When talking about continuing education units, you could think of them as a type of credit. However, in the sense of credits earned as units and those earned for traditional degrees, differences exist. For instance, someone going to college for an Associate’s degree would be working toward a two-year degree but based on the actual amount of time invested, it could take more or less time to complete. On the other hand, continuing education credits are special credits designed specifically to support certification or recertification of professionals who need a certificate or license for the type of business.
The type of professionals who earn continuing education units would include, doctors, nurses, dentists, CPAs, engineers, attorneys, teachers, plumbers, electricians, technology specialists, and so on. Because CEUs are so critical to the person being able to stay within the career field to practice, it is critical that the right college or university be chosen.
To accomplish this, not only would the college or university need to be fully accredited and have a positive reputation, they would also need to be certified to support continuing education units. To verify this, you would need to determine if the educational institutions of interest hold accreditation with one or both organizations called the International Association for Continuing Education and Training and the American National Standards Institute.
The goal of both organizations is to make sure that high standards and guidelines for continuing education units are met, which then ensures consumers’ health and safety. In other words, a doctor with earned units from these organizations could be trusted to provide a higher quality of service to patients than a doctor without earned units. Keep in mind that while many people connect these units to the health and building industries, they actually touch every sector for business, health, and education.
The way continuing education units are set up to work is that a single unit equals hours of participation in an organized activity for continuing education. These activities or programs would need to be fully accredited and instructors teaching them have to be certified. By using a system such as this, units provide a permanent record for students who have completed one or more of the activities or programs associated with continuing education.
In addition, when a student participates in activities or programs specific to certification or recertification, continuing education units would be awarded. However, these units would not be accumulates as credit toward earning a degree in some scenarios such as those listed below:
• Trade Shows – Many organizations offer trade shows as a way of keeping professionals in the associated field current on products, services, technologies, and practices.
• Professional Conferences – Another common offering for a variety of professional organizations are conferences that provide continuing education activities and programs for practitioners.
• Professional Workshops – Again, continuing education units for workshops would not be considered earned college credits toward a degree.
• On-the-Job Training – Although training on the job is highly beneficial, CEUs would be earned, not credits.
• Community Education – Getting involved with and learning ways of providing a more effective but also safer service to the community is something everyone should do and by getting involved, continuing education units would be earned.
• Distance Learning – Although participation would be linked to a college or university that allows students to earn college credits, when getting involve with certain programs students would earn continuing education units instead.
It is important to understand that because practices in business, health, safety, education, and other like sectors change often, for a professional to provide appropriate service to customers or consumers, he or she must stay up-to-date on all the changes. Therefore, it is common to see some professions that require practitioners to earn a certain number of continuing education units annually. That way, if a practitioner needs to become certified in an extending area of the industry or recertified to stay in business, the number of units would need to be earned. In fact, not only professions, but also states and in some instances, the federal government mandates proof of the number of units earned before a new certificate or license would be issued to practice.
A perfect example would be a consumer having a choice of seeing a dentist who has met the criteria for continuing education units and thereby being current on new medical procedures opposed to one that has not earned enough units. Which dentist do you think the consumer would want to trust to do dental work? These units are for the benefit of the practitioner, as well as the consumer.
A few of the thousands educational institutions and organizations that offer the best continuing education units available today are listed for added convenience. Keep in mind that while universities provide CEUs, multiple community colleges and online organizations are authorized sponsors for providing required training as well.
• University of Phoenix – This on-campus and online university provides all types of college credits, as well as continuing education units
• Journal of Nursing Risk Management (www.afip.org) – 14.5 contact hours are offered in nursing for continuing education, which are free to full-time military and federal healthcare providers
• MediCom (www.medicaled.com) – Free nursing CEUs are available online but also via teleconferencing
• Meniscus (www.meniscus.com) – Oncology nurse CEUs are offered
• MMWR (www.2a.cdc.gov) – Sponsored by the Center for Disease Control or CDC, free continuing education CEUs are provided
• Nellcor Puritan Bennett (www.nellcor.com) – Nice selection of free but fully accredited courses for registered nurses and respiratory therapists
• Strayer University – Evening, weekend, and online classes for continuing education units are available to meet busy schedules of adult students
• Colorado Technical University Online – This university provides CEUs for business, management, and technology careers
• South University – Students benefit from this university’s longstanding excellence in continuing education units as well as college credits