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What are the Different Types of Continuing Education Courses?

By Brad Cole
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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This is a difficult question to answer, because continuing education is a term that can mean different things depending on which institution is using it. All continuing education courses are designed to be completed by those that have at least a high school education. Continuing education courses are also usually developed so as to augment the knowledge of someone that is already trained for a specific job — continuing that person’s education in their specific field rather than teaching them the basics of their job.

One way to divide the different types of courses is by what, if any, credit they provide. Looking at the courses like this, we can see the following types of continuing education courses: Continuing Education Unit courses, degree/certificate courses, and non-credit courses.

Continuing Education Unit (CEU) courses are a very specific type of course. Professions such as doctors and nurses are constantly changing, and their members are required to take a specific number of CEU courses every year to remain practicing. CEU courses are usually offered by hospitals, unions, and similar entities associated with professions that need CEUs.

Degree/certificate courses are those that provide credit hours that can be used at an institution of higher learning to earn a degree or certificate. A computer programmer, for instance, might go to a university and take a night school course in a new computer language in order to improve his usefulness. The credits earned from completing that course could be used to get a degree or certificate from that university, even though that was not necessarily the aim of the person taking the course.

Non-credit continuing education courses are those that do not provide CEUs and can not be used to gain a degree/certificate. Non-credit courses are provided by many different sources and for many different reasons. In some cases, participants take the courses simply to learn more about a new skill or technique they’ve heard about; in other cases, the course is required by an employer. Some companies will sponsor non-credit courses to teach consumers more about a product and how to use it. In any case, non-credit courses are usually shorter than other types and generally much less formal.

Continuing education courses are sometimes grouped with adult education courses. Both types of courses usually have similar formats: they are offered at times such as evenings and weekends when most adults are not working, and they are developed for those with an older-adult mindset. Adult education courses, however, often focus on remedial areas and helping a student to gain the equivalent of a high school education; continuing education courses, on the other hand, assume that the student already has a high level of understanding of the subject matter, and builds upon that.

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Discussion Comments

By jeancastle00 — On Oct 14, 2010

As a professional in the medical industry that is leading for retirement I have found a great way to continue my income and keep up with my budget meets. By assisting and even teaching some continuing education courses, I am able to not only stay up-to-date in the industry that I loved for my entire career, but I am also able to make payments and save for vacations that I would not be able to do with just my retirement benefits.

always does require a significant amount of training, teaching these continuing education courses can be quite lucrative. The amount of time it takes to train and spend actually teaching the course is minimal for the amount of money that you will make during the process.

It is required that you will have to spend some money on your training but the return on investment is very significant.

By summertime — On Oct 14, 2010

A way to avoid the high employer costs sending your employees to continuing education courses is to explore the ability for your employees to continue their education through online continuing education courses.

Only in some industries are these online continuing education courses available and for good reason. Some industries require hands on education to be involved with their continuing education courses.

Continuing medical education courses are a prime example of this need for interactivity when learning the new basics of their industry. it is one thing to handle a book, look at pictures and evaluate a speaker for the quality of information they are disseminating, but the fact that you get more out of an actual hands-on experience is unlike any other and should be highly considered when the vital industries are dealing with continuing education.

By JoseJames — On Oct 14, 2010

The biggest concern that I have with continuing education courses is that a true you do not continue education but rather create a social time for people from the industry to converse and mingle.

Often these employer paid vacations are done so as a means of giving the employee break from everyday life. When treated as a vacation I think the value of continuing education courses lost because instead of focusing on the new information coming into the individual they are focusing on the social aspects of the event.

other times the employers that are paying for these vacations are in fact wanting their employees to gain valuable knowledge but instead their employees are drinking and generally not paying attention.

By FootballKing — On Oct 14, 2010

As a healthcare administrator I had to complete my fair share of continuing education courses. While these classes always took wait time for me overseeing the management operations of my facility I was able to continue keeping an up-to-date knowledge in my head of what is acceptable in the industry and we need to do to increase our own safety standards.

Continuing education courses are critical for any profession that sees rapid development in its industry.

When attending these nursing continuing education courses people are given new ways to deal with the most common problems that they will face as a worker in the healthcare industry.

We should be relieved that our politicians and lawmakers have made a mandatory commitment to continuing education courses for certain professions in our work world.

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