Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “Today would be a great day to do some continuing education!” However, when it comes to maturing as a professional in your chosen career field, CE could be one of the most important things you do each year.
The Skinny on Continuing Education
Continuing education is just a concise way of saying “ongoing education that’s needed in order to help you remain current and knowledgeable in your field of expertise.” And while it looks different in nearly every industry and career path, continuing education almost always produces a significant ROI for those who take it seriously.
While not all professions require continuing education, many of the top ones do. For example, you’ll find continuing education requirements for:
- Lawyers. To actively practice law and serve clients, you must meet the American Bar Association’s requirements for continuing education. A failure to do so could lead to your license being revoked and having to pay a reinstatement fee after catching up.
- Accountants. Accountants have very rigorous continuing education requirements. To remain in good standing with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, you must take 120 hours of continuing education every three years.
- Healthcare. Within almost every healthcare specialty, there are continuing education requirements. For example, respiratory therapists must take at least 30 hours of general credits every five years from an accredited respiratory CEU program.
- Pilots. To hold your pilot’s license, the FAA requires pilots to fly at least once every 24 months. They must also take semi-regular continuing professional development courses to improve their skills and stay current with technology.
This is just a small sample of careers that require continuing education. You’ll also find requirements for real estate agents, insurance advisors, financial advisors, psychologists, architects, pharmacists, and dozens of other professions.
The Case for Continuing Education
It doesn’t matter what career you’re in. If you’re serious about giving yourself a chance to be successful, you have to take continuing education seriously. In doing so, you’ll enjoy a long list of direct and indirect benefits. Here are a few of them:
- Advance Your Knowledge
The number one purpose of continuing education is to increase your knowledge about important topics relevant to your career. This is especially important when it comes to technical fields where innovation leads to rapid advancement.
Without formal continuing education, you’d be left to your own devices. By taking these courses, you’re basically getting a curated dose of all the best and most important information downloaded directly into your brain.
- More Upward Mobility
Employers recognize your commitment to continuing education. They can see if you’re just going through the motions, or if you’re actually acquiring and applying valuable information that makes you a better asset to the company.
When you give it everything you’ve got, employers see the investment and are more likely to reward you with better job opportunities and promotions in the future. But even if they don’t, your acquisition of the new knowledge makes you an even more valuable professional on the open marketplace. In other words, you can look around for job opportunities and position yourself as a more competent individual.
- New Complementary Skills
In addition to acquiring technical skills that are directly related to your job, continuing education courses often teach you complementary skills that can be applied in other areas of your life.
For example, an accountant might take continuing education about client communication. In this course, he could learn how to be more empathetic. This newly acquired skill of empathy will also translate over into his personal relationships with his spouse and children.
- Increased Earning Potential
When you add all of the benefits mentioned above together, you ultimately become a more skilled, poised, and competent professional within your space. Naturally, this creates more opportunities and an increased earning potential.
While it’s difficult to put a specific percentage on how much increased earning potential you can expect from continuing education, it will always be a net positive gain. And even if it’s just 10 percent (which is very conservative), that could amount to millions of dollars in additional earning power over your career.
- Sharpened Mind
There’s something about continuing education that sharpens the mind. It forces you to enter into “student mode,” which requires you to adopt a posture of learning. You can’t simply go through the motions. You have to show up and engage with new content and be willing to embrace challenging subjects or difficult topics that you haven’t encountered before. And it’s through this struggle that growth occurs.
Adding it All Up
Continuing education is not the be-all and end-all. It is, however, an important ingredient in the master recipe of a successful career. Take it seriously and good things will happen for you as you advance onto bigger and better things.