CPD and Searching for courses

Professional development for revalidation purposes or to help with your career 

You may need to find courses for short term goals, such as maintaining your practice and meeting your revalidation requirements, or for longer term goals such as furthering your career or changing career direction.

The RCN can't tell you which courses to take, but this page can point you in the right direction

Searching for courses to maintain your practice

Different examples of participatory CPD activities

Participatory CPD isn't just limited to courses or study days, and there are actually lots of ways to meet your quota. Have a look at the NMC guidance for some more examples and ideas.

Examples of courses and CPD activities

We've put together a list of possible CPD activities such as free e-learning, online courses and training resources, as well as including some websites where you can search for courses and learning modules in  your area or specialism. (Please note, this page is for RCN members only.)

Your local University

Contact your local university or college and ask for information about study days, short courses, and discuss how they might be able to meet your learning needs. You may be able to complete modules or units that would usually form part of a diploma or degree programme.

Your employer or agency

If you're employed, ask your manager or learning coordinator about learning opportunities. If you're doing agency work, then your agency may provide courses and training or be able to recommend providers.

Your local RCN branch

Contact your local branch to enquire about local CPD opportunities and events. Most RCN branches organise free learning activities, or can look at putting together future learning activities if there's enough interest.

Learning reps / Practice Education Facilitators

There may be a RCN learning rep or Practice Education Facilitator within your workplace. They may be able to support you with your learning and development in a number of ways, such as facilitating CPD in your workplace, helping you negotiate your learning or study time with your employer, exploring ways to plug any knowledge gaps you might have, signposting and providing information, keeping you up to date with learning opportunities, or organising events such as seminars, study days and workshops with employers or local branches. .

If you don't have a RCN Learning rep or Practice Education Facilitator in your workplace, contact RCN Direct to get advice on where we might be able to signpost you, or whether to refer you to your local RCN office if appropriate.

RCN accredited resources 

Click here for a list of resources (e.g. events, training, courses, workshops, e-learning, etc.) that have been accredited by the RCN for following comprehensive educational principles. 

RCN forums and facebook groups

RCN forums are professional networks based on an area or specialty of nursing. Join for free and then access your forum's Facebook group, a space where you can engage with your peers for advice and support, or discuss CPD opportunities, courses, qualifications or recommendations.

The CPD and Lifelong Learning Principles

The Principles are important for everyone working in a health and social care setting where practicing safely and effectively, now and in the future, is essential.

The five principles are that CPD and lifelong learning (LLL) should:

  • be each person’s responsibility and be made possible and supported by employers
  • benefit service users
  • improve the quality of service delivery
  • be balanced and relevant to each person’s area of practice or employment
  • be recorded and show the effect on each person’s area of practice.

Find out more about how they can help you get the best out of your CPD and LLL opportunities here.

Searching for courses to progress within your career

You may want to explore courses for longer term goals, such as developing and progressing within your existing career or changing career direction altogether.

We often get queries from members asking us to recommend courses, or ask us what we think would be the best course to take. Unfortunately, we're unable to advise on this. 

The "best course" depends on what you as an individual are looking for, and only you will be able to judge whether it will be right for you, your lifestyle, your skill set and your ambitions.

Finding the best course for your career

In order to find the best course for you and your career, you'll need to do some careful research.

Look online

If you need inspiration, have a browse of different nursing courses on the Postgraduate Search website, filtering by the clinical area you're interested in. Remember, you may just be able to do an individual module from a diploma or degree programme.

Study job adverts 

Study job adverts for the types of roles (or level of roles) you're aspiring to work in. Pay attention to the Person Specification and Job Description, as sometimes these outline the courses or qualifications that are deemed essential or desirable for the role. You may also be able to identify skills or knowledge gaps and consider which courses you could do to bridge them. 

Don't be afraid to contact the nominated manager, recruitment department or employer for more information on what they'd be looking for in a suitable candidate.

Contact Universities

You could also contact your local university or college to get information and advice about the different courses they run, explore any learning goals, or discuss the possibility of crediting prior learning. You can find out about course content, fees and funding options. You'll also usually be able to get in contact with  the course leaders or tutors if you want more in depth information. 

RCN forums

The RCN has a number of forums in various areas and specialities of nursing. Each forum has its own RCN member only facebook group, which you can request to join. Here you can connect and engage with your peers on a variety of issues, and could ask for advice about courses in your desired field, or seek recommendations or ideas.

Use your network

Use your contacts or network with other healthcare workers to get advice and recommendations. This may be a good time to organise an informal visit.

Speak to your employer

Speak to your employer about development, progression and courses. There may already be career pathways in place within your workplace or opportunities you could be put forward for. Alternatively, you may want to make a business case for yourself.


Once you've got some ideas, you can start to consider whether the course or desired career path will fit in with your values, objectives and of course, your lifestyle.

You may need to consider what opportunities the course would open up for you, when would be the right time for you to pursue it, how you'd fund it if necessary, or how you'd balance it around your life, work, or family.

How could a Career Coach help?

Our Career Coaches can't tell you which courses you should take, or provide you with a "list of courses."

However if you're researching courses because you want to progress within your existing field or want to change direction, a Coach can help you explore this, taking into account how your plans will impact you, and how they fit in with your values, interests, skill set, capability, or desired work life balance.

To find out more about booking a session with a Career Coach, and whether coaching would benefit you, please visit our page on Career Coaching.

Finding a course checklist

Search and browse for courses:

Postgraduate Search (postgraduate study) 

Prospects  (postgraduate study)

The Open University (distance learning courses)

APL, "top ups," dual registration and returning to practice


Accreditation for Prior Learning (APL)

Accreditation for Prior Learning (APL) is a process by which you can gain credit(s) towards another qualification, meaning you could complete the programme in a shorter amount of time and avoid having to revisit any learning you've already acquired. APL can be:

  • Certificated (APCL) - Where credit is given for previous learning which has been formally assessed, and for which a certificate has been awarded
  • Experiential (APEL) - Where credit is given for knowledge and skills which have been developed through experience, e.g. work, voluntary, self directed study. 

Each university will have different rules and processes regarding APL, so contact them directly for further advice. 

Second registration / Dual registration

If you’re a nurse and wish to register in a second field of nursing (adult, child, learning disability or mental health), then you should speak with your local university (or a university of your choice) for more details. Different universities have different processes regarding this, but depending on the circumstances, you may only be required to study for as little as a year.

Second registration midwifery courses

Second registration midwifery programmes are also provided through some universities with a nursing and midwifery department. Speak to universities directly for more information and advice. 

Top-up degrees

If you have a diploma in nursing but want to "top-up," to degree level, then you should speak directly with universities for further advice.

Some universities offer specific nursing top-up degree courses. In other cases the university can advise you on gathering modules in order to build upon existing qualifications and obtain degree level. Each university may have different rules and options, so it's advisable to speak to several if possible.

Enrolled nurses wishing to top up should also speak directly to universities to explore possible options. programme. 

Return to Practice

For a list of approved Return to Practice (RTP) programmes, see approved programmes on the NMC website. (Select "return to practice," in the course field.)

Your local education and training board will have information about RTP opportunities in your area, depending on whether you live in EnglandWalesScotland or Northern Ireland.

Return to General Practice Nursing (England only)

If you are in England, some counties are offering "Return to General Practice Nursing" courses. You don't have to have any previous experience within Practice Nursing; just a desire to return to nursing within this area.

Course fees are paid for, and you'll get up to £500 to help with travel, childcare and study material costs. See the HEE website's Return to General Practice Nursing for more details.

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Nurses and Midwives

Resources for nurses and midwives: improve your employability or explore options and ideas if you're at a career crossroads.

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Nursing Support Workers

Career resources for Healthcare Assistants, Assistant Practitioners, Nursing Associates and Support Workers.

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Student and Newly Registered Nurses

Resources to help you write your first nursing CV or job application, and tips on how to stand out at interview.