For practicing PTs, physical therapy continuing education courses (CEUs) are a fact of life. After all, most states require PTs to complete a certain number of CEUs each year in order to retain a license to practice. But just because these courses are mandatory doesn’t mean they also have to be a drag. Good physical therapy CEUs can be both educational and interesting; they also can be really great for your career and your clinic. But the good ones are rarely—if ever—free, which is why it’s especially important to get your money’s worth by selecting courses that will truly differentiate you and your practice. With that in mind, here’s how to select the best physical therapy continuing education courses:

Know the rules.

As I mentioned above, most states have specific requirements for CEU completion, so before you dive into selecting CEUs, check in with your state licensing board. According to Courtney Lefferts—the author of this CEU shopping guide—PTs in some states must receive a certain number of credits through accredited associations, courses, programs, and societies (although the remaining credits can be earned via alternative sources, in-services, or videos). Other states require PTs to complete all CEUs in person via approved channels. Regardless of where you practice, though, it’s always your responsibility as the practitioner to know—and abide by—all state rules. So, if you need a refresher, be sure to check out this blog post on CEU requirements by state—or download our comprehensive guide below.

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Know your goals.

While you could certainly choose your CEUs willy-nilly, they might not end up being the best use of your time—or your funds. Rather, in this post, doctors of physical therapy Ellen and Stephen Stockhausen “suggest taking courses that are part of a larger clinical reasoning schema,” such as McKenzie, Maitland, or SFMA. “The benefit of these over the random ‘shoulder course’ is that you are taught a framework upon which decisions can be made,” the Stockhausens said. “So even if you forget individual treatment techniques, the groundwork for making the best clinical decisions has already been firmly established.” This is especially important because the couple reported that most clinicians only retain about “10% of what they learn at a weekend course.”

That said, if the courses provide learning-based action-items that you can put into practice immediately (like the courses offered at our annual Ascend rehab therapy business summit), you’ll be able to quickly implement what you’ve learned—and make a difference in your practice. And that may even help boost the 10% retention rate.

Future Thinking

So, how do you identify your personal and clinic-wide education and professional goals? Start by looking toward the future—and asking yourself these questions:

  • What could you study now that would help your patients most in the next few years?
  • What new technique or treatment protocol—one that you really believe in—could you become certified in that would help you differentiate your clinic from others in your area?
  • What part of practicing do you love the most—or what condition or injury do you most enjoy treating? Are there any educational opportunities available that could help you become an expert in your area of choice?
  • What part of your—or your clinic’s—skillset do you feel is lacking? Is there coursework available that could help you fill in those gaps?

Know your options.

Once you’ve established your personal or clinic-wide educational goals, it’s time to start picking out the courses themselves. According to Lefferts, “Once you’ve found a program that piques your interest, [you should] carefully review the:

  • defined course goals,
  • target audience,
  • instructional level,
  • number of CEUs issued,
  • faculty qualifications, and
  • associated fees.”

This will help you determine which courses best align with your overall goals—and CEU-taking strategy. She also suggests querying your peers. After all, first-hand experience is going to be super helpful when it comes to determining which courses will help you win gold—and which ones won’t. But if you want our advice on where to find the best educational content (with information you’ll actually use), we recommend the following two resources:

The APTA

The International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) approved the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) as an authorized provider of continuing education units. Click here to find APTA-approved continuing education opportunities and national conferences by topic. Or, take a look at the APTA Learning Center, which allows you to search for courses by topic, audience, delivery method, or—if you’re an APTA member—free courses.

On the Learning Center homepage, you can enter a keyword or phrase into the search bar at the top right of the page or select “Catalog” in the top left of the menu bar to browse courses by topic. When you select a topic, you’ll see a summary of available courses (including information about fees for members and non-members), a brief overview of the course, the course delivery method, and presenter information. You can also click on “More Info” to, well, get more info about each course (e.g., system requirements, course level, and learning objectives). For even more course options, check in with your local APTA chapter to see what’s available in your area.

WebPT CEU

With an ever-growing online library of over 500 courses with more than 1,000 hours of premium on-demand content from industry experts and thought leaders across the country, WebPT CEU provides an efficient way for physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists to maintain their licensure and acquire new knowledge and skills—all on their time and at their convenience.

As a WebPT CEU user, you’ll be able to easily find available courses by state and profession, which means you’ll keep current with changing industry demands while also staying up to date with continuing competency requirements. Plus, you’ll be able to track your progress—as well as your employees’—on an easy-to-read transcript. That way, you’ll be totally prepared if you ever need to demonstrate course completion during an audit. Other WebPT CEU benefits include:

  • Automatic grading and certificate generation
  • Progress tracking
  • Up-to-date license requirements by state and specialty
  • Forever access to completed coursework
  • Assessment PRO Specialty Tests access

Ultimately, the right CEUs are the ones that help you develop the very best clinical skills, industry knowledge, and business acumen. And depending on the subject matter—as well as your state requirements—you may even be able to complete some of your CEUs from the comfort of your office (or living room). To learn more about the pros and cons of online CEUs, check out this post.