National Occupational Standards: Career Development

What are NOS?

National Occupational Standards (or NOS) define best practice – the gold standard - within a sector or occupation. Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) and other standards setting organisations have a responsibility to work systematically with employers and other key partners across the UK to develop and refine NOS.

National: They apply to and are used across each of the four nations; they are developed using a UK wide approach and they are approved by agencies acting on behalf of the relevant government departments in each nation of the UK.

Occupational: They define the key functions someone should be able to carry out in an occupation.

Standards: They are the statements of effective performance for the activity delivered and the outcomes achieved; they represent a consensus view and description of best practice for each particular function; they are developed and agreed with a range of employers and stakeholders representing a sector area.

The NOS: Career Development

Following the CDI’s successful revision and expansion of the NOS: CD these are now available on the UKCES website The full set of the NOS:CD can also be accessed here

Overview of the NOS Career Development including key purpose; national context; principles, values and terminology.

Signposted Standards from other SSCs/SSBs which cover additional functions in the career development workforce.


In January 2014 the CDI made a successful bid to UKCES for guardianship of the NOS: Career Development which were originally developed by Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) in 2011. Subsequently CDI competitively secured funding from UKCES to expand and refresh the NOS. The Standards have now been revised in consultation with employers and stakeholders from across the sector and the four nations.

Critically, this piece of work recognised the wider definition of the career development sector reflected in CDI membership – particularly the inclusion of career educators and talent management practitioners who were not included in the original SSC footprint. Furthermore, these are significant achievements for a professional body in its first two years of operation and will help CDI raise professional standards across the career development sector.

The Career Development NOS provide a strategic overview of the competencies required to fulfil the tasks carried out in the career development sector. The NOS do not describe specific job roles. Role definitions are normally based on a number of functions and relate to a number of standards. There is no expectation that a job role would encompass all the performance requirements across every standard, rather that specific jobs will utilise the appropriate standards.

Each standard comprises a number of performance criteria which an individual should demonstrate to be competent in the sector. Each standard also outlines the knowledge and understanding which underpin the standard.

The standards do not equate directly to qualifications, but are used to derive relevant competency based qualifications for the career development sector.

Functional Map has been produced that defines the key purpose of the sector; sub-divided functions and the individual standards that comprise these functions.

Following extensive consultation on the review of the standards (carried out face to face in each nation and then online) two new standards were produced to fill identified gaps in the suite of NOS:

  • Lead & Manage Career Development Work in an Organisation – This is particularly relevant for career educators operating in an education or training context or career development /talent management practitioners working for commercial businesses.
  • Plan & Design the Service Offer – This is particularly pertinent for, but not exclusive to, practitioners in the private sector who are involved in negotiating service provision on a contractual/ commercial basis to individuals, companies or educational establishments.

Welsh version of the Overview of the NOS Career Development and Functional Map

Welsh version of the Signposted Standards

Uses of National Occupational Standards

NOS can be used in a variety of ways by:

  • Employers – organisation and workforce development
  • Education and Training Providers – assessment and benchmarking, development and review of learning programmes
  • Individuals – self-assessment, planning CPD, professional registration
  • Career Development Practitioners – career information, advice and guidance and labour market analysis
  • Profession and CDI – regulation of qualifications and institutions, identification of skill gaps and requirements for training provision, public recognition of competence, production/ endorsement of CDI resources, courses and events and the basis for the Career Progression Pathway.

What Next?

It is critical that the work carried out to revise the Career Development NOS is not viewed in isolation or as simply a paper exercise. The uses of NOS are many and the CDI has made a commitment to ensuring that they are the foundation for key developments such as the design and implementation of the Career Progression Pathway; professional registration; qualification and course review and production and endorsement of CDI products and services.

It is also vital that employers are encouraged to use the NOS: CD within their organisations if the full benefits of high quality professional standards are to be realised. Please see the Resource Pack for information on how the NOS: CD can be used for organisation and workforce development; performance management; supporting workforce development, organisational change and career progression.