Education has been disrupted. One of the reasons for this revolution is the growth and improvement of continuing education programs. For many women, these are a practical, relevant and cost-effective alternative to traditional higher education. Thanks to continuing education programs, it is possible to gain new skills, comply with licensing and regulatory requirements, and stay on top of new industry developments.
By selecting the right programs, you can curate an educational experience that helps you obtain your career goals. You begin that process by selecting a worthwhile continuing ed program. As you consider your options, keep the following five signs a program is worth it in mind.
1. The learning objectives match yours.
Pay close attention to the course descriptions you read. Most will have a statement along the lines of: ‘after completing this course, participants will be able to…’ That should align with your own goals. A good continuing education course will be very clear on the competencies you will be able to master. These descriptions are very helpful as you work to find courses that allow you to increase your knowledge in relevant areas.
2. It challenges your views and assumptions.
Have you ever worked with someone who had years of experience but held onto outdated ideas and methods? It’s frustrating, especially when that combination often leads people to having positions of authority while lacking competence. The only thing worse than working for someone like that is becoming that person.
This is why a good continuing education program will teach you new things and force you to reevaluate things that you’ve always "known." If your current methodologies and views are holding you back, you can only benefit from a curriculum that challenges that.
3. Your schedule will allow you to complete it successfully.
The only worthwhile continuing education program is one that you can finish. That’s true for a year-long program, or a boot camp course you might complete in a few days. If you don’t have the appropriate time to dedicate, and the course doesn’t offer the level of flexibility that you need, you’re sunk. Verify the time requirements before you sign up, and be honest with yourself about your ability to spend the time you need to be successful.
4. It attracts other students from whom you can learn.
Deena Manning is a corporate trainer at Studicus. She has this insight about continuing education: “some of the most valuable learning you’ll experience doesn’t come from textbooks or lectures. It comes from debates, conversations and the exchange of ideas that happens in the classroom. Learn who has taken the class you are considering. What did they get out of it? What were they able to bring into the classroom that enhanced the experience of the other students?”
When you walk into (or sign into) a continuing education program, you don’t simply have the opportunity to learn. You also have an opportunity to connect with other professionals and network much like you would attending a conference or seminar.
5. You can afford it.
There’s no sense denying it: price matters. While tuition reimbursement may be an option or financial aid. There’s no guaranteeing it. Even if your course hours are paid in full, you have to consider incidental expenses like books, fees, testing, licensing and transportation. The price you pay for a continuing education program can vary widely. One one end of the spectrum, there are many free and low-cost options through online learning platforms such as Coursera, Khan Academy and Lynda. On the opposite end of that spectrum might be an accredited continuing education program that is endorsed by your profession’s licensing authority that charges several hundreds of dollars.
In addition to considering cost, you also have to consider value. What can you get out of the program that will make its price worthwhile? Will it allow you to increase your rates? Can you take your certificate of completion back to your employer for a raise or promotion? Enrichment is wonderful, but it’s hard to go into debt over a course when you cannot quantify the results you will get.
Continuing education is a worthwhile investment. Still, even one course is going to take a noticeable chunk of your time and money. If you choose a program that you cannot complete or from which you don’t gain any professional benefits, it’s simply a waste. Use continuing education to grow your career, but consider the points above before you enroll.