“The education of a man is never completed until he dies.”  – Robert E. Lee


The term mandatory continuing professional education bothers me. Given what I do for a living, saying that may constitute heresy. So let me explain. For many, including members of the public that professionals serve, the word mandatory implies that professionals do not seek out continuing education unless they are compelled to do so. Frankly, my belief is that the vast majority of professionals—doctors, accountants, lawyers, engineers, architects—embrace continuing education as a professional opportunity to improve skills and stay current. CE is a professional necessity to succeed and not just an irritating rule to be followed.


Mandatory CE rules do impact the business of delivering CE. Busy professionals need deadlines and deadlines do drive the seasonal consumption of CE. However, the seasonal nature of the business does not mean professionals consume CE only because they are required to do so. In my experience, a significant number of professionals consume more CE than is required; they work hard to seek out educational opportunities that are relevant to the work they do, and can confirm that they have improved skills as a result of CE.


As an association that provides CE, it is important to plan around deadlines and make sure relevant content is available and pushed out to members—in every possible delivery format and covering every possible topic important to the professional. Content development may be driven by a new CE rule, the effective date of a statute or coding requirement. However, content development related only to CE deadlines is an inadequate approach.


It is also important as an association that provides CE to take a 30,000 feet view of your overall CE program. CE is more than a revenue stream; it is more than a regulation to be enforced. Association CE is a critical member benefit. Association staff and leaders should strive to support the members of their association through comprehensive, relevant, and timely educational opportunities. The term mandatory may describe the CE requirements, but it should not describe any other facet of an association’s CE program.