Look through any professional publication, and you’ll likely see a plethora of ads for all kinds of continuing education (CE) programs. Some say “Learn at Home,” or “Learn from the Experts.” Some are held in a variety of cities around the U.S.; some are held in exotic locales.
Most of us need continuing education hours either for professional memberships, or for license renewal if we live in a state that has CE requirements. (Not all states do.) So, what constitutes a quality continuing education program—and more importantly, how do you figure out which program is right for you?
Here are some tips gathered from a variety of educational and professional resources that may offer you some guidance on how to pick a continuing education program.
Think About Your Goals
One of the most important things to consider is whether the program meets your educational and professional goals or needs. For example, do you want to work in pain management, relaxation massage, or with a specific demographic? Determining needs and goals is a big issue we all need to think about if we are going to find our niche in this profession.
Narrow your choices down to programs that will enhance your skills, help build your business, or even lead you in a completely new direction. Make your final choice based on learning outcomes—in other words, how what you’ve learned as a result of participating in the program will help you achieve your goals.
Consider Your Learning Style
Once you’ve determined your needs and goals, assess whether the program provides adequate opportunities to practice the skills or apply the concepts you’re learning. You’ll learn more if you’re given the chance to actively participate in the content of the program rather than just following an outline.
Also, people learn differently. Given the choice of a single method of participation—let’s say lectures—versus multiple methods such as a combination of lectures, visuals and hands-on demonstrations, go with the program that gives you the greatest variety of experiences.
Get to Know the Teacher
Do some research on the instructor. Try to determine, by speaking with former students, if the course taught by someone who is obviously passionate about the topic—someone you can relate to, who can bring the subject matter to life. These characteristics can have a huge effect on your learning outcomes.
Make Sure Your State Approves
Since you’ll be using the CE hours to renew memberships and licenses, find out if a credentialing institution acceptable by your state or organization has approved the continuing education hours. Some states will accept only National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB)-approved programs. Other states, including New York, have a detailed list of the types of programs they will or will not accept.
Pick a Likeable Location
Consider the physical environment in which the course is taught. You’ll have a more positive experience if the course is conducted in a place that is stimulating to you, where the experience actually becomes part of the learning process.
Determine if home-study education is the best choice for you, at least some of the time.
There are even some courses that give you the opportunity to travel to fun and exciting places. These may have certain tax advantages that make learning more than just an educational investment; plus, they give you the opportunity to experience new ideas, meet new people, and see new places.
Focus on You
Continuing education can be an incredible experience, but you’ve got to pick the right program. Spending some time researching the many options available, while honestly evaluating your professional goals and personal preferences, will go a long way toward helping you choose an enjoyable, educational, career-enhancing course of study.
George Davis is the director of Hawaii Bodyworkers Retreat, a 30-hour, NCBTMB-certified continuing education program that teaches Integrated Modalities Technique, a blend of Western, Eastern and Energetic modalities. The program focuses on an effective technique for helping clients manage myofascial pain, and also on the business aspects of creating and sustaining a successful practice.