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Identifying the Right Online Continuing Education Course or Program


Kathryn Muehlberger, Client Communications Specialist

March 2022

Thinking about applying to continuing education programs but do not know where to start? The options can be overwhelming, but here we provide advice on how to get started on your search.

What is Continuing Education?

Continuing education programs are activities that you participate in that are beyond the undergraduate level. These programs are for individuals who wish to continue learning within their career field, or perhaps learn a new and different skill. Importantly, a continuing education course can be self-taught or taken with an instructor. Participating in a continuing education program is helpful for those who want to progress in their career and explore new opportunities.

Analyze your Career Path

The first step in identifying an appropriate program is to take some time to look at your current career path and desires related to professional development. Ask yourself questions like “Will this program help me get a promotion from my current position?” “Does my current position require a continuing education program?” “What will I gain from participating in this program?” Complete research on the options that are available for your interests.

Choosing the Type of Program

Once you have identified your objective, decide on what kind of program would best suit your needs. Many options exist, such as certificate programs that include 4-5 courses, with 6 weeks of instruction per course. There may be other programs that are only 2 weeks long but intensive. Alternatively, if you are interested in a graduate level program, it is important to find a research field, department, and advisor that align with your objective.

Plan your Finances

Most continuing education programs will require a fee, so having an idea of your budget prior to searching is essential. If you choose a program supported through a university, most offer a loan option. Depending on if you wish to take one class or many classes, the price will vary. Some programs are even free! You should also consider any supplies you may need such as textbooks, software programs, and other expenses.

Time Management

A Master’s or PhD program will take a few to many years, especially if you are working full or part-time. Importantly, you must decide if you want to balance a program while still working a job. A certificate program, for example, can be manageable while balancing a full-time job. If you plan on working full-time, be prepared to create a schedule for yourself that includes work, your educational program, and a healthy personal life.

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