activity.

International travel breaks

Many planners take career breaks to undertake international travel. If you do this, you should review your PDP in order to re-address your CPD objectives. You should consider:

  • The learning experience you will gain via your travel and your study of other countries and their approach to planning.
  • Your ability to keep up to date on planning issues at home whilst away. This could be by way of structured reading of Planning and other relevant journals.

Returning to work

If you are thinking of leaving professional employment for a period of time, you may not know where you will work when you return and what skills you will require. You could try to keep up to date on general areas of planning, concentrating on the key competencies and modules from your planning course. Researching the employment market, preparing your CV and preparing for interviews could also constitute CPD. If you are travelling, comparative study as suggested above can also provide a valuable source of CPD.

Providing Planning Advice

You might want to consider providing freelance planning advice. This would enable you to earn an income and keep your knowledge and skills up to date. Further information on consultancy can be found on the starting in private practice area of our website.   

Further information and assistance

If you would like further information on career breaks and your obligation to membership, please contact the Education and Lifelong Learning Department on 07815 296 095 or e-mail