Continuing Education Units (or CEUs) are often required to maintain professional certifications. If you’ve dedicated the time, energy, and attention necessary to obtain your certification, you certainly don’t want to lose it because you didn’t keep up with the requirements. In most cases, if you fail to meet the CEU requirements, you’ll have to requalify for the certification, which may include taking another exam.
To avoid that kind of unnecessary stress, it’s important to properly manage and track your continuing education requirements. If you’re not sure how to do that, keep watching.
Let’s start by discussing why CEUs matter.
Why CEUs Matter
CEUs are a really important part of the certification process. In my view, it’s what makes professional certifications so powerful. When someone is certified, it means they’ve not only demonstrated competence in the relevant material; they’ve also participated in continued learning to stay up-to-date on the topics. The same is not true for college degrees. Once you earn your degree, you have no obligation to continue learning in that field. Of course, that’s not to say that a degree isn’t valuable! It just doesn’t show the same kind of continued commitment to the field.
What You Need to Know
In order to manage your CEUs, you first need to know how many hours of continuing education are required to maintain your certification, in what time frame they need to be completed, and what kind of training or independent study qualifies.
For example, PACE is a certification for administrative professionals provided by ASAP. In full disclosure, I am deeply involved in the PACE program as its lead trainer. At the time of recording this video, those who obtain the PACE certification need to complete 24 hours of continuing education every 2 years to maintain it. These requirements may change, so please verify this information on the ASAP website.
It’s always a good idea to look at the total number of hours required and the timeframe, and create a reasonable plan of attack. If you need 24 hours of education over 2 years, that works out to one hour per month, which is easily doable. However, if you fail to be consistent, you could create a pile up at the end. It’s much harder to get multiple hours of education in a short period of time.
What Qualifies as a CEU
In order for something to qualify as a CEU, it usually needs to meet certain standards. For example, the content of the learning needs to be directly related to the body of knowledge used for the certification and cannot be a sales-oriented presentation. It must be a learning activity, though the cost of the activity is not necessarily relevant. A free training session, for example, would qualify as long as it meets the content requirement.
It’s always up to the certifying organization to determine whether or not something qualifies and, if so, how many units are awarded for any given activity. In general, one hour of activity equals one (or one fraction) of a continuing education unit.
Some certifications accept a wide variety of learning activities. For example, I have the PMP certification. I can earn CEUs (or PDUs as they’re referred to) in many ways. I can earn them for participating in conferences and traditional training events, whether in person or virtually, but I can also earn them for the training I develop and deliver myself, as a trainer on this topic. I can even earn them for books I read and articles I write. As long as these things pertain to topics relevant to project management, they can qualify within specified limits.
Again, always check with the certifying organization to determine what learning activities qualify.
What You Need to Track
Most certifications ask that you track the following information related to your learning activities:
- Title of the training (or name of the book, etc.)
- The provider (trainer, author, etc.)
- Date(s) completed
- Number of hours
- Description of the activity
You may notice that I didn’t say a Certificate of Attendance is strictly required. It’s often considered optional. In my experience, many organizations follow an “honor system.” When you obtain your certification, you agree to follow a specified code of ethics, which includes being honest about the learning activities you report. That being said, most organizations also state that they are free to audit your reported hours at any time, which may mean they ask for more details of the activity, proof of your work, or verification of participation. So, with that in mind, it’s always a good idea to save your Certificates of Attendance if possible.
I recommend that you track all of this information as you go. Don’t wait until the end of the year to go back and capture what you did. You’re more likely to forget things that way.
Personally, I also like to report as I go. Meaning: I capture the information for my own records, but I also go ahead and input the data into the online tracking system for the certification. That way, I don’t forget to do it later.
There are a number of different tools you can use to track your CEUs. Some people use a simple Word document or Excel spreadsheet. Other folks use OneNote. Personally, I use Notion, which is a note-taking application similar to OneNote but a little more flexible and robust.
I do not suggest tracking on paper, only because it’s too easy to misplace.
In addition to a tracking tool, you may also want to create a file on your internal or external hard drive (or cloud storage system) for professional development. This is where you can store all the materials for your learning activities (like agendas, handouts, notes, and workbooks) in addition to your Certificates of Attendance.
If you receive learning materials in physical format, you may choose to store them in 3-ring binders or file folders, but I also suggest scanning them and storing them electronically for convenience. That way, if you’re ever trying to find something you vaguely remember learning about, you can just use the search functionality on your computer to quickly find it, rather than having to sort through piles of paper.
Lastly, if you’re in need of continuing education units, I would love to invite you to join my Career Success Library, which is a robust learning center for career-minded professionals. It’s perfect for people who have certifications related to administrative professions OR if your certification has a productivity, leadership, communication, or career management component. The library has hundreds of professional development resources and currently more than 70 on-demand training webinars. It’s an affordable, enjoyable way to meet your CEU requirements. Learn more at MyCareerLibrary.com.
If you follow the suggestions I’ve outlined here, you’ll protect your hard-earned certification and ensure you have it for years to come.