Continuing education is, as the name suggests, a requirement to continue taking classes and learning the latest information in a given field. It’s often required of jobs that are technically complex, and those subject to constantly updated information. For example, in the field of respiratory therapy, therapists are required to attend hours of continuing education courses each year, getting up to speed on the latest technologies, techniques, and best practices for working with patients.

But why is continuing education so important?

The Benefits of Continuing Education

Pursuing continuing education courses has a number of benefits, for the person undertaking these classes, the organizations that hire them, and the people they work with on a daily basis:

• License retention. In many cases, continuing education courses are a legal or regulatory requirement for a profession. If you want to keep your license and continue operating legally as a professional in your field, you’ll need to attend a minimum number of classes or number of hours of participation. Oftentimes, continuing education units are distributed at a rate of 1.0 for each 10 hours of participation.

• Improved techniques. One of the obvious benefits is the ability to learn and master new techniques in your field. If you’re in the medical field, this is vital; you may learn a new therapeutic technique, or discover that one of your old techniques is no longer the best recommended approach. Ultimately, this knowledge could dramatically improve safety or improve your results.

• Access to new knowledge. Continuing education is your only viable way to gain access to new knowledge. And in fields that see scientific and technological developments on a regular basis, the new knowledge emerges constantly. You don’t want to fall behind your peers.

• Access to new technologies. In some cases, continuing education can introduce you to a host of new machines, apps, and other technologies that are designed to help you do your job more efficiently—or see better results. Without continuing education courses, you may be unfamiliar with these technologies, or unable to use them correctly.

• Higher salaries and bonuses. Most employers want to incentivize their employees to pursue continuing education, even if it isn’t a formal requirement. Accordingly, if you take enough credits, you may open the door to a higher salary or other monetary bonuses.

• Higher chances of promotion. Along similar lines, more continuing education can increase your chances of getting promoted; employers typically want their best-educated and most experienced people to serve in leadership and management roles. If you’re interested in advancing your career in any way, continuing education is a must.

• A break from the norm. Let’s face it—even if you love your job, it can get tedious at times, especially if you’re handling the same responsibilities every day. Taking a continuing education course can represent a break from the norm, giving you something different to do for a few hours, and possibly changing up your routine permanently with new approaches and techniques.

• If you don’t plan on holding this job forever, or if you want to transfer to a different organization or department, extra continuing education classes can look good on a resume. They have the potential to sharply increase your marketability as an employee.

• Personal development and intrinsic rewards. While there are many objective benefits to continuing education, there are also some subjective, intrinsic benefits. Most people enjoy learning new things, and feel a sense of accomplishment whenever they complete a new set of curricula.

How to Take Continuing Education Courses

If you’re interested in taking continuing education courses for your career, there are two things that might make it easier:

• First, your employer may pay the full cost of your classes, as an incentive to help people learn new things. Ask your employer if they’re willing to pay or reimburse you for the costs.

• Online availability. Modern forms of continuing education are often done online, which means you’ll have a lot of flexibility in how you take courses. You can typically attend classes at your leisure, at the times and days of your choosing, and go through the course material at your own pace. If possible, choose to take your classes online so you have this flexibility.

Continuing Education When It Isn’t Formally Required

It’s also worth noting that while continuing education is a formal requirement for many professions, you shouldn’t discount it if your profession doesn’t have such requirements. Almost anyone, in any profession, can benefit from some form of continuing education. Spending just a few hours each month reading up on the latest developments in your industry and trying to learn a new skill can grant you many of the same benefits as a formal continuing education program.