Posted on: May 21, 2024
Author: Randy Bowman
Beyond the Clock: How CEUs Validate the Quality of Professional Education image

A common misconception is that the Continuing Education Unit (CEU) merely reflects time spent in a learning activity. However, the true value of the CEU lies much deeper, serving as a measure of the quality of continuing education and training.

It's not enough to simply offer ten hours of training and label it as a CEU; the real substance comes from the comprehensive standards that underpin this unit of measurement.

Often cited as the world's largest training platform, YouTube hosts millions of educational videos across various fields, from DIY home projects to academic subjects. Many turn to YouTube to learn new skills, like Photoshop techniques or Excel functions. Indeed, a Pew Research Center report indicates that about 51% of YouTube users rely on the platform to learn new tasks. However, this informal training doesn't meet professional licensing requirements or count towards formal education credits like the CEU.

Adhering to Rigorous Standards

flowchart representing the instructional design and delivery process. The phases show are needs analysis, learning outcomes, content & instruction, outcomes assessment, and program evaluation. The layout is structured to visually guide the viewer through the instructional design process from start to finish.

The issuance of a CEU is contingent upon an organization's adherence to rigorous standards, such as the ANSI/IACET 2018-1 Standard for Continuing Education and Training (the CET Standard). These standards, maintained by IACET, ensure educational excellence through a robust framework. This framework includes conducting thorough needs assessments, crafting clear learning outcomes, and implementing genuine assessments—all underpinned by a program evaluation process.


The CET Standard provides more than seventy requirements across nine internationally recognized classifications, divided into two major pillars: Administrative Control and Organizational Capacity and Instructional Design and Delivery Process. These cover everything from governance and finance to learning outcomes and program evaluation. Such comprehensive criteria are crucial for ensuring that learners achieve specific competency gains, which are rigorously defined and assessed. Only when the whole framework is implemented and followed can an organization truly issue CEUs.

The Role of IACET Accreditation

This is where IACET accreditation becomes significant. While any organization can claim to follow the specifications in the CET Standard, only those with IACET accreditation can confidently assure their learners of adherence to this framework. IACET's rigorous third-party evaluation process verifies that educational processes comply with these criteria by auditing the organization’s policies and processes for compliance and verifying evidence of adherence to those policies and processes.

In essence, a CEU is more than just a time log; it reflects a commitment to high-quality, effective education. It embodies the rigorous process of ensuring that the learning provided meets the comprehensive standards necessary for professional development and continuous improvement. This process contrasts sharply with informal learning platforms like YouTube, which, while useful for acquiring new skills, lack formal educational validation that institutions accredited by IACET provide. Thus, when a CEU is awarded from an IACET Accredited Provider, it truly represents the best in continuing education and training.

About the Author


Randy is a seasoned executive leader currently serving as the President and CEO of IACET, a non-profit accrediting body in the continuing education and training sector. With a focus on strategic vision and operational excellence, he effectively leads the organization to achieve its mission and goals.

With over two decades of experience in various leadership roles, Randy has a proven track record of driving organizational success. His expertise lies in aligning technological solutions with strategic objectives, ensuring operational efficiency and sustainable growth.

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