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​Pennsylvania Extends Waiver Temporarily Allowing Licensees to Meet Continuing Education Requirements Entirely Through Online Learning or Distance Education 

December 24, 2020 

The laws and regulations of 22 of the 29 licensing boards and commissions overseen by the Department of State's Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) impose continuing education (CE) requirements of varying scope and magnitude on the various occupations/professions that BPOA regulates. Broadly stated, CE is delivered in one of two ways: (1) traditional, in-person instruction; and (2) online education or "distance learning."

The laws and regulations of some of these boards impose restrictions or place limitations on the number or percentage of online/distance hours that may be applied towards a licensee's CE requirement, or mandate that certain hours/courses be obtained in-person. Those boards were identified by the Department at the beginning of the pandemic, and a waiver was sought and approved by the Governor on March 22, 2020 (updated March 24, and supplemented with an additional board via a follow-up waiver on June 26, 2020), suspending regulatory restrictions "for the current biennial renewal period to permit all licensees to complete their continuing education online during the COVID-19 pandemic."

With the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, securing in-person CE courses is once again becoming difficult. Even if in-person CE opportunities were abundantly available, many licensees simply may not feel safe enough to attend an in-person course or class. A licensee whose CE obligation requires that some or all of the hours be obtained in-person runs the risk of failing to meet that obligation which, in turn, could result in the expiration of his or her license.

The ability to obtain as many CE hours online as necessary avoids that scenario. Meanwhile, licensees are certainly free to choose to earn in-person hours if they wish.

To afford licensees the ability to acquire the CE hours they need in order to renew their licenses, and to otherwise offer relief for those experiencing the disruptive effects of the pandemic, the Department sought an extension, which the Governor approved, of the previous waivers mentioned above. Specifically, for the boards and licensee types identified in the March 22/24 and June 26, 2020, waivers − and any other BPOA boards, commissions, professions or occupations whose laws or regulations restrict or impose a limitation on the number or percentage of CE hours that may be accumulated through online learning or distance education − effective January 1, 2021, licensees are permitted to renew their license at their next renewal that comes after January 1, 2021, utilizing CE obtained through either traditional, in-person courses or by means of distance learning. This means that licensees may satisfy up to 100 percent of their CE requirements for their next renewal with hours obtained entirely through online courses from providers of distance education that meet the applicable board's continuing education requirements.