Background: Efforts to identify core competencies within health promotion and health education have been on-going for a number of years. These efforts include work carried out by the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) in drawing up a draft list of 11 core competencies which were incorporated into the practice module on the Masters (MA) in Health Promotion at National University of Ireland (NUI), Galway for the academic year 2008-2009. A reflective portfolio was introduced to allow students to reflect on their learning while on the programme. The aim of this article is to explore the usefulness of this competency-based reflective portfolio for student learning on the course.Methods: A qualitative study design was utilized. Content analysis of 18 student portfolios was undertaken addressing the 11 competencies of: professionalism; values/ethics; needs assessment; planning; implementation; evaluation; communication; policy/strategy; organization/management; collaborative working and technology.Results: The use of the portfolio promoted high levels of reflection across the entire course rather than within the practice module only. It reinforced student learning across modules and identified further training needs for students. Aspects of the course which were of particular value to students were also identified and included the work placement component and real life experiences of practitioners in the field of health promotion. The importance of dedicated skills workshops, such as strategy development, was also identified.Conclusion: The competency-based reflective portfolio is a very useful tool which draws together theoretical and experiential learning. It provides students with an opportunity to bring together the course as a whole and to integrate material across modules and tasks.