There are many different reasons to participate in continuing education activities if you are an Architect or Engineer. Of course the primary reason that most of us do it is that our licensure requires it. Being professionally licensed as an Architect or Engineer means you must obtain a certain number of hours of continuing education annually, from as little as 8 to as many as 30, depending on your state. Individuals must keep their own records of these efforts as they are done on good faith but open to the occasional audit.
But rather than seeing continuing education as a burden, many professionals today are getting increasingly creative in seeking out continuing education opportunities that both enhance their career and their career goals and fit their busy schedule, turning those hours into productive time to explore ideas, subjects, and entire courses. Especially now that so many of these continuing education courses are available in so many convenient formats, it is relatively easy to find courses and materials that meet your content needs, budget, and schedule.
The following websites provide requirements by state:
According to the website for the American Society for Mechanical Engineers, (ASME) professional engineers have many different options available for maintaining their continuing education. Engineers may attend actual brick and mortar universities, trade and technical organization seminars, and online classes, either through non-profit or private companies. Publishing papers, articles, or books also earns personal development hours. Additional sources of credit include participating in professional organizations and directed self-study. Options are similar for Architects. The AIA, according to their website, provides a helpful transcript service that keeps track of your AIA Learning Units and continuing education.
Especially for the clarity of those who are just getting into practice, let’s first dispel a few myths that are out there:
Myth #1 – You must pay for continuing education credits.
Not true. Although the good majority of continuing education credits are available in a format that you must pay for to varying degrees, there are still several online sites that offer free course content. Notably, AEC Daily is one of the largest sources of free continuing education courses for architects, engineers, contractors and other construction professionals. You can also create your own hours through doing research and presentations relevant to the required subject matter.
Myth #2 – My credits cannot apply to both state and professional organization requirements.
Many credits bear the approval of your professional organization and are equally applicable to state requirements so that they can legitimately count for both. For example, AIA Architect members must complete 18 LUs each calendar year and 12 must be in Health, Safety, and Welfare (HSW) topics. The State licensing board may also require 12 in HSW and so the credits can do double duty.
Make sure you read carefully the requirements for both and take note of which credits need to be which categories. Some states require a minimum number of architectural continuing education in specific topics such as accessibility, sustainable design, or ethics. These guidelines are designed to help direct your studies and give you some foundation in areas that are deemed essential.
Myth #3 – There is one best way for everyone to earn their continuing education.
Not true. There are a number of other ways to obtain continuing education credits. Some programs include a pdf presentation and a brief quiz. Others do research and write articles and blog about relevant topics. Remember, you can always ask the State board about a particular learning opportunity just to make sure it will count.