Choosing a continuing education program can be a challenge. Many professions now require active practitioners to obtain a certain number of hours of training between licensing renewal dates, but have flexible definitions for what will satisfy those requirements. There are many choices available. We can work with computerized webinars or self-study programs with no costs, or we can take a professional development cruise to Hawaii with a high price tag.
To increase the benefits from these programs, firms should develop a training strategy with content that meets several goals. For example, do you have staff who are starting to build the foundation for a successful long-term career? How about those who want to enhance their skills? Does the firm need to master the technical aspects of Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Online, Lacerte®, ProSeries®, QuickBooks® Online Accountant or complicated parts of the new Tax Cuts and Job Act? Or, do we need better people skills to lead a group of people or negotiate a great new contract?
There are organizations such as Intuit ProConnect that want practitioners to know how to use their software efficiently and competently. Intuit has many free webinars and self-study programs available to improve your skills with their software.
Developing filtering criteria to choose continuing education courses from the many available sources can help focus the searches; answering the following questions can better identify the course to take.
Why are you taking a continuing education course?
- It’s required for renewing certifications.
- I need to learn new subject material in software proficiency.
- I want to improve current subject matter expertise in taxation.
- I would like to improve group interaction skills.
What general category is the class designed to address?
- Personal Development
What experience level is the student for this subject?
Who is the provider?
- National professional associations such as the AICPA.
- State professional CPA societies and associations.
- Subject matter organizations such as Intuit for tax software.
- Colleges and universities.
- Professional and educational alumni organizations
- Charitable or religious programs.
How will the information be delivered?
- Live classroom lecture
- Live webinar programs
- Interactive sharing experience
- Recorded on-demand seminars
What kind of background does the instructor have?
- Professional educator
- Subject-matter practitioner
- Discussion facilitator
- Inspirational motivator
Where will the course be conducted?
- Local internet connection
- Local physical site
- Regional meeting place
- National site
- Exotic recreational or vacation venue
What is the cost?
- Scholarship availability
After the program, how is the student’s competence assessed?
- Formal testing
- Attendance monitoring
- Performance observations
How much time is needed?
- Short – one to two hours
- One day
- Multi-course curriculum
Once you have considered these factors, you can narrow the choices. Personally, if I am going to spend the time to attend continuing educational programs, I want to improve my skills at the least cost necessary. I will first look to subject-matter providers that offer webinars or live local seminars such as Intuit’s tax software webinars or live city tours. I then look to the professional educational services where I have paid an annual subscription to determine if I can take other courses that may be interesting. Next, I will look to the state and national professional organizations to review the subjects their courses address.
Someday, I hope to be able to take the cruise to an exotic destination and enjoy the experience … good luck!