Continuing education is critical for every worker seeking to maintain their individual employability and relevancy.

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Consider this: Would you rather be treated by a nurse who graduated years ago but who has enthusiastically kept up with the latest technologies and research in their field — or a nurse who graduated a while ago but who has not kept up on the latest trends and advances?

Continuing education can make all of the difference in our own careers and also to our own well-being in a multitude of ways.

“Continuing education is a broad moniker that is often used in shorthand to reference a variety of learning experiences,” says Melissa Mecham, City University of Seattle Vice President of Student Services, “ranging from academic degrees or certificates in an individual’s current profession.” This could include a teacher who adds a specialized content endorsement to their teaching certificate. Or technical or short-term training offered by a community or technical college designed to help someone transition into a new job/career field. It could even cover short-term intense targeted training in a specific skill designed to enhance a worker’s professional tool kit.

Here are four ways continuing education can be valuable.

1. You maintain your accreditation in your field.

Many professions recognize the need for continuing education and build it into maintenance of the professional license: health care, counselors, lawyers, paralegals, accountants, financial consultants, engineers and project managers are just a few. These professions require participation in educational activities in designated periods in order for professionals to continue working.

There are a number of ways professionals can meet their continuing education requirements. Some options are very convenient — online classes — and sometimes, even free.

“Through Sanford Inspire, we offer continuing education to teachers in Washington state, for free — on a wide variety of topics,” says Libbie Stellas, Director of Sanford Education Programs at City University of Seattle. (Sanford Education Programs include Sanford Harmony, Sanford Inspire and the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy.) “Teachers can take the course online, submit their completion to CityU, and we grant them their continuing education credit,” Stellas says. “Any teacher in Washington can do this.”

2. You improve your marketability in the workforce — and within your current organization.

Even when there is no mandate for a profession or field, the change of pace requires today’s workers to continually upgrade their skills and knowledge to remain both competitive in the workplace and to help their respective organizations remain competitive.

“Continuing education activities serve to expose the learner to new ideas and strategies, which has added benefits for their organizations as they bring this learning back into their workplace,” says Mecham.

Continuing education, whether in the form of additional training or degree obtainment, is critical for every worker seeking to maintain their individual employability and relevancy in the market — even if it is within their existing organizations. Acquiring new skills can create advancement opportunities, both inside and outside the current workplace, as well as create networking connections with other professionals.

“Continuing education is really about gaining new skills and knowledge to keep yourself current in your field or obtaining the skills needed to enter a new field,” says Mecham.

3. It enables you to make a greater impact in your field.

Often, we think of continuing education as only relevant to health care-, tech- or business-oriented jobs. However, continuing education can also greatly benefit those fields such as nonprofit and philanthropy.

“For nonprofit leaders and people new to this career, offering training in a variety of ways is really important — webinars, on-site, streamed,” says Stellas, who points to the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy as a great resource.

There are approximately 30,000 federally recognized tax-exempt nonprofit organizations in Washington state, according to research done by Washington Nonprofits. Those with paid staff employed more than 200,000 employees and paid more than $13 billion in wages in 2015. And nonprofits in the state reaped the benefits of volunteer hours valued at more than $5 billion per year. The economic and community impacts are considerable.

4. It can give you an edge in an increasingly globalized workforce.

Globalization makes the world feel smaller and smaller. For those working for employers who do business overseas, continuing education — the language acquisition kind — may be the edge needed to stay competitive in the workforce.

“City U houses the Washington Academy of Languages,” says Stellas. “And it’s one of the largest and only places left where you can learn Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Russian and many other languages because there aren’t a lot of language schools in this country.”

The Washington Academy of Languages trains students in a number of world languages and offers graduate TESOL Certificate Programs.

City University of Seattle is a private nonprofit university accredited through the doctoral level. It is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the Top 50 in the country for its online bachelor’s degree programs for seven consecutive years.