The Value of Continuing Education in Maintaining Competency as a Career Development Professional
By James Westhoff
Lifelong learning is the cornerstone of being an effective career development professional. Pursuing continuing education (CE) opportunities is an important activity to take part in in order to maintain or increase professional competency. “Continuing Education develops your skills, keeps you current in your field, and allows you to deliver quality services” (NCDA Credentialing Commission, 2021, p. 3). One value of obtaining an NCDA credential is that the process requires CE to maintain the credential. Whether you are considering seeking a credential or have already achieved one, it is important to focus on the value of continuing education to support lifelong competency.
The Importance of Continuing Education in Maintaining an NCDA Credential
Since the inception of the NCDA Credentialing program in 2017, over 3,000 people have obtained one of the NCDA certifications developed by the NCDA Credentialing Commission. Congratulations to all NCDA credential holders for this tremendous achievement, showing dedication to and competency in career development work. To maintain the credential, 30 contact hours of CE during each three-year cycle is required. The Credentialing Commission instituted this requirement because competency is the foundation of these certifications. In this article, we will discuss what constitutes acceptable CE, options for providers, the best way to track the hours and how the audit process works.
What Constitutes Acceptable Continuing Education?
Not all education qualifies as acceptable in supporting one's competency. The NCDA Credentialing Commission developed a Continuing Education Manual to define CE. This is the best resource to consult to get most questions answered because it is comprehensive.
All completed CE activities must align with the domains/competencies of the earned certification. Those domains/competencies are listed in the manual and on the NCDA Credentialing website. Activities that are approved for CE hours include: college/university courses; designing or presenting seminars/workshops/webinars to peers; attending seminars/workshops/webinars; writing articles for publications or conducting research; enrollment in self-study programs; authoring of NCDA Career Development Curriculum; designing and delivering Career Development Training/Courses; and leadership roles in NCDA or state career development associations (CDAs). Activities that are completed in the workplace such as workshops to client/student groups or client/student appointments do not count for continuing education. The CE Manual details the number of hours that are allowed to be reported for the various approved activities.
What are the Options for Providers of Continuing Education?
As shown in the CE Manual, there are many professional development and service options for CE that credential holders can seek. NCDA sponsored options include NCDA events and publications. In addition, state CDA events that are approved can be counted as continuing education. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Careers Webinars are also approved. Finally, NCDA has a listing of select continuing education providers that can be utilized and are found on the NCDA credentialing website. Finally, the manual also lists examples of organizations outside the NCDA that are approved for continuing education, and this includes state chapters of these national organizations as well.
What Is the Best Way to Track CE Hours?
NCDA credential holders will find a Continuing Education Log on the website, under Introduction to Credentialing. It is easy to log CE activities because the table provides the appropriately defined space: dates, the course/activity name, the competencies/domains that are covered, the provider/sponsor, the type of documentation showing that you completed the activity, and the number of contact hours. In addition, the credential holder should be sure to retain documentation (i.e., certificate, letter of completion, etc.) confirming participation. It is easy to lose this material over three years, so it might be helpful to create some kind of file system (virtual or paper folders). Proof may be needed if the credential holder is randomly selected for an audit.
What If You Are Audited?
The NCDA Credential Commission established an audit process to monitor the Continuing Education activities of credential holders. This process included the creation of an Audit Committee that reviews Continuing Education logs and approves credits obtained by those under audit. The Credential Commission randomly audits 10% of credential holder accounts that are due for renewal on a monthly basis.
If you are selected for an audit, you will be notified when you receive your invoice for credential renewal. You will then be contacted by the Audit Committee to provide proof of your continuing education credits. The Audit Committee needs documentation listing the number of CE contact hours completed, which is usually a certificate detailing the number of hours, confirmation of attendance and/or an agenda of the event with detailed timing. Credential holders should be sure to hold on to CE program descriptions, completion certificates and other documentation so they can be shared if audited.
The NCDA Credentialing Commission hopes this article helps clarify the value of continuing education and the importance of adhering to the CE process set forth when achieving a credential. It is imperative that we as professionals value the lifelong learning that demonstrates competency, as we strive to be effective career development practitioners. The members of the current Credentialing Commission are listed on the website if you have any questions about the continuing education process or other areas of the credentialing program.
NCDA Credentialing Commission. (2021). NCDA Credentialing Continuing Education Manual. National Career Development Association. https://ncdacredentialing.org/aws/NCDA/asset_manager/get_file/312355?ver=30775
James Westhoff is the Director of Career Services at Husson University. I started my career at Colorado State University’s Career Center and worked there as an office and graduate assistant. I moved to Brunswick, Maine in 1998 to work in the Career Planning Center at Bowdoin College where I stayed until December 2007. While at Bowdoin, I served as the Internship Coordinator, pre-law advisor, and Assistant Director. In 2010, I became the Director of Career Services at Husson University and work with students at every class level and area of interest. When not at work you may find me at concerts, hiking, or mountain climbing. I have been an active member of NCDA for many years and served on the NCDA Credential Commission from 2017 to 2021. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org