Continuing Education for Professionals: FAQs, Options & 7 Reasons Why It’s So Important

To stay competitive in today’s working world, it is imperative that you are continuously diversifying your skillset and expanding your areas of expertise. The path to career enrichment is not the same for everyone, but with so many options out there there’s bound to be a continuing education program that suits your learning style. 

Read on to explore the top 7 reasons you should treat yourself to continuing education — plus resources for pursuing different types of valuable CE opportunities.

What is Continuing Education

Continuing education is defined as “a program of classes for adult students offered by a college, university, etc. on a part-time basis, as for updating knowledge and skills in a professional field.” While it is sometimes referred to as professional development for certain industries, continuing education is the most widely used phrase.

7 Reasons Why Continuing Education is Important

Everyone’s motivation for pursuing continuing education opportunities will be different, but the end-results are largely the same and hugely beneficial. For career changers, ladder climbers, or those just interested in learning something new, there are seven primary reasons to take the leap and continue your education.

1. Your own professional development

To be as effective in your work as you can possibly be, you should continually seek to expand your knowledge and skills in your career area and beyond. With continuing education, you can focus on professional development that helps you utilize best practices and stay on the cutting edge of your field. 

2. Increase your salary

Aside from learning new skills and becoming better at your job, one of the biggest reasons you should pursue continuing education is to improve your earning potential. Many organizations offer incremental salary boosts for completing professional development courses, certificates and advanced degrees. What’s more, many companies will even pay for some or part of your continuing education programs.

3. Respond to changing industry landscapes

There are always new developments and innovations to learn in your career, such as new trends and cutting-edge strategies. Thankfully, there are many continuing education courses available to help professionals educate themselves about the latest concepts and emerging industries. For example, here are some of the trending continuing education areas of focus at the University of San Diego:

4. Narrow any skills gap

At its core, continuing education is designed to help you do just that, continue your education, in pursuit of new knowledge and skills to utilize in the workplace. With CE, you are able to narrow any skills gaps that you may have – identified by yourself or perhaps from a recent performance evaluation – through innovative coursework that sparks your interest in exciting new topics and deepens your connection to your profession.

5. Earn a promotion

Continuing education — particularly within a degree program — can often position you for leadership roles within or outside of your organization. When looking at job listings, it’s not uncommon to see “advanced degree preferred,” particularly for leadership or administrative positions. While this will largely depend on the industry you work in, sometimes a certificate program is just as good as an advanced degree, and can be completed at a fraction of the cost and in less time. Reach out to your HR team about continuing education and how it correlates to moving up the career ladder to get an idea of where to start. 

6. Grow your professional network

By enrolling in a continuing education course, certificate or program, you’re already growing your professional network. Not only can your classmates serve as excellent network options, but the organization at which you’re enrolled will also likely have networking opportunities. Many colleges and universities — which typically offer both degrees and certificate programs — have alumni networks that help current and former students make new contacts in the field that can be leveraged for new career opportunities.

7. Improve job security

With your new and improved credentials, continuing education almost automatically helps you become more qualified and desirable to employers, including your current one. This may prove increasingly important as the career landscape shifts and more people can work remotely, simultaneously increasing competition and job opportunities. You can use continuing education certificates and degrees to cement yourself within your own company, or to shop around for a new job (which may actually help you earn a promotion at your current one).

Types of Continuing Education Opportunities

Continuing education can take many forms, and you should always pursue what fits you best. When considering continuing education, think about your learning style, schedule availability and budget. From there, you can choose from these most common continuing education formats:

  • Conferences/Seminars: Many times, conferences or seminars hosted by certified professional organizations will count toward formal continuing education. Check with the conference organizers about how their programming might apply to continuing education credits.
  • CEUs & Credit Courses: Many colleges and universities offer continuing education courses that count as “continuing education units.” Continuing education units are defined as “a measure used in continuing education programs, particularly those required in a licensed profession.” 
  • Certificates: Certificate programs offered by accredited organizations are great continuing education options. They typically consist of multiple classes and can sometimes be used in place of a formal advanced degree.
  • Master’s Degree Programs: The most formal continuing education option is a master’s or advanced degree. This will require years of additional study in a unique specialization, but often qualifies you for career advancement in a new career entirely.


What is the difference between professional development and continuing education?

Continuing education and professional development have a lot of overlap in that they are designed for professionals seeking to increase their knowledge in pursuit of career advancement. Where they differ, however, is in how they are quantified and what they qualify you for. Continuing education units typically count toward formal graduate credit and provide in-depth learning on a subject. Professional development may be preferable if you do not need graduate credits and are looking for concise learning opportunities about new, emerging or relevant topics.

Does continuing education have to be a full degree program?

No, it does not. Professional certificates, conferences and seminars, and other recognized credit opportunities also count as continuing education.

How do I know if a specific course is a good value?

That will depend on what your budget is and what you get out of the course/certificate/program. If the course covers all the topics you’re interested in, keeps you engaged and has you leaving the course feeling like you’ve learned something you can apply in real-life, it was worth it. 

Are online CE opportunities as good as in-person ones?

Yes! In today’s tech-centric world, there is little difference between in-person and online learning in terms of the product you receive. In fact, many CE courses are only available online. Online learning is convenient, accessible and sometimes slightly less expensive than in-person courses.

How can I pay for continuing education?

Because many continuing education courses are available through colleges and universities, there are scholarship and grant opportunities available. Many employers also offer continuing education reimbursement programs, so reach out to your human resources department to learn more about that possibility.

If you’re interested in continuing your education, please consider the University of San Diego’s Department of Professional and Continuing Education. We offer hundreds of courses that can be taken individually or in pursuit of a certificate, across a wide variety of subject matters and topics. 

If you have any questions or would like to discuss how University of San Diego Professional and Continuing Education Programs can help you in your career, please contact us.


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