Continuing education broadly refers to any learning outside of an undergraduate degree, whether it’s an additional degree or non-degree course, work training, certification program, self-directed learning or personal learning. The question is — Is it worth it? If you already have a job or career, do you need continuing education?
In short, yes. The job market is rapidly shifting and changing, making continuing education one of the best options to build your career in a tough job market. Whether you to find a better job at a different company or want to further your career at your current workplace, continuing education is a positive way to move forward. It may help you earn a higher salary, keep you current in your industry, help you maintain your credentials, increase your level of expertise and prepare you for the future.
In the past, continuing education meant enrolling in college classes or similar formal training; today, continuing education is available in the comfort of your own home. Thanks to our modern technology, learning is easier than ever, with countless free online resources to help you progress at your own pace and on your own time — crucial for students who are working professionals.
This doesn’t mean you need to spend thousands of dollars. Fortunately, free online resources have transformed continuing education. Research shows that people seek out continuing education for economic reasons; many students join classes during recessions, when jobseekers want to improve their skills to find new jobs or to avoid termination. At your own pace, your own schedule and your own price, you can learn valuable information that could further your professional life.
Keep in Mind
Arguably one of the most well rounded resources, edX aims to be a single destination that makes university-level education more accessible to people around the world. The class index features material from top-ranked national schools like UC Berkley, Harvard, MIT, Cornell University and the University of Chicago, and top international schools like the University of Oxford. The edX website has a useful search bar so you can look for specific topics or universities. For a small fee, you can receive a verified certificate, signed by the instructor, which further improves the weight your continuing education will carry into your career.
In partnership with educational publishers like Google and Macmillan, Alison is a free online source for a variety of topics. Most courses focus on technology, business and health, but there are language classes as well. Courses range from two to three hours, eight to 10 hours and 18 to 20 hours. In nine unique categories, Alison provides more than 1,000 free courses, entirely online and entirely at your own pace. If you want to make a major career change, Alison will show you options; if you want to improve your management skills, Alison has certificates.
A top-rated resource, MIT OpenCourseware is a concentrated, online source of nearly all MIT courses. There are more than 2,400 courses available at MIT OpenCourseware, with subjects ranging from business to health to humanities. More than 300 million students have benefitted from the site’s continuing education options.
Similar to edX and Alison, Coursera has classes from around the world, including Stanford, Duke, the University of Edinburgh and other prestigious universities, museums, trusts and organizations. Through these partnerships, more than 11 million people study with Coursera. It’s particularly useful if you want to study a variety of topics or study courses from specific universities.
Microsoft Virtual Academy
From the people who first developed modern day computers, Microsoft Virtual Academy classes are hands-on: IT, Cloud Computing, 2D game programming tutorials and live events. The wide variety and range of experience levels lets you join any class without worrying that you’ll feel left behind.
Do you think learning a language would help you stand out from your job-seeking competition? Duolingo is an innovative, intuitive language-learning app that teaches you a foreign language at your own pace. The languages range from Spanish, German and Mandarin Chinese, to Swahili, Hawaiian and Welsh. The software uses text translation, sound, speaking and visuals to gradually build phrases, teaching you a new language from the ground up. As you’re learning, you help to slowly translate formerly un-translated internet pages. If you’re new to a language, you can start from scratch; if you want to brush up your high school Spanish, there’s an aptitude test to determine which level you should start at.
Free online continuing education has broad benefits for modern workers, setting them apart for promotions and new opportunities in a tough job market. Is your career worth continuing education?
Amanda Pennington is a copy editor and writer at Innovative Publishing. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.