What is Continuing Education?

Continuing education is a term that refers to courses and programs for those who seek to further their careers through career-specific educational courses. Like adult education, this type of schooling is for those beyond high school age, but continuing education is connected with those who have already secured an education and wish to further it. This can mean career builder programs, or college courses that are approved for continuing education credits. Some careers require a certain level of continuing education credits in order to maintain licensure.

Continuing education is most often referred to in the realm of professional development and licensure requirements. There are licensing entities in all states for certain careers such as healthcare, insurance and accountancy. Continuing education is designed for the protection of the public. By ensuring licensed professionals are always securing new information in their fields, the public can develop a level of confidence in those professionals. It ensures that licensed professions are competent in their fields and knowledgeable about the latest advances in technology and changes in markets. New advancements work more quickly into the mainstream through continuing education programs, allowing the public gain benefit soon than would otherwise be available. The first school to offer an identifiable continuing education course was the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1907. Today, such programs are main stream.

Where to Find Continuing Education Courses


For those employed by traditional companies, there is often an approved educator for continuing education for which the employer will foot the bill. Freelance professionals must seek out the best courses available on their own. In doing so, they must be careful to choose accredited educators and check that the courses will be counted towards CEUs.

Because adult learners are likely to have prior experience from their work lives, they may be able to secure Continuing Education Units (CEUs) by simply taking a test. However, in most cases a student must complete ten hours of study for one CEU or credit. One day classroom courses are generally the preferred method for obtaining CEUs, because there is usually no test required to obtain credit. The classroom can also be preferable for students when there is great detail in the course material. In-person communication allows the student to pick up on nuance and different ways of viewing information. It is also an excellent place to network with others in the field and gain an understanding of how other professionals do the same job.

Distance Learning

The first distance learning courses for continuing education began in the 1950’s through the use of public television. Technology has continued to advance and shape distance learning so that it is an interactive and multi-tiered environment today.  Learning can now take place online, in an at-home self study course or in a classroom. At-home course work is self-directed, allowing credits upon passing an examination. There is often no interaction with an instructor, simply a course book and finally an examination.

Online Instruction

Online courses allow students to take classes at their own pace, often taking place over several sessions. Those who prefer self-study can take online courses that simply present the information to the student and provide students with a forum to chat or email the instructor with questions. When students have mastered the material, they can take a test to show their knowledge. Tests are typically administered in a proctored setting at a local college or testing center.

It is generally easy to find continuing education courses online. The challenge is choosing the right program from a reputable and accredited provider. So some research on any course you are considering and take the time to look up the experiences of other students who have taken the same course. It ma be helpful to look for a site that offers courses from various schools, all at one website.  Even courses for federal and state agencies can often be taken online.

Consider a Series of Courses

When deciding which courses to take, it is often preferable to begin a series of courses that will not only offer CEUs, but also result in a professional designation. For instance, a claims adjuster may take several courses to secure an Associate in Claims designation, making it easier to advance within the field. By choosing such courses, the benefit of continuing education is doubled for the student, securing CEUs and a professional designation.

Benefits of Continuing Education

It is not necessary to be a licensed professional to benefit from continuing education. These courses can often benefit those who are not required to take them by providing added skills and understanding in a chosen field. By developing a broader understanding in a career, employees increase their opportunities for advancement and higher pay.

Adding to an education can also benefit workers in greater job satisfaction. These classes offer new perspectives on old work, which can often become stale after many years. By taking courses, the employee gains new and helpful information that makes the daily grind a little more interesting. There is the added benefit of communicating with others in the same field and securing new viewpoints on the same job.

Taking additional classes can also increase job security. Taking such courses shows the employer that the worker is dedicated to the profession and truly cares about his or her career. This offers room for advancement and an advantage over other applicants for a given opening. Certification can serve as a bargaining chip in salary negotiations and promotions or make it easier for you to find a job elsewhere.

Studies show that workers who engage in continuing education find it very important to their careers. They realized greater knowledge and skill in their jobs, develop new knowledge, learn of new developments in the field and became more competent and productive in their jobs. Those who participate in continuing education are often better able to serve their clients after taking these courses. They become more focused and driven in their careers, gaining a greater sense of purpose and understanding about their work.