what is continuing education

Continuing Education Definition: Continuing education is a term used to describe courses or training intended to further develop skills or knowledge within a field or profession. 

Continuing education (CE) can be as informal as taking a course on Skillshare.com or by completing a state-approved medical course on MedBridge.

Some states require professionals to take continuing education in order to fulfill state license requirements for renewal.  This serves as a way to make sure professionals are kept up to date with the latest research, trends, and regulations within their respected industry.

The continuing education requirements may also vary from state to state, even within the same profession. Lack of standardization is often considered one of the biggest challenges for requiring CE among professionals industries.

What is a Continuing Education Unit? (CEU)

CEU is an abbreviation for Continuing Education Unit.  Some professional organizations recognize 1 hour of education as 1 CEU, while some professional associations define 1 CEU as 10 hours of learning. 

In an attempt to standardize how education hours are tracked and applied toward license renewal requirements, the International Association for Continuing Education (IACET) defines 1 CEU to 10 contact hours of learning.  Many medical associations have adopted the IACET CEU standard of 1 CEU = 10 contact hours of education. 

However, many other professional organizations simply consider 1 CEU as 1 hour of educational training.  For some professions such as accounting or finance, even 50 minutes of education may be considered 1 CEU. 

The bottom line: A professional organization or association will define the number of hours or minutes required to satisfy 1 CEU, so make sure you understand the CEU definition outlined within their bylaws. 

Continuing Education Courses

Advancements in learning management systems (LMS) and continuing education platforms means more options for continuing education courses.  You’ll find the four most common types of continuing education courses fall under one or more of these categories:

  • Online
  • In-person
  • Live webinar
  • Home Study

Online Continuing Education

Taking courses online has come a long way in the past 10 years. From healthcare to finance, you can take the most up to date continuing education courses online wherever you have an internet connection.  Tracking online CEUs has become even easier as education apps become more advanced and communicate with CEU tracking sites. 

Whether you’re watching a recorded lecture or reading through content on an online learning management system (LMS), the convenience of online CEUs makes this a very popular way of learning. 

In-Person Continuing Education

Attending a live seminar or an in-person course is still one of the most common ways to complete continuing education. Not only do you have the ability to interact with the instructor and classmates, but you also have the ability to practice hands-on techniques if available. 

While there are certainly benefits to attending live CEU courses, there are some drawbacks.  Obviously, taking a day to attend a course can be expensive from a productivity standpoint and also when considering travel and food expenses.  Commonly, in-person continuing education courses are provided during conferences, minimizing the annual cost of travel for attendees who budgeted to attend the conference.

Live Webinar Training

While this is considered a form of online training, attending a live webinar may come in different forms. For some groups, streaming a live webinar to a team within a conference room is an efficient use of time and budget in order to develop new skills and to satisfy CE requirements. 

However, you can often find online CE providers that share live webinar training which may be considered as an ‘in-person’ course. For states that require in-person training as opposed to online training, this is an affordable way of satisfying those requirements. 

Home Study Courses

While these courses are not as popular as they were in the 80’s and 90’s, home study courses still exist for certain professional organizations.  The majority of these types of course offerings are moving towards online and webinar-style learning.

Continuing Education Requirements

When searching for continuing education requirements on your professional organization’s website, be sure to make note of a few key items: hours, course type, and tracking.

Hours Required – What is considered a CEU? A state organization may define what they consider to be a CEU as 1 contact hour, while others may adopt the IACET CEU standard of 1 CEU = 10 contact hours. 

Course Type – Not only can a professional organization require specific courses such as a course on professional ethics but it can define the type of courses allowed. For example, a state may limit the number of online CEU courses to 50% of the required CEUs for renewal. So always check to see what types of courses are allowed or restricted.

Annual Tracking – Be sure to understand the tracking period for approved CEUs.  If an organization requires 20 CEUs each year, when must the CEUs be completed?  If you are looking to sign up for a course in 2020, will the hours count toward renewal in 2021? 

Importance of Continuing Education

“Once you stop learning, you start dying.”

– Albert Einstein

Taking time each year to focus on new skills and courses may feel inconvenient and even burdensome for busy professionals.  But every field is constantly adapting, from tax professionals to healthcare workers.  

In order to stay up to date and to provide the best possible solutions to our customers or patients, it’s important to continue learning throughout our entire career, not just in the beginning. The importance of continuing education spans beyond satisfying your state licensure requirements.  Becoming a lifelong learner has so many benefits.

Benefits of Continuing Education

  • Develop new skills and qualifications
  • Learn the latest research
  • Keep up to date with industry trends
  • Improve knowledge within your field
  • Build relationships with other professionals

Why is Continuing Education Important?

As professionals in medicine, finance, real estate, and education, we have a responsibility to provide the highest care and service to others.  Staying informed of the latest research, techniques, and laws/regulations is one way we can work at the highest level of our profession. Trusting on the initial knowledge we obtain during our initial training is not good enough.  

In medicine, for example, safety regulations, precautions, and guidelines are constantly changing. Not staying informed of these changes can put someone’s life at risk.  As a financial professional, it’s just as important to stay informed of regulation changes as it can make significant differences in terms of estate planning and tax preparation. Regardless of the industry, the consequences for not participating in continuing education can be serious.  

How to List Continuing Education on Resume

Listing continuing education courses on your resume can be a great way to share specific training or certifications you’ve complete.  However, it isn’t necessary to list out every continuing education course on your resume. Consider the following reasons to list out CEUs on a resume:

  • Only list continuing education that is relevant to your work or job
  • List the course name, organization, and year taken.

Example of Continuing Education on a Resume

Education & Professional Development

  • Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Certificate, Purdue University – 2015
  • Advanced Negotiation Skills, Harvard University – 2016

Ready to Start?

Explore the different educational opportunities for professionals listed on this website including: Informal continuing education and online continuing education courses. 

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ––Benjamin Franklin