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Online Continuing Education Courses: Overview and Requirements

Online continuing education refers to a wide array of postsecondary courses and programs geared towards lifelong learners. Some options may include courses taken for credit, workforce training, licensure or certification maintenance and non-degree career training.

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Common Online CE Courses

Many fields have or require continuing education to help professionals learn new facets of a career or maintain necessary certification or licensure. A few of the more common CE options available online include the following:

  • Psychology and Counseling: Psychologists and counselors require a graduate degree and state licensure to practice. As a condition for license renewal, states typically require some form of CE credit. Standard topics for CE courses include diagnostics and assessment theory, counseling techniques, group counseling, pharmacology and psychopharmacology.
  • Nursing: Nurses also require licensure, though the level of education depends on the type of nursing practice a person chooses, such as licensed practical nursing, registered nursing or advanced practice nursing. However, all nurses must complete continuing education through either experiential or academic avenues. Some typical nursing CE courses include health care delivery, nursing trends and issues, clinical nursing techniques, pharmacology and pathopharmacology.
  • Technology: To work in information technology, computer science or any related technology field, continuing education is rarely required. However, industry certifications are common in this field, and professionals are encouraged to keep their credentials current to demonstrate their expertise with new technologies. Some online courses available to help with this endeavor include operating system and application management, database design and administration, programming languages and web design and development.
  • Education: Public school teachers usually require a bachelor's or master's degree and a teaching certification. States commonly require teachers to participate in continuing education to learn about new teaching strategies, trends and technologies available for their classrooms. Some options include child development and literacy, contextual literacy and learning, education technology and educational leadership.
  • Business: Continuing education courses in business are useful for professionals interested in training in a certain area of business. Some business topics include marketing, finance, management, accounting, communications, information visualization and social media.

Continuing Education Information

Online continuing education (CE) is designed for students who have a university education and are interested in continuing it or need to meet education standards to maintain certification or licensure. Typically, a university or a college offers online continuing education through its university extension program or extension school.

Continuing education can come in the form of seminars, credited or non-credited stand-alone courses, certificate or degree programs, workshops and lab work. The type of continuing education a student chooses commonly depends on career requirements. Many schools and organizations offer continuing education options in an online format for the convenience of working professionals.

Online continuing education courses are conducted by combining asynchronous and synchronous technologies with some type of learning management system. In addition to a reliable computer and any program-specific requirements, a student wishing to enroll in an online continuing education course may benefit from an up-to-date operating system, a browser that meets the school's requirements, an email address, Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat Reader and plug-ins like Flash, Real Player or QuickTime.

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