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Continuing education units are units of educational measure. One continuing education unit is equal to 10 hours of classroom or instructional time. Continuing education units are used to measure participation in continuing education programs required by those who belong to professions that issue licenses or certificates to perform job duties. Many organizations can offer a continuing education unit, but potential participants should verify that the program is accredited before signing up for instruction.
The type of professionals who might need to accrue continuing education units include doctors, nurses, educators, mental health professionals, architects, engineers, lawyers, certified public accountants and social workers. The amount of continuing education units that are required to maintain licenses and certifications can vary between professions and the areas in which their holders practice. Professional societies, certification bodies and governmental licensing boards also can influence the number of continuing education units that are necessary for a professional to continue performing his or her job duties.
Units can be used to help a professional keep his job, and completing continuing education units also can provide potential employers with a barometer with which to measure an applicant's training, as long as the unit was awarded by an accredited program. Some professions, such as the health field, have strict rules regarding the awarding of units. Other professions can be more lax, and employers might have to decide whether to honor a continuing education credit.
Despite continuing education units' importance for certain types of jobs, the term can be legally used by any organizations willing to offer training. Not every organization offering training is accredited, however. Those who want to pursue earning a continuing education unit should look for programs that are accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education & Training (IACET). This organization sets high standards for continuing education programs and demands that a program be legitimately sponsored and that their instructors are adequately qualified. Many accredited programs can be found at colleges or universities, but they also can be offered by organizations, companies or associations that meet the standards of the IACET.
Those seeking to be awarded a continuing education unit online should research the organization offering the unit before paying money and participating in instruction. Program accreditation is a requirement for many professions. Accredited continuing education units usually have the name of the accrediting body before the continuing education unit. For example, a unit can have "IACET" in front of it to signify that the unit is accredited by the IACET.