The effect of two poling processes on the ferroelectric and piezoelectric properties of sol–gel and pulsedlaser-deposited Pb(Zr0.45Ti0.55)O3 (PZT) thin films has been investigated as a function of the poling field, poling temperature and poling time. In the case of dc-electric field poling at an elevated temperature (200 °C), the remnant polarization and effective piezoelectric coefficient are found to increase with and saturate at high dc-poling field (400 kV/cm) and long poling time (30 minutes). The room-temperature poling process using ac electric field poling, shows the same trend with poling field but much shorter poling times (100 seconds), with only a slightly lower saturation value of polarization. It is suggested that in room-temperature poling screening charges are merely rearranged, whereas in high temperature poling these charges are largely removed. A much larger improvement in the properties of sol–gel PZT thin films is found, as compared to those deposited using pulsed laser deposition (PLD), indicating that a poling process is required for sol–gel films.