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: Originally developed by Sector Skills Councils for the UK as a whole; skills policy in England has shifted away from NOS and they are currently managed by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) on behalf of the three devolved administrations. In England there are Standards for the Higher Apprenticeship: Career Development Professional and the Apprenticeship: Employability Practitioner.

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.


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 were 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 were significant achievements for a professional body in its first two years of operation and helped the CDI to raise professional standards across the career development sector.

In 2021 the National Occupational Standards: Career Development were revised by CLD Scotland following consultation with employers and stakeholders from across the sector and the four nations.

The revised Career Development NOS are available on the NOS Database (individual standards) Home ( and also as a full suite, and with the Functional Map, on CLD Standards Council website Career Development NOS | CLD Standards Council for Scotland

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.

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

Uses of National Occupational Standards

NOS can be used in a variety of ways by:

  • Employers – organisation and workforce development and performance management
  • 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.