Become a Continuing Education Instructor: Step-by-Step Guide

Engineering Continuing Education Course Authors

Engineering Course AuthorHave you ever thought of becoming an instructor as a way to supplement your income?

If you’re an experienced professional engineer who is considered to be a subject matter expert, you may be able to make substantial side income writing continuing education classes for other engineers. You can be your own boss, make your own hours, and use all the extra knowledge you’ve accumulated over the years to make engineering a safer and more productive profession.

Continuing education courses are a requirement all professional engineers have to deal with. The laws are different within every state, but we all have to take them. It’s just a fact of our profession.

But have you ever thought about writing them?

These courses have to come from somewhere, right? The sites you take them from all started somewhere, sometimes even with just a single engineer who began with one continuing education course. Someone just like you.

How to Become A Course Author

The first step to becoming a course author for continuing education is to do your research. The rules and requirements for engineering education are many and varied, and depending on the state you live in, the laws may be different. Nearly all require you to you to be a licensed professional engineer, but there are some that may require approval or certification by third parties that you need to be aware of.

Know what the requirements are and got them covered? Great! Now there’s a second decision you need to think about.

There are several different ways to become a course author. The first, and simplest, of course, is to simply write your own course, and sell it from your own website. This route can be a bit trickier than it looks, however, because selling your own course requires a modicum of social proof, which is just a fancy term for saying evidence that you’re qualified to be a teacher.

Assess Your Credentials

If you’ve got the right credentials, then you’ve got a start, but even if you’ve met all the requirements, there are startup costs that come with building a website, generating traffic, and hosting your course. Still, if done right, this can be a rewarding avenue to take, because, in the end, you’ll be the one keeping all of the profits your courses generate.

Deciding to go this route? Great! You’ll need to research web hosting, building a business website, software to host your course, and marketing your product.

Teach for PDH-Pro

The second option at your disposal is to freelance for a reputable company that offers courses for engineering continuing education.

Become an instructor for PDH-Pro.

We have been providing high quality to professional engineers for years, and we have the website and the traffic. We are in need of specific subject matter experts (i.e. YOU) to create courses for us. Engineering is an ever changing and growing profession, so experts like you are in great demand.

Teach for us – click here.

What is an Engineering Subject Matter Expert

All right, so now you’ve got a vague idea of the route you’d like to take as a course author. Now let’s talk about being a subject matter expert.

Now, anyone can slap some words on a page, call it a course, and be done with it. A true subject matter expert is the professional who has special skills or knowledge in an engineering or technical area and is considered by his or her peers to be competent. Presumably, if you’re a professional engineer, and you’ve gotten all the licensing requirements to work in your industry, you know what you’re doing, but what’s your specialty?

Think about the jobs you’ve worked in the past. Have they taken on a theme? Do you do the same type of projects over and over? Do you find yourself you can do your job in your sleep? It is repetition that leads to competency and expertise. This competency is the foundation of becoming an expert.

Build on Your Experience

Have you been faced with an especially challenging project where you had to consult with other professional engineers? Were you the expert who was brought in? Do you have skills or knowledge that other engineers do not? The answers to these questions can help you determine if you are a subject matter expert. They can also help you identify the areas in which you have the special skills and knowledge that other engineers need.

Play to Your Strengths

Got your three things? Okay. What part of engineering do those things touch? Do they include themes of ethics? Are they technical in nature? Maybe you care about managerial issues. Good.

Your job is now to go out, find past examples of design work that relate to the subject you’re passionate about, and list them. Have another engineer review your list to see if they would be interested in learning more about these topics. Chances are, they will be because you are. These topics are the starting point for selecting you first continuing education course for professional engineers.

A subject matter expert, in the end, is the person who cares enough to know more about the subject than someone else. As a professional engineer with expertise and experience under your belt, you’ve got the foundations. But to find your perfect course, you’ve got to be an expert, and to be an expert, you’ve got to be passionate.

Side Hustle for Engineers

If you watch YouTube videos, chances are you’ve seen a lot of discussion surrounding supplemental work on the side and the gig workforce. Much of this has focused on short-term projects that last one or two days. Teaching continuing education courses for professional engineers is a great way to supplemental your income without compromising your primary career. Writing a course or teaching a webinar is the perfect “side hustle”.

The course content comes from your expertise and is drawn from your experience. You can do most, if not all, of the work on weekends or in the evening after work. If you choose to do a live webinar, you can schedule it during your lunch break or just take a vacation day. Once you write a course, it effectively becomes an annuity for you providing an ongoing source of funds.

 Continuing Education Course Topics

We’ve talked about finding out what you’re passionate about, and now we’re going to get into the fun part – what topic you’re actually going to teach on.

The key to a good course is not to generalize. It may feel natural, now that you’ve pinpointed that your passion is for ethics in engineering, to create a general overview but you’re not going to get far going that route. It’s better if you narrow down, with subjects like ethics in civil engineering or broken even further down to ethics in residential engineering. The more specific a course you create, the more valuable it will be.

Now that you’ve narrowed down your topic, what form will that take? You could do a case study on an example in your topic, or talk about a new and innovative piece of technology that’s relevant within your particular niche. Could you compare new and old methodologies, or group together a set of problems in your niche you believe needs solving – and propose how to solve them?

The list of topics is endless if you just think specific. Some people have even made an entire career out of it, by breaking large topics into small pieces, and teaching courses with valuable, actionable information on small, hyperfocused topics.

What Type of Engineering Course Should You Teach

Just type “online course” into google, and you’ll be able to find more course formats that you can blink an eye at. There are courses that are available all at once, courses that are available monthly, there are webinars, live courses, courses that meet in Facebook groups and courses that are delivered via e-mail.

So which one should you choose?

In the case of continuing education for engineers, I’m going to present you with two very effective models, but feel free to research course types, as there are as many formats as there are grains of sand.

One particularly effective model for continuing education is the webinar format. Webinars are live streams you set up, inform your students of a particular time to arrive, and then you teach to a live audience. There are many platforms to do this on across the internet, many of them free, and if you choose to work as a freelancer for a continuing education website, they may provide this capability for you.

Webinars are useful because they function as a virtual classroom. You can teach your class, and take questions and responses in real time. It’s particularly effective when combined with another social element, like a Facebook group, where the members of your class can interact. Being able to communicate with you and with each other often solidifies the message in the students’ minds.

You can choose to do one webinar, or host a series of them over time. Either way, when you choose to go the webinar route, it’s often a good idea to offer transcripts or recordings of the continuing education class so that they have something physical to refer back to after the fact.

If you’re not the live feed type, you can also create all the course materials beforehand, and deliver them via download or e-mail, either all at once, or dispersed one at a time to give your students time to digest the lesson. Courses can be made up of ebooks, PDF workbooks, videos, even audio recordings.

Having these available as downloads creates a sense of value for the student, as well as giving them something to refer back to when they need a refresher.

The Benefits of Becoming a Continuing Ed Course Author

Becoming a course author for engineering continuing education is an exciting undertaking, and it may have some benefits you haven’t considered. Sure, it’s a good income stream, but it can also allow you the freedom to share valuable knowledge you’ve gained over the years that could improve the engineering field as a whole.

Do you have your own firm? Creating a successful course will create valuable word-of-mouth buzz, drawing new clients not only to your course but to your firm itself. It also lends some extra social proof. Potential clients looking for knowledgeable engineering experts will see that you’ve literally written the book on engineering, and you become far more credible.

Are there things you feel like up and coming engineers need to know? Mistakes you’ve made you’d like them to learn from? This is your chance to share that knowledge.

Writing continuing educations can sometimes just be plain fun, as you get to delve into topics that interest you, and connect with other people who truly want to know about those things too. Combined with this, the extra cash flow, networking, and ability to share knowledge make this an incredibly worthwhile pursuit.

Can I really make this a career?

Of course you can! For some people, quitting their day job is the dream, and this is one path to do that and still use the education and experience you’ve spent years building.

Being self-employed as a course author of any kind comes with its own pros and cons. As someone self-employed, you’ll find yourself responsible for a different set of taxes, providing your own benefits, and work hours that are sometimes long. You’ll also set your own hours, and be able to do all your work entirely from home, and for some, that trade-off is worth it.

If that sounds interesting to you, then go for it! A professional engineer with some experience under his or her belt can make a decent living teaching continuing education courses, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t jump at the chance.

In the beginning, it’s wise to keep your day job and save money to fund your venture. After you’ve got some experience, though – say four or five courses – it may come to the point where you can afford to quit your job entirely and focus on writing. The key is not to quit, and as in engineering, keep your focus on improvement.

Each project is an opportunity to learn how to do the next one better.

It’s been drilled into us that continuing education is important, and we know why. The literal structure of the world rests on the shoulders of our profession, and it must continually improve. The only way it can meet this challenge, though, is by the continual sharing of knowledge. If you’ve learned something over the course of your career, the chances are that there’s someone out there who needs to learn it too.

We’ve all had those moments in continuing education classes where we sigh, and roll our eyes, and think I could do this better.

This is your chance to prove it. If you’ve got the right credentials, you can make the world of continuing education for engineers a better place.