What is Continuing Education?

Continuing Education – Definition

The term, “continuing education” can be an all-encompassing term referring to any education for adults beyond academic educational pursuits.  Citing Liveright and Hay-good,  Encyclopedia.com defines continuing education as “a process whereby persons who no longer attend school on a regular full-time basis … undertake sequential and organized activities with the conscious intention of bringing about changes in information, knowledge undertaking, skill appreciation and attitudes or for the purpose of identifying or solving personal or community problems.”

More specifically, “continuing professional education” (CPE) is that which is specific to furthering one’s knowledge with regard to one’s profession, and according to career.iresearchnet.com “assumes a continuation of prior training and that the professional has a formal body of knowledge, authority based on this specialized knowledge and expertise, and accountability to clients.”

State and National Regulatory Boards – CPE Requirements

Professions are regulated by state laws and through rules established by each state’s licensing boards.  Often these state boards mandate compliance with specific CPE requirements necessary to maintain professional licensure status.  Each state and profession has different requirements.  For instance in the state of Florida, one licensing board, the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Mental Health Counselors (Florida Board), oversees the regulation of three different mental health professions:  social workers, marriage and family therapists, and mental health counselors.  Whereas in Colorado, the Colorado State Board of Social Work Examiners regulates social workers, the Colorado State Board of Marriage and Family Therapist Examiners regulates marriage and family therapists, and the Colorado State Board of Professional Counselor Examiners regulates counselors.

In addition to state licensing boards, there are other non-licensing boards such as the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), which have their own CPE requirements for those professionals who wish to carry any of the NBCC’s voluntary credentials.

CPE is Big Business

CPE is big business.  In an article on education.stateuniversity.com, Robert Fox points out that in the U.S., “[I]t is estimated that CPE costs approximately $60 billion per year and that when indirect costs are included the annual total may exceed $210 billion.”  Fox illustrates that there are a variety of sources of CPE including:  universities, professional associations, practice organizations, government agencies, and private companies whose main focus is to sell CPE for profit.  There are just as many forms of CPE as there are sources.  Fox notes some of the most common forms of CPE are on-the-job training and structured programs which have specific objectives, such as “conferences, institutes, workshops, and lectures.”  Distance learning, which has been trending in general, has seen accelerated growth since COVID, but Fox reminds that its success has varied based on the profession.

CPE Trends

Many trends have been identified over the years with regard to the evolution of CPE.  Fox noted that one of the most important trends in CPE is the emphasis being placed on how professionals learn and how they change their performance.

In an article on career.iresearchnet.com, Ronald Cervero’s 2001 assessment about continuing professional education form the period from 1981-2000 was cited for noting five trends:

    1. the amount of continuing education offered in the workplace dwarfs that offered by any other provider;
    2. CPE is increasingly offered via distance education;
    3. there are increasing collaborative arrangements among providers (i.e., universities and organizations);
    4. the “corporatization” of continuing education has increased dramatically; and
    5. continuing education is being used more frequently to regulate professional practice.

More recently, Kate Ressler, in her article, “5 Trends Transforming the Continuing Education Landscape,” noted the following trends with regard to CPE:

    1. Online Solutions for CE Likely to Expand in the Next Five Years;
    2. The Importance of Engaged Versus Passive Learning
    3. A Move Toward Interprofessional Education
    4. Using Personalization in Curriculum and Training
    5. Tactics to Ensure Continuing Education Actually Fills Skill and Knowledge Gaps

How to Find CPE – Online CE Directory

As the business of CPE continues to evolve and expand, finding the right CPE can become overwhelming.  Though many practice organizations and government agencies tend to provide CPE in-house to their professional employees, oftentimes independent professionals in private practice do not know where to look to get good quality CPE.  Many professions have existing directories to help its professionals locate relevant CPE, but until now there did not exist a national directory of providers of CPE for mental health professionals.  The Online CE Directory is the first and only national directory of continuing education providers exclusively for mental health professionals, such as counselors, psychologists, social workers, and therapists.  You can search the Online CE Directory by profession – click to search for Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers, or Therapists.  You can also search the Online CE Directory using our Advanced Search to filter your search by approved boards, free course offerings, course format, whether the provider reports to CE Broker, or any other tags the provider adds to their listing.  Finally, you can browse through all listings without any filters by clicking View All Provider Listings.