Webinars, Self-Study Courses And Conferences: Which Are Best For You?

As a professional in your field, you’ve likely completed your formal education — whether years or decades ago. Regardless of when you earned your degree, the need to expand your knowledge and expertise never ends.

Disciplines such as accounting are subject to constant change — including new technologies and techniques, along with modifications to state and federal statutes. To stay current, you’ll need to pursue some form of ongoing training.

These days, industry professionals can choose among a variety of educational opportunities — such as self-study courses, webinars, conferences and more. The options are virtually endless if you wish to keep abreast of industry trends, learn new skills and further your career options.

What are the benefits of the various forms of continuing education, and how can you choose the ones that may work best for you?

Benefits of Continuing Education

Many jobseekers, freelancers and other professionals look to continuing education to help them improve skills, find a desirable job or advance within the industry. Individuals who participate in continuing education — referred to as adult learners — frequently achieve success because they are highly motivated and ready to learn. In addition, most have spent time working in their fields and can put their experience to use in their ongoing studies.

What are some of the benefits adult learners experience after completing continuing education?

  • Better job marketability within the field. For those seeking employment, continuing education can add depth and competitiveness to a resume.
  • Expanded opportunities in an existing position. Individuals who complete continuing education while employed often find that they can qualify for promotions or salary increases.
  • Higher self-confidence and improved status among business and personal contacts.
  • Enhanced knowledge in a variety of subject areas. Many adult learners build their overall knowledge base by studying subjects outside their direct professional field.

Choosing the Right Type of Continuing Education

The type of continuing education you pursue — webinars, self-study courses, conferences or another format — depends largely on your professional goals and personal preferences.

For finance professionals such as certified public accountants, licensing requirements dictate that you complete a set amount of continuing education within a given time period to maintain your credentials. Requirements vary, so it’s important to understand what your state mandates.

Begin your continuing education by meeting any content requirements for your professional field. For example, in addition to gaining a specific number of credits, CPAs may be required to complete courses in subjects such as professional ethics, corporate taxation, audit risk and legal updates.

Within those constraints, you can choose among the various formats of continuing education. Many busy professionals prefer online learning or self-study courses, which do not require time away from the job. However, some people find that they learn best in a conference setting and enjoy interacting with a live lecturer and other professionals. 

Making the Most of Your Learning Experience

Once you’ve determined which learning format you prefer, take time to research the course you’d like to attend, as well as the lecturer. In a professional field such as accounting, it’s vital that you choose continuing education options only from NASBA accredited providers. In addition, ensure that your state licensing board will accept any continuing education credits you earn through your studies.

You’ll also want to understand whether the provider offers supplementary materials that you can review on your own. For example, a presenter in a webinar or at a conference may provide you with a list of additional online reading. For any material you study in a course, you may wish to read the source information for a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

Many professionals benefit from the versatility of continuing education options. However, adult learners also face unique challenges — balancing work and family responsibilities, finding time to devote to assignments outside class, and keeping up with rapidly changing technology. Having a support system — family members, friends and work colleagues — can help adult learners achieve their educational goals. 

For accountants and other professionals, continuing education options such as webinars, conferences and self-study courses offer creative, flexible ways to continue learning in the pursuit of knowledge and opportunity.

Mohamed Markar is founder and President of The Center for Professional Education, Inc., an acclaimed provider of continuing education programs for financial professionals. For more than three decades, Markar has initiated cutting-edge courses for a wide range of industries, employing the best speakers and instructors from the worlds of accounting, tax and business to ensure the latest knowledge and updates are always available. His company offers thousands of webinars, self-study programs, seminars and conferences annually, and hosts events nationally and internationally.

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