What Does CEU Stand For?

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: February 19, 2022  •  7 min read  •  Continuing Education
Approved Course is reader-supported. If you buy through links on our site, we may earn a small commission.

CEU is an acronym for continuing education unit. And if you’re in a profession that requires mandatory continuing education – or MCE – you’ll hear the term “CEU” often. But what exactly is a continuing education unit?

What Does CEU Stand For?

Understanding Continuing Education Units

One CEU equals 10 hours of continuing education activity – such as a class or hands-on training. To earn this unit, the activity must last at least 60 minutes. So, if a class is 30 minutes long, you won’t receive a unit credit until you’ve taken at least two classes (for a total of 60 minutes).

However, when a profession requires MCE, it’s usually stated in hours instead of units – but not always.

For example, Texas requires licensed real estate agents to complete 18 hours of continuing education. And class enrollment information indicates how many hours are awarded for participating in the class.

A Texas real estate agent might take a class that counts as 8 hours towards the 18 required hours. That means the agent will need an additional 10 hours of learning to fulfill the 18-hour requirement.

Why Do Some Professions Require Continuing Education?

Learning is a lifelong process. Just because you’ve completed your initial training, that doesn’t mean there’s not more to learn. That’s why some states require certain licensed professionals to take continuing education classes before they can renew their licenses.

Continuing education offers the perfect way for professionals to stay current with their skills and knowledge. It also helps them remain in compliance with the standards, laws, and certifications that allow them to remain licensed.

Professions that Require MCE

Some states require certain licensed professionals to complete continuing education classes. The hours required varies by state and profession. And failing the classes – or not enrolling at all – prevents license renewal.

Here are some professions that commonly have continuing education requirements.

Real Estate Industry

Most states require licensed real estate agents to complete continuing education courses. The courses are a mandatory part of the license renewal process.

For example, licensed real estate agents in Alabama must have 15 hours of continuing education every two years. The State of Alabama Real Estate Commission determines which courses are needed.

In Alabama, three of the 15 hours must consist of a risk management level one class. An additional three hours must consist of a risk management level 2 class. And the final nine hours can consist of any class approved by the State of Alabama Real Estate Commission. That’s a total of 15 hours to fulfill the continuing education requirement.

As mentioned earlier, not all states have the same continuing education requirements for licensed real estate agents. For example, if you compare Alabama’s requirements to those of California, you’ll see that California requires more hours.

In California, a licensed real estate agent needs 45 hours of continuing education as approved by the California Department of Real Estate.

Fifteen of the hours must consist of five 3 hour classes in ethics, risk management, fair housing, and trust funds. An additional 18 hours of consumer protection education is also required. That’s a total of 33 hours towards the required 45 hours.

The remaining 12 hours must consist of courses concerning consumer protection and consumer service.

Dental Industry

Some states require dentists and dental hygienists to complete continuing education courses. Take Alabama, for example.

The Board of Dental Examiners of Alabama requires local dentists to complete 20 hours of mandatory continuing education. Ten of the hours can occur online. And at least 2 of the 20 hours must focus on infectious diseases. These requirements are different for dental hygienists.

Dental hygienists in Alabama need 12 hours of continuing education each year. Six of those hours can occur online. And 2 of the 12 hours must include a course in infectious diseases. Courses in law, ethics, risk management, and practice management are also approved topics.

Distance-based education is allowed as well – as long as the Board approves the courses of Dental Examiners of Alabama. In addition to internet courses, learning can occur via publications, journals, videotapes, and mail correspondence courses.

The professional must submit a form of completion or affidavit stating they’ve completed the required hours. Failure to do so will result in denial of license renewal.


Continuing education requirements in this field also vary by state. But courses must have the approval of The American Psychology Association or some other certified national mental health organization.

In Arkansas, licensed psychologists must complete 20 hours of mandatory continuing education every year. It’s also mandatory that at least 3 of those hours focus on ethics.

Some states are slightly less lenient in their requirements for psychologists. For example, Alabama requires 20 hours per year as well. However, there’s no restriction on the allowed topics. As long as the courses are approved, then they count towards the requirement.

On the other hand, some states are precise about continuing education requirements for psychologists. Take Arizona, for example.

Psychologists in Arizona must complete 60 hours of continuing education every two years. Sixty of those hours must consist of 40 hours of “Category I” classes. These 40 hours must include classes in ethics, child abuse, or domestic violence training.

An additional 20 hours must come from “Category II” classes. This category includes things such as self-study, publication in a journal, workshops, and seminars.

Electrical Industry

Some states make it mandatory for licensed electricians to complete continuing education courses. Any licensed electrician who doesn’t successfully complete these courses will not have their license renewed.

As in the professions mentioned above, courses must have approval from an official committee or group. In some instances, states require these classes to keep electricians in compliance with the National Electrical Code (NEC) NFPA 70.

The NFPA 70 is the official standard for the safe installation of electrical wiring and equipment in the United States.

For example, Alabama recently adopted NEC standards. The state requires licensed electricians to have 14 hours of continuing education every two years. And 7 out of those 14 hours must include an NEC code class.

In Alabama, electricians can take their courses online or in the classroom. Idaho is another state that requires electricians to adhere to NEC standards.

Idaho requires licensed electricians to take 24 hours of continuing education every 3 years. Sixteen of those hours must include classes dealing with NEC code changes.

Massage Industry

Massage therapy is not licensed in every state. Kansas, Minnesota, Vermont, Wyoming, and Oklahoma don’t require massage therapists to obtain a license. But in states that do require a license, continuing education is often required as well.

For example, the Michigan Board of Massage requires 18 hours of continuing education for all licensed massage therapists. Courses must have Board approval before they can count towards the 18-hour requirement.

At least 1 hour of study must consist of pain and symptom management. And at least 2 hours of study must consist of professional ethics or boundaries.

During license renewal, licensees must show proof that they’ve completed all 18 hours of education.

Continuing Education Helps Your Career

The thought of taking hours of extra classes might sound unappealing. The expense might also cause you some concern. But if your profession requires continuing education, it’s important to fulfill the requirements.

You benefit in several ways from taking these courses. First of all, you’re allowed to renew your license and keep practicing your profession. Second of all, your skills improve, and you become better at your job.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.