What are the Different Types of Continuing Education Programs?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Continuing education programs allow people who have already achieved a college level degree to pursue additional education or advanced training. Many careers require an ongoing involvement with continuing education programs in order to keep up with new developments in the field. Since continuing education programs are built for students that are already professional, they are usually quite flexible and have a wide variety of options. Some of the different types of continuing education programs include online courses, certification programs, workshops, and self-guided studies.

Different career fields have varying requirements for continuing education.
Different career fields have varying requirements for continuing education.

There are continuing education courses available for many different subjects. Medical professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and dentists, may take seminars and workshops that train them in a new skill or new technique. Computer technicians or programmers may take classes that teach them a new programming language or the particulars of a new system. Health and fitness teachers, such as yoga or dance instructors, may take courses that last anywhere from hours to months to achieve certification in a new fitness specialty.

Computer technicians or programmers may take classes that teach them a new programming language or the particulars of a new system.
Computer technicians or programmers may take classes that teach them a new programming language or the particulars of a new system.

Some continuing education courses are geared toward certification. These are usually offered by accredited institutions and may help students qualify for jobs that require a certain level of experience. Certification programs usually last several months or even more than a year, and provide a very thorough background in the area of study. Many jobs that require certification will also require periodic renewal of a license or certificate, so it is also possible to find courses geared toward re-certification. Certification courses often conclude with a test that proves theoretical or practical skills, which must be passed in order to successfully complete the program.

Online continuing education programs are handy for those who need an extremely flexible school schedule. Many online courses have the benefit of being accessed at the student's leisure, which can be greatly beneficial to professionals with jobs or family responsibilities. These courses may be taken as part of a certification program or to simply increase knowledge in a particular area of study. Some of the subjects offered as online continuing education courses include how to teach certain math and science, higher education administration, music history and theory, and topics in civil engineering.

Self-guided study courses are offered by online and distance learning programs, but rely even more on the student's own initiative. These programs typically provide a student with all the materials needed to complete a course, such as lectures, books, and articles, but allow the student to complete the work on his or her own time and pace. In addition to study materials, self-guided courses usually provide a final test that will prove competence in the subject when passed.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


@bythewell - Most people won't do that though, because they need references from their previous job. They don't want to annoy people within their own industry.

I don't know if I've had many jobs where they didn't provide continuing education classes of some kind for anyone who needed or wanted them.


@KoiwiGal - I think sometimes employers are worried about providing these sorts of opportunities because they might train their employees to the point where they want to move onto other jobs.

Often continuing education is expensive and the employer foots all or most of the bill. And I know people who will deliberately wait until after they've had as much free education as possible before changing jobs. Then, not only does the company lose their employee, they will probably have to pay again to get someone else trained up with no guarantee that person will stay either.

Continuing education classes are not a bad idea but I can definitely see why some companies wouldn't be enthusiastic about them.


It's so important for people to take advantage of continuing education opportunities when they come up. If your employer is at all foresighted they will be offering them regularly and encouraging employees to take them.

Most professions change over time as new technology and techniques are developed and staying up to date is the only way to stay relevant. These kinds of training seminars tend to be a good way to network as well.

Teaching, for example, is always evolving and teachers often have a lot they can contribute to each other as well as a lot they can learn from continuing education.

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