What Is Continuing Education?
CE is lifelong learning beyond a degree or certificate program that ensures professionals have the latest knowledge in their fields. For example, there are new advancements in medicine all the time, and patients are more confident knowing that health care professionals are required to stay current. The same goes for attorneys, who are better representatives because they must stay up to date on changes in the law and legal practice.
Who Needs It?
Doctors and lawyers aren't the only professionals who need CE - so do cosmetologists, project managers, and fire safety inspectors. In fact, just about any career that requires a license or certification also requires you to complete ongoing CE.
CE requirements vary between states, licensing boards, and certifying agencies. Here are just a few examples of careers that typically require CE:
- Health Care: Physicians, nurses, dentists, acupuncturists, professional counselors, social workers
- Law: Lawyers, paralegals
- Business: Accountants, tax preparers, financial professionals
- Beauty: Cosmetologists, estheticians, nail technicians
- Other Professions: Architects, engineers, project managers, safety personnel
How Much Do I Need?
Licensing boards, certifying agencies, and professional associations set CE credit requirements for each renewal period. For example, professional counselors in California renew their licenses every 2 years, and they're required by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences to get 36 CE hours during that time. Cosmetologists in Iowa also renew their licenses every 2 years, and they're required by the Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts & Sciences to complete 8 CE hours during that period.
You should also be aware of specific content requirements. As an example, 6 of the 36 CE hours California professional counselors earn must be in law and ethics. For Iowa cosmetologists, 4 of the 8 hours must be in their specialty area, and 2 hours must be in Iowa laws and sanitation rules.
How Do I Get It?
CE is offered online, in day-long workshops, or in multi-day conferences. In some cases, you can get credits by reading a book or professional journal. You might also be able to earn CE credits for teaching or giving a lecture at a professional conference - after all, one of the best ways to learn is to teach others.
Depending on the licensing board or certifying agency, a certain number of hours may need to be earned in person. In other cases, you can get all your CE credits remotely if you want. Keep in mind, however, that you miss the opportunity to network if you don't attend in-person events.
How Do I Find CE Providers?
You may contact your certifying agency, licensing board, or professional association for a list of qualified CE providers. You can also check your alma mater - most colleges have a CE department, and they often offer alumni discounts on courses. In addition, ask other professionals who've worked in the field longer than you have; they could have the inside scoop on the best CE providers.