The Continuing Education Unit (CEU) is designed to facilitate recording, accumulating and exchanging standardized information about individual participation and learning achievement in continuing education experiences. The CEU concept is designed to accommodate a wide variety of continuing education opportunities. The number of CEUs to be awarded can be determined only after the program or activity has been designed and the schedule has been established. It provides individuals with recognition for their efforts to update or broaden their knowledge, skills or attitudes. Probably the two most common uses of a CEU record or transcript by the individual learner are:

  • To supply an employer or prospective employer with information on continuing education and training experiences pertinent to professional competence and
  • To provide documentation to registration boards, certification bodies or professional and occupation organizations of continuing education undertaken to maintain or increase professional competence.

An increasing number of companies and organizations now include copies of CEU transcripts in employee personnel files or add such information to their human resource inventory for use when personnel evaluation and promotions are being considered.

What Is a CEU?

The continuing education unit is a standard of measure for continuing education or training. The criteria was developed by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET). IACET defines the CEU “as ten contact hours of participation in an organized continuing education experience under responsible sponsorship, capable direction, and qualified instruction.” In other words, one CEU equals 10 hours of instruction included in a specified continuing education program or activity.

The number of contact hours of instruction and appropriate CEUs to be awarded are determined prior to conducting a learning experience. The award can only be made after the purpose and intended learning outcomes, requirements for satisfactory completion, content and content level, format, instructional methodology, instructional staff and time schedule of the program have been established. A decision to award CEUs cannot be made after the program or activity has been offered.

The 60-minute clock is used as the contact hour in all continuing education experiences. Only the number of complete instruction hours is considered in assigning CEUs. To determine the number of contact hours, count the hours in the program and subtract refreshment breaks, lunches and other activities not directly part of the instructional experience. The following are not included when calculating the number of instructional contact hours for any continuing education experience:

  • Time for study, assigned reading and other related activities outside of the classroom or meeting schedule;
  • Meeting time devoted to business or committee activities;
  • Meeting time devoted to announcements, welcoming speeches or organizational reports;
  • Time allocated to social activities, refreshment breaks, luncheons, receptions, dinner and so forth. Time devoted to a luncheon or dinner presentation, integral to the continuing education experience, may be included in calculating instructional contact hours;
  • General sessions of meetings, conferences and conventions. However, specially organized courses, workshop, or seminars held in conjunction with such meetings qualify.

The requirements for satisfactory completion must be established prior to the offering of the program or activity through mutual agreement of the program coordinator and program instructor. Requirements may be based on the ability of participants to demonstrate what they have learned or some predetermined level of attendance (at least 80%) or a combination of performance and attendance. If CEU earnings are based on attendance, they should be documented by such means as earnings records, attendance rosters or sign-in sheets.