What is a CEU vs. a GLEC? [5 Benefits + FAQs]


When it comes to continuing education for teachers, deciding what types of courses to take and what credits to earn can be a bit overwhelming. When you combine traditional and online education opportunities, the options have become seemingly endless. However, two of the most common — albeit somewhat misunderstood — types of credit options for educators are continuing education units (CEUs) and graduate level extension credits (GLECs).  

The biggest question most teachers ask is, which credit is right for me? The short answer is simply both, but it helps to have a better understanding of these two education credits.

What Is a Continuing Education Unit (CEU)?

A continuing education unit (CEU), which is sometimes also referred to as a continuing education credit (CEC), is defined as “a measure used in continuing education programs to assist the professional to maintain their license in their profession.” These credits are earned by taking certified courses or programs that then count towards renewal of some type of professional certification or licensure.

The most important differentiator for a CEC is that to count as a continuing education credit or unit, it must meet the standards set by the International Association of Continuing Education or Training (IACET). To count as a CEU/CEC, a course must be equivalent to 10 contact hours, and any business, organization or academic institution must be willing to meet these standards in order to give out verified CEUs. 

5 Benefits of a CEU

Continuing education units can help educators maintain their licensure, refresh their knowledge about a particular subject, or even learn about a new subject to introduce in their classes. While those are very specific benefits for educators, CEUs have a number or benefits that are applicable to all, including:

  1. Improve skills relevant to your career
  2. Stay current with new technology, laws and regulations that might apply to your field
  3. Demonstrate a commitment to your career
  4. Grow your professional network
  5. Improve your chances at earning promotion or new job

What Is a Graduate Level Extension Credit (GLEC)?

Graduate Level Extension Credits (GLECs) are sometimes known as extension credits. Different institutions use varying names, but the key term to focus on is extension. An extension credit of any kind usually means the credit is used for salary advancement, credential renewing or recertification, but will typically not count towards any type of degree unless an institution explicitly states that it does. 

Courses that offer GLECs are open to anyone, and usually don’t have any admission requirements and are delivered in a wide variety of formats (in-person and online). Unlike CEUs, GLEC courses are offered in varying terms and multiple start dates to facilitate learning for a larger audience.

The primary appeal of GLECs are their wide variety of uses. Many people participate in extension classes to learn a new skill, further their intellectual and personal development, to earn continuing education credits required for professional development, or to explore options in different fields of study or employment before committing to a advanced college degree.


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5 Benefits of a GLEC

For educators specifically, Graduate Level Extension Credits are usually accepted by most districts for certification and licensure purposes. However, this is not always the case if the courses were taken at the educator’s school or within their district. This makes earning extension credits from an accredited institution even more critical, as it gives you the best chance of being able to use these credits for a variety of things.

Beyond that, some universally applicable benefits of GLECs include:  

  1. Discover a new career path you might pursue
  2. Typically less expensive than other continuing education options
  3. Can count towards professional certifications and licensure
  4. Helps grow your professional network
  5. Teaches you new skills and knowledge to be applied professionally

GLEC Use Case Example: The University of San Diego 

Many colleges and universities offer some type of extension course or graduate level extension course, but because GLECs aren’t standardized, each program is a bit different. To paint the full picture of how an institution runs the extension course programs, here is a use case of USD’s Division of Professional and Continuing Education, which offers GLECs.

“Courses in the 500-599 and 700-799 series are professional, graduate level (post-baccalaureate) extension credit courses in the field of education. Courses are specifically designed to meet the needs of beginning, veteran and prospective educators (K-12, and sometimes applicable toward the college/university level) in both public and private school systems. Areas of emphasis include pedagogy, curriculum design, teaching methods and development of materials. Course credit fulfills requirements for professional growth, in-service and salary-step hurdle requirements, and may be applied toward an academic degree or teacher credentialing program subject to the prior approval of the institution in question.”

If you’re interested in learning more about graduate level extension credits, especially those offered to educators at the University of San Diego, please contact us

FAQs About CEUs and GLECs

What are CEUs?

A continuing education unit refers to a 10 hour course that continuing education programs use to assist the professional to maintain their license in their profession.

What are GLECs

A graduate level extension credit is a credit used for salary advancement, credential renewing or recertification, but will typically not count towards any type of degree.

Where can I search for CEUs and GLECs to take?

There are a number of resources that can point you towards organizations that offer CEU and GLEC. To find certified CEU programs, the IACET has an online listing of all verified programs, while graduate level ext



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