CE Providers: Expenses Going Up, Income Going Down

In January of this year, I blogged Continuing Education Providers: Sink or Swim, and followed up that one with the report from the meeting convened by the NCBTMB, where profession leaders were invited to give input into the revamping of their Approved Provider program.

Last week at the wonderful annual meeting of the AFMTE, one of the presentations was by Debra Persinger, Executive Director of the FSMTB, who talked about the intention of the FSMTB to start approving continuing education. One of the burning questions from the audience was “how much is this going to cost us?”, a question without an answer as of yet, since their program is still in the planning stages. Knowing the folks at the FSMTB, I don’t expect it to be anything I would classify as exorbitant, but unless it’s free, it will still be one more expense for us to pay.

I’ve previously mentioned the states who have their own approval process–and accompanying fees to pay–for continuing education providers. With the exception of Florida, who doesn’t charge you additional money if you are already an Approved Provider under the NCBTMB, these range from a couple of hundred dollars to “you don’t want to know.”  There’s a reason why I’m not teaching in those states…it isn’t worth it to me, at this stage of my career, to lay out hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and in some cases to complete a mountain of paperwork, to teach in a location that I may visit only once.

Another unfortunate trend is all the expense associated with presenting at trade shows, spa exhibitions, and conferences.  At many of these events, not only do you not get paid to teach; in some cases you actually have to pay for the privilege. Big companies who budget thousands of dollars into their advertising plan can afford to pay a big price for a booth. With a few of the heavy hitters being the exception, the average individual provider cannot. It’s a Catch-22 of spending the big bucks to get your name out there, and then rolling the dice to see if you’re going to be able to recoup that in sales–assuming you have anything to sell. Some teachers are just that–teachers–and they’re not necessarily textbook authors or purveyors of DVDs, home study courses, etc.

I’ve been an Approved Provider since 2000, and I have organizational approval. I have a classroom at my facility in Rutherfordton, NC, where I teach myself and host other instructors. During the recession of the past three years, I’ve had to cancel classes that some of the most well-known teachers in massage were scheduled to offer. Some of them didn’t receive as much as one inquiry about the class. In addition to mailing to licensees, advertising in a number of venues, my publicizing it to my email lists and social networks and them publicizing it to their own substantial lists, it just didn’t happen.  The classes that did happen have tended to be the ones taught by more local teachers, not as well-known, and not as expensive, as some of the big names.

Some perfectly competent, long-standing, and popular teachers have suffered to the point of drastically reducing the price of classes in order to fill seats and maintain their income. One of the most well-known teachers told me a few weeks ago that his teaching income was down $70,000 last year due to the recession. I know many who have never made that kind of money in any year, and their loss has been proportionate.

All the expense associated with teaching continuing education, in my opinion, is going to have some serious fallout. Some talented, but not necessarily famous, instructors will give it up because they just can’t afford to keep on doing it. By the time you provide handouts, pay your own travel expenses, advertise your class, ship whatever books or products you might have to offer, your profit has flown out the window along with the ridiculous price of your airline ticket.

True, some well-known providers have corporate sponsorship. Those are the exception; not the rule. Corporate sponsorship usually goes to those who are already at the top. They want someone with name recognition whose picture looks good in their advertising and helps sell their products. There are only so many big corporate sponsors. Small, but quality, companies often don’t have that money to spare.

It will be interesting to see how the CE environment changes when the FSMTB gets their program up and running. Their mission is public protection, and during her talk, Persinger addressed that fact. I don’t think the Federation intends to start approving Reiki classes, although I could be wrong. I believe their intent is to approve classes that have a direct bearing on public protection, such as ethics, contraindications and the like.

The lack of income is not just an issue for CE providers. Massage schools are notorious for low pay, and therein lies one of the problems in attracting quality teachers. They may deservedly feel they’re better off doing massage for $60 an hour than teaching for $20 an hour. Most of them don’t do it for the money. They do it because they love to teach.

That’s why I do it. I don’t have a corporate sponsor. I can’t afford to go everywhere I’d like to go. I fit in as many events as I can, and sometimes I have to pass one up. I know a lot of providers in the same position. I had many people say to me last week that they would have liked to attend the AFMTE conference but just couldn’t because of finances. Even when a conference is reasonably priced (as that one was), travel, hotel, meals, missing income when you’re gone from your office, or paying someone to be there covering your office when you’re not, adds up.

I’m hopeful that the education atmosphere is going up, along with income for those who provide it. It really doesn’t have anywhere else to go.

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