If you need a college degree for your career, you might go to school with the intention of never completing another class. You might be eager to complete your four-year curriculum so you can get started in your career and never look back.
But the reality is there are many careers, such as those in the medical field, that require you to take continuing education courses—and even careers that don’t formally require continuing education often recommend this form of continuous learning.
But what are continuing education (CE) classes, exactly, and how should you use them for your career?
Continuing Education in a Nutshell
Continuing education is a broad term that refers to any type of class, course, or other educational program that’s completed after an adult’s formal education. In other words, if you decide to pick up an online class after you’ve already gotten your university degree, that’s considered continuing education.
Many fields require individuals to pursue continuing education. You might be required to take a certain number of hours of courses, or you might be required to take a new class every year. You might even be required to pursue an advanced degree to develop new skills and prepare for new responsibilities.
The Benefits of Continuing Education
Why is this important?
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of continuing education:
- Keeping up with industry changes. In some industries, knowledge and best practices change rapidly. For example, it’s estimated that medical knowledge doubles every few months; if you go a few years without learning about new findings, new treatments, and new technologies, you could quickly fall behind. It’s important to attend regular classes so you can stay as up-to-date as possible and give the best possible service to your patients. Other industries have similarly fast-paced growth curves.
- Introducing you to new skills. Taking a continuing education class is also a great way to learn new skills. While some courses will simply go over new changes or reinforce what you already know, others will help you master new skills entirely—which can help you take on new responsibilities in your job or simply do your current job more effectively.
- Complying with requirements. Like it or not, some jobs have a strict requirement for you to continue your education. If you like your job and want to keep moving forward, you’ll have to take these classes.
- Increasing your salary. In many cases, employers are willing to pay you more as you improve your personal value. The more you learn through continuing education, the more valuable you’re going to become. Some employers offer an immediate raise whenever you complete a new course, while others may be more likely to grant you a raise if and when you ask for one. Keep track of the courses you take and the new knowledge you’ve acquired; it might help you achieve your development goals.
- Improving your promotion opportunities. Similarly, taking continuing education classes can help you discover new promotion opportunities, and improve your upward trajectory. When employers look for employees to promote to higher positions, especially positions of leadership, they want to bring people who have a wide range of experience—and people who are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to improve themselves. With some CE under your belt, you’ll look like a much more attractive candidate.
- Allowing you to adapt. Almost any CE class you take is going to introduce you to new knowledge, new skills, and new experience. You can use this to make yourself better-rounded, and better able to adapt to new roles and new circumstances. If you’re interested in changing jobs or even careers eventually, this could be valuable.
- Improving your resume. Listing CE courses on a resume is a great way to improve your professional image. It proves that you’ve collected new knowledge in a particular area, and more importantly, shows that you’re willing to work hard to keep improving yourself.
- Meeting new people. In some cases, CE courses can be a valuable opportunity to network and meet new people. You’ll get to talk to people who share the same career path as you (and potentially learn from them). You might also get to expand your professional network for future opportunities.
- Feeling more fulfilled. Even if you love your career, things can get stagnant after a while. Attending CE courses can help you feel more fulfilled; you’ll get to do something different, challenge yourself, and learn new ways to do your job better.
Even if you aren’t strictly required by your profession to pursue continuing education, it’s worth considering picking up a few classes each year. The more you educate yourself and develop yourself, the more your career is going to flourish.