Continuing Education: A Professional Necessity
If you work in any profession today, and often in a paraprofession, you know you need to get continuing education units - CEUs - to maintain your professional credentials. Nurses need to learn new techniques and find out information that helps them in their roles. Lawyers have to stay aware of new court cases and new trial protocols. Paralegals have to learn new court forms and new methods for researching trials. But there's more to it than that. In order to stay competitive in today's world, anyone who works with their minds should be ready to participate in continuing education. A century ago, we had a population explosion. Today, we are having an information explosion of at least the same magnitude. You can sit at home and learn almost anything about almost anything from your computer, often for free. In a world where information is a commodity, you have to be prepared to maximize your information portfolio so that you are more valuable as an employee. Continuing education is the way to do this. Where Is Continuing Education Available? For most professionals, the easiest and most palatable place to find continuing education is at conferences and, often, at work. However, if you don't have the money to go to a conference, or if the education you need isn't the professional sort, the easiest outlet these days is the internet. There has been an explosion of locations online where you can educate yourself and get certificates for it. A warning: try to only use sites that have been accredited by either a reputable educational group or by a trade union or professional organization. It's very easy to put a website together, steal a few classes from people who offer real education, and then certify anyone who can pass your test after reading the information you are offering. Don't do it! Look for an accreditation on the website; if you find it, go out and find the accrediting agency's website and email them to ask if this site is indeed accredited. If they don't have an accreditation on the site, email them and ask about it. If you don't get a reply, then you have your answer; if you do, check up on it. If you don't trust the internet or would prefer a classroom experience with living, breathing humans, you can always contact your local community college. Most community colleges offer good-quality continuing education services taught by excellent instructors or professors. If they don't have what you want, check with your local parks and recreation department, or with local high schools. Many communities offer both formal and informal educational classes that are inexpensive and instructive. How Much Will My Continuing Education Cost? Well, that's up to you: if you are a professional and you need your CEUs to maintain your license, you should be ready to pay whatever it costs - but remember, you can claim it on your taxes. If your plans for continuing education include some sort of career advancement, then you should work toward a degree of some sort. The good news here is that community colleges can help you with most of your required classes, and they're cheap. You should check with your human resources department to see if your employer pays for or reimburses some of your tuition. If you just want continuing education for the sake of education: well, you have a computer link to the World Wide Web. Use it. There are free education sites out there (try Free-ed.net and Barnes and Noble University to start) or, if you prefer to take more formal classes, you can check with Suite101, About, or even University of Phoenix. For face to face classes, you should try the parks and recreation continuing education classes; you can find everything there from physical fitness to childcare accreditation to rose potting to creative writing. There's a whole world of knowledge out there; your hardest task is to figure out which area you want to concentrate in.
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