Types of Continuing Education to Advance Your Career

Learn how continuing education can help you

Colleagues discussing while studying through laptop computers in library

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In most professions, learning doesn’t stop when you graduate from a school or training program. To keep up with trends in your industry, compete for jobs, and do your best work, you need to refresh your skills. In addition, many occupations have licensing or certification requirements that include ongoing study. 

Continuing your education helps you sharpen your skill set, embark on new career paths, and stay current with any professional licensure. But there are many types of continuing education to consider. To find the support you need, it’s essential to know your options. 

Key Takeaways

  • Continuing education is a term for learning acquired by adults after the completion of a course of study. 
  • Continuing education units (CEUs) are required practice hours for certain professions, including nurses, teachers, and architects. 
  • States set their own requirements for CEUs for various professions; 1 CEU is equivalent to 10 contact hours. 
  • Continuing education offers personal and professional benefits even for workers who are not required to earn CEUs.

What Is Continuing Education?

Continuing education is a general term for learning acquired after the completion of a course of study. Some professionals may be required to participate in continuing education in order to keep their license or certification current. Others may choose to take a class, seminar, or course to learn more about a certain area of their job. 

You can pursue continuing education by taking classes, either online or in-person, attending training programs, participating in conferences or events through a professional organization, and in many other ways. Depending on your goals, you may choose to look for courses that offer academic credit or focus on non-credit courses. 

What Are Continuing Education Units (CEUs)?

Continuing education units (CEUs) are a standardized measurement for professional education and training. One CEU is equal to 10 contact hours. 

The term “CEU” was developed by the International Accreditors for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) in 1970. Professional organizations in a wide variety of industries use CEUs, including health care, education, finance, technology, construction, and manufacturing.  

Many different professions require continuing education, often establishing a necessary number of CEUs to be completed per time period. For example, licensed nurses in Massachusetts are required to complete 15 contact hours (1.5 CEUs) for each license renewal, which takes place every other year.

Because the term “CEU is in the public domain, many organizations use it to describe their continuing education units. To ensure that CEUs count toward licensing requirements, check with your professional organization. 

Types of Continuing Education Programs

There are two main types of continuing education programs: professional licensing and general learning. 

Professional licensing programs may lead to a degree, certification, or professional licensure. You may also have to participate in these programs to maintain licensure in your profession. 

General learning programs, meanwhile, are those that do not lead to or help maintain a professional credential. However, these courses may help develop your skills and boost your career. For example, a software developer might take a class to learn a new programming language that will enhance their resume and make them more desirable to employers. 

Many professions typically require continuing education, including doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, accountants, hairstylists, and architects.

Benefits of Continuing Education

Even if you’re not required to get a certain number of CEUs to maintain licensure, continuing education offers several benefits.

Opportunities for Advancement

Continuing education can make your resume stand out from the competition, giving you an advantage when you’re looking for a new job. A more advanced skill set can also help you get a promotion or even earn more money in your current role. 

Acquire New Skills

Although we most often talk about continuing education in the context of professional development, not every educational experience needs to lead to a better job. Learning is also valuable for its own sake. For instance, you might decide to learn a new language because you want to travel in your free time, or you may want to pick up skills to help you enjoy a new hobby. 

A Lifelong Commitment to Learning

Perhaps the biggest benefit of continuing education is that it reminds you that learning is a lifelong pursuit and not a means to an end. 

Research has shown that a commitment to learning fosters good health, boosts happiness, and even improves longevity.

How To Find Continuing Education Programs

There are several ways to find continuing education programs. 

Professional Organizations

If you belong to a professional organization or association, that should be your first stop. Your organization, which supports the interests and advancement of people in your profession, will keep you informed about licensing requirements, educational opportunities, and other options for keeping your skills fresh. Make it a practice to visit its website frequently and sign up for updates. 

Your Employer

Continuing education benefits are a popular perk at many employers. Your human resources department can give you information about any tuition resources that are available to employees and can connect you with any ongoing subscriptions to online learning. 

Government Resources 

CareerOneStop, an online resource funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, offers a local training finder tool as well as information about educational programs, apprenticeships, and internships. 

If you belong to a licensed profession, you may also find resources on your state’s department of labor website or your licensing authority’s site.