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The Importance of Continuing Education and Professional Development

All health, wellness, and nutrition coaches know the feeling. After months of studying hard to earn your coach’s certification, you finally did it! A big part of you wants to forget the books and the courses for a while and focus on doing what you love—working with clients and growing your business. 

Without a doubt, being able to put your knowledge into practice is the greatest reward after sleepless nights of studying and expanding your mind. But, don’t put those books away for too long! 

Guess what, coach? Your coaching or consulting certification is perhaps the biggest and most important milestone of your coaching career, but  to maintain your certified status, you are required to complete at least sixteen hours of continuing education at least every two years. 

You need to make a plan to get your CECs to keep your certification active! 

What Are CECs?

CECs, or Continuing Education Credits, are learning experiences approved by your coaching certification entity, like AFPA, to maintain your certification status. Some organizations use the term Continuing Education Units (CEUs) instead of CECs. 

CECs are required of you by AFPA and other accrediting organizations to maintain your certified status in the years following your certification. 

Completing CECs ensures that you are up-to-date with your knowledge, and it assures your clients that you are committed to adhering to a code of ethics and the highest standards of practice. 

To maintain your AFPA-certified status, you need to complete sixteen hours of approved continued education every two years. The requirements of other certifying organizations may vary from ten hours to thirty hours every one to three years. If you are certified by an organization other than AFPA, make sure you are aware of the requirements to keep your certification active. 

Why Should Coaches Continue Their Education? The Value of CECs For Your Professional Growth

In the world of health and wellness, the health professional’s understanding of prevention and treatment options is constantly changing thanks to countless hours of research and development, billions of dollars in investment, dozens of adapted public policies, and innumerable discoveries and criticisms of current treatment and prevention options.

In 2018 in the US alone, around $194.2 billion was invested in health and medical research and development with around a 6% growth every year. Since the beginning of the pandemic, an additional $5 billion was invested in R&D devoted to understanding the coronavirus and developing a vaccine. 

Research on the coronavirus is just one example of how scientific understanding and human experiences of health, nutrition, wellness, and fitness are constantly changing and improving. Regardless of your certifying organization’s requirements to complete your CECs before your certification expires, continuing your education and staying up-to-date with the latest research is essential to ensure you,

  1. Continue to offer quality services.
  2. Stay competitive in the field of coaching. 

Continuing your education helps keep you up-to-date with the latest research and perspective

Taking a specialization course or an introductory course on a health topic you’ve been interested in provides you with an opportunity to examine your current thinking and strategies and update them with what works. Not only is staying up-to-date helpful for seeing improved outcomes in your clients, but it is also the right thing to do. 

Think of it this way: Would you go to a dentist who you knew used anesthesia that was no longer approved by the FDA? Probably not. Not only may it be risky for your health, but it may also be a sign that there are other practices that are out-of-date. 

The same goes for your coaching services. Until you learn otherwise through a course or a seminar, your may be basing your recommendations on outdated information, or in the worse case scenario, you may be applying obsolete techniques and knowledge. Not only is this a missed opportunity to make a positive impact on your clients, but it is also a disservice to them to have entrusted part of their health journey to you. 

By participating in opportunities to keep your knowledge active, you can: 

  • Refresh your knowledge on a subject you have not yet put into practice
  • Be informed about the most up-to-date guidelines and recommendations for lifestyle, exercise, or specific health conditions
  • Get questions answered from experts in your niche
  • Add value to your coaching business
  • Learn how to connect your knowledge with how you work with clients

Continuing your education helps to stay competitive

Health and wellness coaching is a competitive field, and with the rise of digital coaching services, your clients may have dozens of coaches to choose from.

Continuing your education in health-related fields can help you be better prepared and more attractive to your clients. When they learn that you are investing in your education, it gives them confidence that you are concerned about providing the best service possible. 

Second, there are a wealth of courses in business-related fields that can help to take your coaching services to the next level. While the technical knowledge in health and wellness coaching is essential to offer ethical services, learning the business side can help you grow your business.  

How Can I Earn My CECs?

There are many ways you can earn your CECs to keep your AFPA coaching and consulting certification active. 

Some of the ways you can earn your CECs include: 

  • Taking AFPA Certification Programs and CEC courses. This is the most efficient way to earn your CECs if you are currently AFPA-certified or if your certification has recently expired. 
  • Taking courses offered by approved providers that offer CECs (sometimes called CEUs) in topics related to coaching, fitness, health, or nutrition.
  • Participating in workshops, seminars, and conferences related to your area of focus. To use these to count toward your CECs, you will need 1) proof of attendance, 2) certificate of completion, and 3) an application for a petition if the course does not offer CECs.

If you want to apply the time you’ve spent participating in a workshop, seminar, or conference toward your CECs, know that this can get tricky. Many conferences and workshops open to the public do not offer certificates of completion. Even for those that do offer certificates, keep in mind that AFPA or your certifying agency may not accept your petition if the topic was not relevant to your certification or if there was no way to determine the number of hours you participated in the activity.  

If you go more than twelve months with an expired certification without taking a CEC, you will be required to take the certification course again. 

What Doesn’t Qualify as a CEC?

The following activities do not qualify toward your CECs:

  • Your job
  • Leadership or committee responsibilities
  • Attendance to meetings
  • Membership in professional organizations
  • CPR certificates
  • Renewed AFPA certificates 

The above activities are likely important elements of your professional development. However, Continuing Education Credits require a structure, with the primary end being the transfer of new or updated knowledge to the participants. 

How to Make a Plan to Get Your CECs

For some coaches, sixteen hours of CECs over the course of two years may seem easy, especially considering the countless hours spent studying to get certified. 

However, keep in mind that some courses that are of interest to you might be much longer than sixteen hours.  

When you are running a business and taking care of your personal life, it can take time to complete your CECs, so planning ahead is important. 

Here are four steps you can follow to get your CECs:

  1. As soon as you get certified—start looking. Use the motivation you feel to get your business going to find out how you can add value to your services even more. 
  2. Set alerts for courses you are interested in. Invest time in looking around for courses. Note that some courses have maximum capacities, so sign up for newsletters or set alerts to get notified when enrollment opens.  
  3. Take the course or participate in the event. This is the fun part! Make sure the courses you take or events you partake in accumulate at least sixteen hours of CECs. 
  4. Report to your certification organization. If you earn CECs elsewhere, remember to submit a petition for AFPAs approval. Most other certifying organizations have a similar process. 

Start making a plan to earn your CECs today! 

You can learn more about getting your CECs here: 

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