If you are a licensed professional in any field, you have to meet certain requirements for continuing education in order to work. Teachers, nurses, attorneys, and even daycare providers must demonstrate, year after year, that they are committed to keeping their knowledge and skills aligned with those of their respective professions. These requirements can include attending trainings, watching videos or webcasts, or even teaching or attending college courses.
Between home, work, kids, and leisure time, keeping up with continuing education requirements often gets shoved to the bottom of the priority list. However, failure to do so can jeopardize your career, up to and including termination from your position. If you’re unemployed, failure to keep your license current could prevent you from being hired for your dream job.
Here are some tips for organizing and managing your continuing ed requirements (CEs from this point forward – the acronyms differ across professions) so you’ll never find yourself scrambling for trainings at the last minute:
- Know what’s required and how often. Different professions require different types and numbers of CEs over different periods of time. For example, to maintain my certification as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I need 30 CEs every 3 years. Then there are other stipulations, like an HIV/AIDs training every third renewal period, an ethics training every 3 years, and a pediatric head trauma training every 10 years. (I think. See? This is why I have it written down!) I can obtain up to 15 of my 30 hours online, but anything beyond that won’t be counted. Certain trainings MUST be attended face to face instead of online. Contact your licensing body to make sure you know the current requirements for earning and reporting CEs, and keep it in a safe place with all your license-related information.
- Make a schedule for completing your trainings. I know I need 30 hours every 3 years. It’s much easier to complete 10 hours a year than trying to cram all 30 into the month before my license is up for renewal. So I have a list of trainings I should attend annually, including an allowance for 5 of my 15 online hours each year. This keeps me focused on the things I must have – too often, I spend all my hours gaining CEs for things I’m interested in, only to leave out the boring compulsory trainings. Then I have to cross my fingers and hope that someone offers the required stuff before my renewal fees are due.
- Speaking of renewal fees, keep up with your expiration date. Do you know off the top of your head when your license expires? Don’t depend on a letter or email from your licensing board; they may not send it out in time for you to make sure you have all your CEs. No one at the board will have any sympathy if you let your license lapse – you could end up paying higher fees, or (worse) retaking a license exam just to be able to work.
- Keep all your CE certificates in one place. It doesn’t matter if you keep a file of paper certificates or scan them into your computer. Just make sure you have proof of attendance for every training you attend. These records should include the date and name of the training, the presenter’s information, and your name and license number. You never know when you may be subject to an audit – don’t trust your memory when your career is at stake.
- Double check your requirements every 6 months. Isn’t it just like a licensing board to change up requirements and fail to let us know? It happened to me a few years ago, and the ONLY reason I found out is because a coworker mentioned it. If I hadn’t heard through the grapevine, my renewal would have been rejected for failing to include all the required trainings.
- Take advantage of free trainings. Many agencies sponsor trainings for their employees at no cost, or contribute toward the registration fees for conferences, trainings at outside agencies, and computer-based modules. Gathering all the required CEs can be expensive, but you can save a lot of money by keeping up with what your company provides.
- Make sure the trainings you attend provide credit for your specific license. A few years ago, I attended a training with a coworker whose degree and license are in psychology. We sat through the entire 8-hour presentation before she noticed that the psychology board wasn’t listed as a preapproved CE provider. She contacted them on the drive home, and guess what? She wasted a whole day for something that didn’t even count toward her CE requirements. If a brochure or website doesn’t specify your licensing body, contact them to check before you register. And don’t take their word for it – spend a minute calling your board as well, just to be on the safe side.
Few of us enjoy continuing education, but we know how important it is to be marketable, especially in the current economy. Hopefully your job is secure, but if something happens, you will rest easier knowing that your trainings are up to date and you are ready to move on to something new.
Do you have a professional license to maintain? How do you keep up with continuing education requirements?