March 13, 2010


I invested in myself — in study, in mastering my tools, in preparation.
— Henry Ford

It's what you learn after you know everything that really matters!
— John Wooden

When you receive a professional designation, your studies aren't over. You'll face requirements for continuing education. The concept is fine. If you love your field, you'll keep your skills current. Without passion, will the whack of the stick motivate you?

The hassle comes when you're committed to learning but forced to prove it.

Different professions have different requirements. As an actuary, I'm required to have 100 hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) every two years. This gives more flexibility than requiring 50 hours per year. Say you're on maternity leave or a sabbatical. Besides, 100 hours sounds more impressive than 50+50. Maybe actuaries can market.

The 100 hours must include
  • Technical: 12 structured hours
  • Professionalism: 4 hours
  • Structured: 24 hours
So 76 hours can be unstructured, which allows self-study. This system is reasonable and gives actuaries leeway in judging what is suitable.

Some organizations which are much easier to enter mandate fewer hours but have full control over what qualifies.

What Qualifies?
The easiest way to get continuing education credits is by attending seminars.

Sit there half awake and earn credits as you lose hours from your life. Feel free to daydream: you're rarely tested for comprehension. If you'd rather sit in your jammies, study online. You'll be more comfortable but probably have to pass a test to show you were paying attention.

Are the tests tough? Try one from the CDIC, which insures bank deposits. Here's a description:

"This course is a simple “read and learn” program. The examination component is composed of 16 multiple-choice questions. The questions are based on material found in the course, many of which are word-for-word."
Some organizations require that presentations be certified and even charge for conducting their review. How counterproductive. This encourages trainers to recycle previously-approved presentations instead of developing new ones. Since the trainers are helping the members, why not treat them as allies rather than wallets.

Suppose you educate as a free public service. Would you eagerly hand over your intellectual property and then pay for the review? Not me. Let those lured by CE credits go elsewhere. That leaves more room for those who yearn to learn.

Self Reporting
Continuing education requirements get implemented in phases. First, the minimum requirements get established and members do their own record-keeping. Soon the records must be submitted to the organization, and probably input online.

Does mandated continuing education protect the public?

Do you trust self-regulation when the members vote on the minimum requirements? Government regulation is hardly a solution. Remember Canada's controversial gun registry? Costs rocketed from $2 million to $1 billion. Imagine if your investment returns zoomed like that.

When trouble arises, you invariably find the wrongdoer followed all the rules.

Ultimate Protection
The real protection comes from people who care. They continue to educate themselves to serve you better. You can get a sense of this informal education when you talk to them. Are they current on what's going on? Can they answer questions in a way that you understand?

If harm occurs, the courts can help but this gets expensive and time-consuming. The side with more money or better lawyers has the advantage. The profession often steps in to protect their members instead of the public. That's why we have incompetents treating us and teaching our children. It took six doctors to mis(treat) one toe. At least they left my other nine alone.

Another Threat
Some people have fake credentials. Fake institutions sell thousands of fake diplomas each year. These buyers needn't worry about continuing education. They have no education to start.

Podcast 58 (5:28)

Direct download | Internet archive page

PS Even if you aren't forced to study, still study. If you won't invest in yourself, who will?

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