As therapists, we spend a lot of time educating. Education is a skill that is crucial to our success in the clinic. It is also a skill for which there is a great deal of opportunity outside of the clinical setting.
There are many paths you can take to become an educator outside of patient care, including teaching at PTA/OTA program, teaching at a PT/OT/SLP school (you’ll often find in-person and online opportunities), or even teaching a general science course at a community college or local high school.
But one area of education that intrigues many therapists is continuing education. Becoming a continuing education instructor is a great way test out the waters of the education world, without the commitment of a full-time role. Being a con-ed instructor can also provide a good deal of flexibility and autonomy.
Do I have the qualifications to be a continuing education instructor?
Before we go any further, let’s talk about something. If you’re anything like me, the thing that holds you back from pursuing opportunities in education is a nagging doubt that says,
“Who am I to teach my peers? I have nothing new to offer. I don’t know any more than my fellow clinicians.”
This is simply not true. Many, many people are qualified to teach continuing education courses.
We all have areas that we are very comfortable with, as well as other areas that we feel we know nothing about, depending on our experience. With the array of options out there, I am confident that there is a place for you in the continuing education world, if that is your goal.
After all, education companies are always looking to put out fresh content created by continuing education instructors like you. People who:
- Are knowledgeable. Do you hold an active clinical license as a PT, OT, or SLP?* Do you have additional certifications and training? Experience working in a niche setting? Even better!
*Even if you’re an assistant, you might qualify to teach some courses. Better to ask than assume you can’t!
- Have experience. If you’ve been practicing for ages, great! But some companies will hire therapists who are only a few years out of school.
- Want to teach. If you possess a desire to educate others on a topic you are passionate about, it will come through in your pitch. (We’ll discuss pitches below.)
Now that we’ve established that you’re probably qualified to teach these courses, let’s break it down in a way that considers both your comfort level with teaching and how you feel about public speaking.
1. Are you new to the world of teaching or public speaking?
If you’ve never taught and the thought of public speaking doesn’t exactly put you at ease, consider these tips.
- Consider working with online only companies to get your feet wet.
- Put together a great pitch.
- Start with a topic you are comfortable with and feel passionate about.
- Reach out to a couple of the smaller companies who may have more relaxed requirements of their instructors.
- Find a successful educator to mentor you.
2. Have you been writing, teaching, and presenting for awhile?
If you’re already in the world of education, that’s great news! You don’t have to prove yourself, and you already have teaching experience on your CV. Here are some steps to take to become a continuing education instructor.
- Put together a great pitch.
- Reach out to larger continuing education companies such as Continued (creators of PhysicalTherapy.com and OccupationalTherapy.com), Allied Health Edu or MedBridge.
- Create a course for sale on MedRehabWeb (see below for description).
If you’re not comfortable reaching out to companies right away, consider these steps to make you more confident.
- Practice presenting: give an inservice to your colleagues or your community, present at conferences locally or nationally, or write on your topic for texts or online publications.
- Present at local and national conferences.
- Create a quick course on Udemy, covering a non-clinical or semi-clinical topic.
How does creating coursework for existing continuing education companies even work?
OK, so you’re getting serious about becoming a continuing education instructor. Good!
There are lots of websites and companies out there that are providing continuing education to clinicians. Some provide a mix of live on-site seminars and online platforms, while others are strictly online.
Onsite vs. online continuing education
Onsite course instruction often pays better, but it typically requires travel and speaking in front of an audience, which doesn’t appeal to everyone. On the other hand, online course instruction doesn’t always pay as much, but you can literally create a course from the comfort of your own home.
There’s also the option of working for yourself, and creating your own line of courses. That is a topic for a separate article. This article focuses on working as a con-ed instructor for an existing company.
The benefits of being a continuing education instructor through existing organizations include:
- The ability to reach a large audience. You don’t have to market yourself to spread the word about your topic of expertise.
- The resources to get CEUs through the approval agencies. This is a challenge for anyone, so working with a company that has established relationships with approval agencies is very helpful.
- Guaranteed pay. When you work through an existing con-ed company, you’ll receive either a flat rate or royalty payments for your course.
The challenges of working with these companies include:
- Proof of competency. You will need to provide evidence that you are qualified to teach on the topic (credentials, experience, licensure, CV, etc.).
- Additional materials. You will need to create course materials—including a course description, objectives, and an exam—in addition to the “meat” of the course.
- Selling yourself to the company. Perhaps most difficult, you will need to have a course topic to present to the company in a way that will make them want to bring you onto their team. Just working in pediatrics won’t cut it; you’ll need to know the companies’ existing coursework in pediatrics, and tailor your pitch accordingly.
Who are the major continuing education providers in the physical therapy world?
A majority of the online continuing education companies provide information on their website regarding how to become an instructor with them. Most have a basic online form where you can provide your contact information and propose a course topic. Some ask that you contact them via email with your proposal.
Here is a list of several of the most notable companies, with links to their instructor information pages. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it includes many of the more well-known companies, as well as some lesser-known ones. Also, some of the links go to the contact page, as some of the companies do not have set instructor information pages.
- Allied Health Education
- Home CEU Connection
- Summit Professional Education (Note: this company prefers to hire individuals with 10+ years of relevant experience.)
- PESI (Note: this company primarily provides live seminars vs. online courses.)
- Vyne Education
- PT Courses (Note: click on “Want to be an author?” under Course Information)
- Continuing Education
- PT Webucation
- Rehab Edge
- Evidence in Motion
- PhyiscalTherapy.com (<<Note: this is a download with the relevant info. You can also reach them via their “contact us” page)
Check out my review of PhysicalTherapy.com! It’s my favorite site for affordable, awesome online CEUs!
Teaching MedBridge courses
MedBridge gets its own section here because it is one of the largest and most reputable online continuing education companies out there. The company is growing extremely quickly, and they pride themselves on working with the very best instructors in the industry.
I was able to speak with a member of their Instructor Outreach Team to get a better idea of what they are looking for in an instructor and what their process is for creating new courses. Here’s a rundown.
MedBridge instructors are:
- Licensed in the field with an average of 30 years of experience
- Certified in their area of specialty
- Able to share information in a meaningful and engaging way
- Often published in texts or research publications
- Experienced speakers
- Knowledgeable in unique, relevant, and evidence-based content
- Experts in their niche
MedBridge courses are:
- Vetted by leading expert consultants
- Filmed on-site for quality production value
(Editor’s note: if you don’t already belong to MedBridge, I recently joined and LOVE it! Please use the code nonclinicalPT if you decide to join MedBridge, and you’ll support TNCPT! Thanks!)
How does MedRehabWeb work?
MedRehabWeb is another option, but with a more unique set-up. They are essentially a platform for you to advertise and upload (for a fee) a course that you have created, which can then be purchased and accessed by other healthcare professionals.
Unlike the other companies listed above, MedRehabWeb does not necessarily sponsor the course, they simply provide a platform.
How do I create a pitch for a continuing education course?
Once you have decided what topic you would like to teach and who you would like to team up with, the next step is constructing a great pitch.
Whether you are pitching cold (meaning you are asking for a company to take you on as an instructor with no prior relationship to them), or you are planning to create your own course on Udemy or MedRehabWeb, a great pitch is an important guide for both you and your audience.
A great pitch is:
- A general overview of your intended course
- Backed by evidence
A great pitch includes:
- A brief description of the topic
- Why the topic is important for your intended audience
- Any particular subtopics you plan to cover
- Why you are the best person to teach this course [This is important. SELL YOURSELF!]
- A closing statement thanking the reader for their time and providing an easy way to reach you
Here’s a free sample pitch for TNCPT readers!
I am writing to express my interest in becoming a continuing education instructor with ___(company name)___. I am a physical therapist with five years of outpatient orthopedic experience, and have worked closely with Dr. Jim Jones and Dr. Tina Taylor, our local shoulder surgeons. Over the past five years, I have treated over 100 rotator cuff tears, both pre and post-surgery, as well as with conservative therapy alone. Additionally, I have given several community education sessions on the subject of shoulder health, and have presented post-op rotator cuff case studies at our local physical therapy conference.
In looking over your course list, I noticed that you have some excellent courses on treatment of various shoulder conditions, but nothing specifically on the topic of rotator cuff tears: a condition which affects 20% of the population. I would like to propose a course on this topic, with the following outline:
- Rotator Cuff Injury
- Common mechanisms of injury
- Conservative vs. Surgical Treatment
- How to choose
- Surgical approaches
- Outcomes statistics
- Post-op protocols
- Manual Techniques
- Range of motion
- Pain modulation
- Muscle facilitation
- Exercise Progression
- Exercises with “best bang for your buck”
- Function or sport-specific training
This course would include updates on the latest research, demonstrations of manual techniques, and exercise guideline handouts for successful rehab. I anticipate eight hours worth of material.
I was drawn to ____(company name)___ because of the high-quality content that you have put out. I have taken several courses myself, and have been able to take what I have learned and put it to immediate use in my clinical practice. I would be honored to collaborate with you on this important course topic, in order to provide the same level of knowledge and “take away value” to other clinicians.
I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time.
Nicole Tombers, PT, DPT
Let’s be real. I don’t even want to teach therapy topics. Is there hope for me?
You’ve seen me mention Udemy a few times now. Even if you don’t get on board with one of the companies who are providing continuing education credits to clinicians, there are other options to teach online independently.
Sites like Udemy allow you to create a course in virtually any subject area that you feel you can provide some level of expertise or knowledge. They provide resources to help you build your course and then list it for purchase by students around the world. Here is a list of other similar sites.
Teaching is a way to give back. Don’t give up on the idea, even if you’re not ready to start.
No matter your ultimate goal, there are things you can do now, with your current level of experience, that will be stepping stones to build a foundation for future success. Start putting yourself out there and practicing your pitches, and you’ll be a continuing education instructor in no time!