Continuing education is used to mean education of many types, but it generally refers to education that is beyond a first bachelor’s degree, outside of a degree program, and does not involve learning of a language of the country in which one resides. To understand more about the many opportunities for continuing education, keep reading.
The Wide Field of Continuing Education

Broadly speaking, continuing education is personal or professional education beyond a degree program. The professional aspect includes post-graduate work undertaken piecemeal, as well as employer-sponsored training programs, and other forms of professional development in the form of workshops, conferences, seminars, etc. The purpose of these activities can be to maintain or increase professional credentials.

Continuing education also includes courses undertaken for personal enrichment, development of skills used in hobbies and avocational undertakings, understanding of fields that are connected with general life skills, such as investing or cooking, and academic areas in which the student does not have a specialty or the intent to earn a degree.

Where Is Continuing Education Offered?

Continuing education offered for the purpose of professional development is often available either through employers or colleges and universities, sometimes through a designated “continuing education department.” Government agencies connected with the professions and/or providers of or experts in tools and technology used in the profession may also sponsor continuing education opportunities.

Non-professional continuing education is offered at a wider range of locations throughout many communities.

  • Adult Education Programs

Often situated in a high school or other building used by public school students during the day, adult education courses are a form of continuing education that is often offered during evening hours and sometimes over the weekend. Topics can range from hobbies like photography, jewelry-making, or painting, to beginning foreign language instruction undertaken for personal enrichment to training in financial matters, pet obedience, or opportunities to try out new sports. Courses for aspiring writers are also popular.

  • Community Colleges

Community colleges have long served as a provider of continuing education, with lifelong learning being part of their mission. Today, the 1,195 community colleges, some with several branches, serve 11.5 million students, with 5 million of those taking advantage of noncredit (i.e., continuing education) courses.

  • Parks and Recreation Departments

Parks and Recreation Departments often offer similar opportunities to those offered in Adult Education Programs, but sometimes with more opportunities for athletic-oriented activities. On-line courses, especially for training in technology such as word-processing, spreadsheets, and other standard software applications, such as those offered by Education to Go, may also be offered through Parks and Recreation Departments.

  • Colleges and Universities

Although their main focus may be on their degree programs, colleges and universities may also offer continuing education or extension courses that are not professionally oriented, particularly in the summer or over other school vacations, as a way of making use of the facility while benefiting the community. Often these courses may be offered for minimal or no credit and at reasonable cost.

  • Elderhostel

Elderhostel is an organization specializing in lifelong learning presented through continuing education experiences that involve travel. They can involve sports, cultural tours and events, interaction with nature, such as bird watching, theatre performances, etc.

  • Senior Centers

Senior centers often offer continuing education courses among their services. Art courses, fitness, computer skills, support groups, games, and literary and cultural studies are among the frequent offerings.

  • Other

Cultural centers, such as museums and libraries, may offer led discussion groups, speakers, workshops, and other forms of continuing education. My local public radio station offers international educational tours that include live performances of local music.

Distance learning and audio courses provide newer means of continuing education, including for people who must travel frequently and cannot consistently attend a campus based course, or those who are homebound. Although these courses often have reduced interactive capability, check the program before making this assumption. Also, although these possibilities are offered by private companies and organizations, check with colleges, universities, community colleges - both local and those you can access online - to find out about their offerings in this arena.

Another source of continuing education material is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Open Course Ware website. OCW offers materials for 1800 courses in fields ranging from Architecture to Management and can be found at


Elder Hostel -

American Association of Community Colleges -