Continuing Education

In many professions, you must obtain a license before you are allowed to work in that field. States require licensure to protect the public; by requiring you to demonstrate that you are competent to perform a job, it ensures that only qualified professionals are allowed to practice. Some professions that require licensure are engineering, teaching, medicine, psychology, social work, and accounting.

Obtaining a license, however, is just the first step in being able to work; the state usually requires you to demonstrate ongoing competence through continuing education (CE). Continuing education is important because it ensures your skills and knowledge remain current. This is especially important in a field, such as medicine, where practitioners must be knowledgeable about advances in technology and treatments to best serve their patients.

Continuing education can take many forms. You can earn a degree, take a class, participate in a professional organization, attend conferences and seminars, or even just read articles and books about your field as part of your CE. There are also organizations that offer courses specifically for professionals who need to complete CE as part of licensure requirements.

The amount of CE you must complete to maintain your license is often expressed as a required number of continuing education units (CEUs). Ten hours of study often equals one CEU. One English course, for example, may provide most of the CEUs you need annually to remain a licensed teacher, but other types of continuing education may offer too little credit to be worth the time and effort. How many CEUs you are required to complete will vary by state and profession, but in general, a doctor will require more CEUs than a teacher will.

Licensure, however, is not the only reason you might need CE. Some people use CE just to stay current in their field, while others use it to demonstrate to employers that they want to remain competent in their profession. Being able to show an employer that you have voluntarily completed CE can positively affect your chances of getting a job, securing a promotion, or obtaining a higher salary at review time.

Continuing Education

Another kind of CE that is usually not required for licensure is certification. Certification programs will train you in a specific job, even beyond the basic training you received for your profession. In nursing, for example, more than 200 certifications will train you to be an expert in areas such as oncology, disaster life support, surgery, and cardiac nursing. Certification is also common in the information technology field. You can become certified by vendors such asApple or Microsoft as an expert on their products or become certified in general areas such as project management or information security.

Certification adds value to your employer because it means you have an even greater breadth of skills than other employees do. It can also help you move into a subspecialty in your field, which may interest you more than generic work. Certification often translates into a higher salary, too, since it demonstrates that you have expert skills in a highly specialized area.

There are many compelling reasons to seek CE. Though required by many professions to maintain licensure, CE can also serve as the springboard for a more specialized career, help you obtain a promotion, or earn a higher salary. With so many convenient ways to continue your education, professional competency is easily within your reach.

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