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Chartered Agricultural Professional Scheme: Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of a CAP Scheme?

There are numerous benefits of a chartered professional scheme for professionals in the agriculture sector. Many other professions have embarked on this journey including safety, engineering, geologists and miners and recently the management profession. Most recently the management professional in Australia has released a professional product called Chartered Manager. Here are a few of the benefits:

  • Increasing the focus that individual professionals in agriculture put into meeting increasing client expectations
  • Demonstrating your leadership and commitment to professional development
  • Showing that you have demonstrated industry and sector level leadership
  • Longer term the CAP will become an industry standard and will form the basis of any government recognised standing for agricultural professionals
  • Build trust in the advice given to the sector
  • Enhance the credibility of the advice given to the sector as whole

A discussion of the benefits are highlighted in the CAP Scheme overview document:

What will be the measures of success for the proposed CAP Scheme? How will the AIA know it has been successful in delivering the scheme?

The following are some measures of success of the scheme:

  • Employers ask for it and expect it
  • University curriculum developers look to it for standards to align agricultural curriculum development to
  • Government recognises the scheme
  • The Professional Standards Authority recognise our program and offers to support the start of a formal process for registering the scheme.

How will this Scheme be different to the current professional development recognition program (ie CPAg)?

CPAg is a scheme that requires members to undertake and record activities that contribute to continuing professional development (CPD). CAP takes that significantly further by establishing other criteria that also needs to be met. These are:

  • Minimum qualifications 
  • Level of professional work experience 
  • Recognised by a relevant professional organisation
  • Understanding professional ethics
  • A demonstration of meeting professional standards
  • Showing that individuals are using a reflective learning process

These are in addition to continuing professional development (CPD). As described in another FAQ, there will be alternative pathways for professionals who are unable to meet the post graduate qualifications requirement.

I haven’t signed up to the CPAg Scheme because I don’t think I’ll get any benefit out of it. Why would I sign up to CAP?

This is a critical question and central to us an institute to help us understand our culture and why we need to take stock. 

With the professional world quickly becoming more focused on accountability, companies and organisations in many industries need proof that the advice given to them is reputable, credible, accurate, and reliable. One of the most effective ways this can be done is by industry ensuring that this is the case (i.e through self – regulation). This is not infallible, however, as shown in the Australian Banking Royal Commission. But professionals are being held to account. There will be increased requirements and expectations of advisors employed in the finance sector. And it won’t stop with the banks and the prudential sector. It will apply to all who work as so called “professionals” in their respective industries.  

CPAg requires you to achieve and to report on your continuing professional development (CPD) achievements. As a CAP, on the other hand, you will be capturing your CPD points (just as a CPAg would, however, you will be expected to be gaining these at a level appropriate to your professional standing), and you will likely be involved in: 

  • leading a research team,  
  • making a government submission on an agricultural or related policy,  
  • completing a post graduate qualification, 
  • running a university program in agriculture,  
  • publishing industry guidance materials or peer reviewed publications, or 
  • practising as a senior leader in a commercial agricultural or related business or organisation.   

A CAP for example could be advising the government and talking with the media on complex issues such as the Murray Darling Basin water sharing plans or being able to articulate the arguments for and against a live animal export trade to peers, for a client, the media or for the government.  

Therefore both schemes are important professional gradings. But they serve different purposes. Both recognise professionals at different stages of their careers. Those professionals holding the CAP grading will therefore be active as recognised industry leaders who may or may not be members of the AIA. For AIA Members, CPAg is therefore an important stepping stone towards achieving the Chartered (CAP) status.  

What qualifications do I need to have in order to be eligible for being recognised with the Chartered or CAP status?

The Formal qualifications of AQF of 9 or above (i.e. Masters level) are required (Masters in Agriculture or related field) OR Bachelor Honours, Graduate Diploma in Agriculture or related field plus a Masters in any other field OR via an alternative pathway for meeting this requirement will also available. Examples of alternative pathways include active board level representation, executive work experience, author of submissions to government inquiries or industry guide/book relevant to sector, research lead on recognised project, expert witness (relevant to sector), and industry/guest lecturer and others.

What is CPD and why is CPAg important to professional development?

The Continuing Professional Development (or CPD) requirement it is one of the foundational elements of the CAP scheme, and in fact, will be common to both the existing CPAg accreditation and the new CAP scheme. The CAP scheme is considerably more rigorous than CPAg because what we are developing is a Chartered scheme. This means it considers other factors in addition to continuing professional development (CPD), which is the basis of CPAg. Another way to look at this is that it provides a new professional grading.

With the CAP scheme, we are providing an opportunity for industry-leading members, as well as non-members, to stand out in the sector.  Chartered Agricultural Professionals will be required to undertake Continuing Professional Development (i.e. CPD) to demonstrate their commitment to life-long learning. Those AIA members that are active in the CPAg program meet this requirement as long as they continue to undertake CPD. Some of you may have been current with your CPAg in the past - which included myself – but for various reasons, haven’t participated recently.

The CAP Scheme will require that you achieve a certain number of CPD units over a three year period and applicants will need to demonstrate that they have achieved this. This will be consistent with CPAg and you’ll use the same system. If you chose not to apply for the CAP, that is fine, you can still use CPD to gain or maintain your CPAg status. 

It is important to note that meeting the CPAg requirement will be a requirement for being a professional member of the AIA starting next year in 2019. This is a reasonable expectation if you desire to be a member of the AIA. If you look across the various agricultural professional groupings, you will see they all have their own accreditation requirements. We are taking the step to make that part of our membership process.  This will not be a requirement for affiliates, associate and practitioner members.

For professional members, the implications of this is that if you haven’t been keeping track of your continuing professional development, or tracking your CPD, then now is a good time to start preparing for doing this. For those of you in other industry bodies as well as the AIA, you may already been doing this e.g. as a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, or other affiliations, then you know the process. In fact, many of the CPD points you gain with other institutions will be valid for your AIA CPDs and vice versa. The CPD process is a good discipline. It helps you keep track of what you have been learning and encourages reflection on that learning.

By requiring at least a masters level qualification, isn’t the CAP scheme elitist?

No. CAP is designed to recognise leaders in the field. It is a recognition that shows the expertise of the advice given, based on knowledge and experience in a specific knowledge area.  We are also providing alternative pathways for those professionals who are unable to gain postgraduate qualifications (see the CAP explainer presentation:

Why will non-AIA members be able to gain recognition under the CAP scheme? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of having a proposition for AIA members?

The AIA is one of a number of industry organisations that provide specialist information to the farming sector (eg Irrigation and horticulturists) these all seem to have similar quals based around the level of the CPAg level. At times the information to client stakeholders (Government etc) can be fragmented and indeed conflicting. The CAP is aimed to identify individuals who have the skills to identify and work through the complex issues and work with other organisations CAPs to provide research-backed information that balances the different issues.

What is the long term vision for the CAP Scheme?

It is our intent to have a “broad church” with applicants coming from a range of areas in agriculture, recognising that the shape of agriculture, and the range of professionals working in the sector, is changing. CAP will be a professional recognition that will be for agricultural professionals to aspire to.  It is expected that in time, universities will seek to align their curricula with the requirements of the CAP scheme.

Who will administer the CAP Scheme?

The AIA’s role has been one of a steward of the CAP framework development and taking it forward to the next stage of early piloting.  The CAP scheme is being set up by the AIA but is based on a skills and experience framework that can cover many professions and sub professions within agriculture. The CAP is being developed as a product that can be used by a wide range of professionals across agriculture, not just AIA members.  Over time as the CAP scheme matures a separate organisation may form representing the CAPs from each of the industry organisations.

Isn’t the CAP Scheme like setting up another university-styled program?

No. The CAP Scheme relies on other professional bodies to provide evidence of an applicant’s technical standing and capability, along with tertiary institutions that issue formal qualifications. For example, if someone from the Soil Science Society of Australia applies, then as long as they are currently CPSS certified, then they would meet the professional membership criteria of CAP. They will still need to meet the other CAP criteria i.e. for qualifications, professional work experience, understanding professional ethics (via a short exam), a demonstration how they meet professional standards, and evidence of their continuing professional development (CPD).

If I am a CPAg, can I use the same CPD process for maintenance of my CAP status?

Yes. The different levels should be showing the different learnings that are needed. For example a Practitioner (TAFE) may look at learning about a new process or product. A CPAg may look at operational learning or giving specialist advice. A CAP may be involved in research, government submissions or policy development for large organisations

Will there be any grandfathering of current CPAg holders into the CAP scheme? When will the grandfathering be available until?

Yes. This is being worked through now by the AIA. We recommend existing AIA members gain their CPAg so that they benefit from the grandfathering offer.

I have been in the farm consulting profession for many years, but am now progressing toward retirement. Unlike younger professionals, I don’t believe that either CPAg or CAP qualifications will help me do my job better, enhance my reputation or attract clients, at this stage of my career. I have been a member of AIA (and AAAC and AIAST previously) for my entire professional career, and I would be disappointed if I could not continue membership for my remaining working life and in retirement, simply because I might not elect to go through the process of achieving CAP qualification. I understand that meeting CAP, or at least CPAg, requirements will be mandatory for continued full membership of AIA. Is that correct? 

Meeting CPAg requirements (not CAP) will be mandatory as of 2019. But it is important to note that there will be more membership categories in 2019 reflecting the more diverse array of professionals seeking to join the AIA. That means seeking opportunities for professional development and keeping track of this (refer to my column from Weekly Alert 18). This is a fundamental requirement for the majority of associations and professions today.  The AIA will be grandfathering CPAg members to the Chartered status i.e. CAP, but this will be for set period only and that is why I encourage members to gain and maintain their CPAg now if they haven’t renewed.  


If you don’t have CPAg and you wish to gain the Chartered status there will be a process members and non-AIA members will be able to follow to achieve it. While CAP will be more demanding than accruing and recording professional training or CPD, it will enable you to demonstrate your professionalism and get recognised for your industry leadership.  These additional areas (requirements) will be: 

  • Qualifications  
  • Professional work experience  
  • Recognised by a relevant Professional organisation (if a non-AIA member) 
  • Understanding professional ethics 
  • Demonstration of meeting professional standards 

I have just read through the requirements for CAP registration/membership and the reply to the question in your Chairman’s comments in Weekly Alert 22, but the response does not address the issue of emeritus members of AIA. As a Fellow, Medallist and retired member of AIA and AIAST (I retired 12 years ago), it appears that unless we demonstrate current CPAg qualifications (I did when it was operational during my career), our membership of AIA will lapse in 2019. Is that correct? If so, it fails to recognise the contribution of emeritus members to agriculture and agricultural standards during our working life.  

This is a very relevant question. We appreciate the diversity of our members, some of which are now retired and wish to keep active membership, which is both important for members as well as for the Institute as a whole.  I encourage members to start thinking through what the new CPAg requirements for 2019 will mean for you, including impacts on time, costs, but also the benefits. 

In this situation, our member is retired.  We know the member has demonstrated sector leadership (as a Medallist), as well as being recognised for leadership in the AIA (as a Fellow), and has previously held CPAg. This member would be eligible for the chartered status, i.e. CAP (Retired), due to the fact they have met the CPAg criteria during their professional working career.  

Note that current CPAg holders will be grandfathered to the new CAP status (or professional grading). We are doing this in recognition of your commitment to the AIA and to your professional development. As mentioned in previous Weekly Alerts, the AIA is working through the grandfathering process including for how long this window will be open for. Once the grandfathering period is closed, members, like other eligible applicants, will be required to work through the application process which we will streamline and make as straightforward and relevant as practical. 

The Scheme, as it has been designed and presented, is for recognising industry-level leadership. Why wouldn’t you design a scheme to target all members of the AIA to achieve a Chartered Member status?

This is another important question.  The CAP professional grading is for sector leaders. It is anticipated that members of the AIA, as well as applicants from like-minded organisations (who are not AIA members), would aspire to the new grading to allow their investment in professional development, and their extensive leadership experience, to be recognised.  Other associations that have made the shift to a professional body, and who introduced the Chartered status, all have elements of industry leadership in scheme requirements, and that means that not every applicant will slot straight into the Chartered grading. The CPAg CPD program is however open to a wider group of professionals who are not yet recognised as sector leaders. What are member’s thoughts on this? Does it make sense to have the two main professional gradings i.e. of CPAg and CAP, each designed for a different segment of membership? If you were to design a new accreditation or Chartered scheme, how would you do it? 

I have been following the Q&A process on the Chartered Agricultural Professional (CAP) Scheme and there seems to me to be some confusion (maybe it is only me) about what will be required for anyone who is not prepared to look at CAP qualifications to continue as a member of the AIA. I am still a full fee paying member and Fellow covered by Professional Indemnity Insurance, a key need for any true consultant. I would be very disappointed if the thrust of the CAP scheme (which I applaud) were to deprive me of future membership. It appears on the surface, to me, that the requirement for membership will be CAP and this will be required for everyone wishing to become or remain a member. Is this the case? 

The short answer is no, in your case you don’t need to gain (or qualify) for CAP to remain in the AIA. Given you are a Fellow of the AIA, then we recognise your contribution to the organisation, and you remain as a Fellow Member.  

Note: We are currently working through the details of how Fellows will be grandfathered into the new membership model, recognising that continuing professional development is important for all members that are commercially active, and not retired.  We will communicate updates as we work through this. 

For members that are not Fellows, but are commercially active, you will be required to maintain (or gain) CPAg status if you wish to remain a member.  Most members that are not retired, and currently working as professionals, are likely to be undertaking CPD activities that are developing them as professionals e.g. attending professional events, talking and presenting at conferences and meetings, attending seminars and webinars, undertaking advisory work for clients, writing papers, reading material relevant to your profession, etc. As a member of the AIA, it makes sense to capture this, gain CPAg, and keep your membership.  

If you are in this group, and start the CPAg process now, while the grandfathering period is open, it will be the most time and cost effective way of progressing to CAP. Gaining CPAg requires that you achieve 60 CPD points, or a week and half of continuing professional development (CPD) activity during the previous 12 month qualifying period.  See the application form for CPAg in the following web link which gives examples of CPD activities and the value of these activities in units or points:   

If you stop being a member, you will lose the right to use post-nominals, which has always been the case. If and when you re-join (from 2019), you will re-join from scratch, following the new membership requirements.  The requirements are summarised in the overview:  

 What do we put after our names once we gain the Chartered status?

We are currently working through this. It is likely to be CAP but there may be other designations that could be used. If you have a suggestion, please put this forward to the Chair or National Office.

How will the CAP Scheme be marketed?

This is currently being considered by the CAP Committee of the board. It is expected that individuals will share their professional status to clients and communicate it on their professional resume.  As its importance increases, it is expected that it will become an industry standard.

Do you have a Question?

Al the questions here are those that have been asked by members since we started talking about the CAP Scheme. If you do have questions, please send yours through. The AIA board is interested in your opinions and views on this. Please send them through to the National Office or to the Chair.