Continuing Education Units
Offering Continuing Education Units:
A Guide for SWCS Chapters (version 2.01)
One of the missions of SWCS is to offer continuing education opportunities to Society members and the public. This document is meant to be only a resource to assist chapters in planning professional development opportunities and offering Continuing Education Units.
What Are Continuing Education Units?
A Continuing Education Unit (CEU), as we use the term in this guide, is simply a measure of continuing professional education that an individual has completed. Other commonly used terms include Continuing Education Credit and Professional Development Hour (PDH). These are just a different form of CEU. As defined by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training, the CEU is a recognized method of quantifying participation in an organized continuing education or professional development experience under responsible sponsorship, capable direction, and qualified instruction. Officially, one CEU is defined as ten contact hours of time spent in such an educational experience. However, many organizations have other ways of measuring credits, such as 1 hour of credit for each 45 minutes to an hour spent in an educational or professional development activity.
The primary purpose of CEUs is to provide a record of the non-credit educational and professional development activities that an individual has completed. This record is especially important to professionals who have been certified or licensed in specific fields of expertise.
Professional certification programs set standards for knowledge, skills, and conduct. These voluntary programs protect the public by helping insure that those offering services or advice are trained professionals. They also help maintain integrity and professionalism, which in turn helps to maintain the trust and respect of the general public. Many practicing professionals are also required to hold and maintain a license. Licensing programs are usually state-based, with requirements varying from state to state.
The majority of these programs require completion of continuing education activities each year in order to maintain a certification or license. In addition, some professional organizations have specific Professional Development Certification programs to recognize members who are committed to lifelong learning.
In some cases, the amount of education required is relatively easy to attain. For others, CEUs are difficult to find and expensive to obtain, so professionals are continually looking for conveniently located and reasonably priced continuing education opportunities. SWCS Chapters may be able to provide them.
What Are the Benefits to My Chapter?
It is by no means a requirement that chapters offer CEUs at training sessions. However, if they are not currently doing so, chapters may want to consider the benefits of offering CEUs, which can be achieved for very little effort. Among other benefits, professional development activities which offer CEUs may provide your chapter with:
- An opportunity to introduce more professionals to the mission of SWCS;
- Increased exposure for your chapter;
- Increased attendance at training sessions; and
- As a result, the potential for increased revenue and new chapter members.
Do Conservation Professionals Need CEUs?
Today the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is requiring that employees obtain Conservation Planning Certification and sometimes certification in nutrient and pest management as well. Some states require CEUs to maintain these certifications. The same requirements also apply to Technical Service Providers (TSP) working with the agency. If your chapter is interested in providing continuing education to TSP and NRCS planners, work with your NRCS state office staff to determine the needs for training and CEUs.
Many professional organizations also have certification programs and continuing education requirements for professionals working in the conservation and natural resource disciplines, such as engineers, foresters, wildlife biologists, crop consultants, range conservationists, Geographic Information System (GIS) specialists, planners, erosion control specialists, and soil scientists. These are all potential audiences for your chapter’s activities. Requirements vary between professions and organizations, so each should be contacted individually about their requirements for granting CEUs. There may also be state-level requirements for approving and accepting these credits. Information about various natural resource professionals and their continuing education needs is provided later in this guide.
Hint: To see what training might be needed in your region, take a look at the 2002 Professional Development for Conservation Professionals Survey.
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