Jul 6 / Niccole Rowe, BA, COTA/L, Coach, Founding Partner

PDUs, CEUs, Contact Hours? What does it all mean??

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You take a look at some CE courses for your licensure renewal coming up. One thing you keep noticing about the courses is that there are a lot of different ways to measure the time you spend taking the class. CEUs? PDUs? Contact hours?

You might be left wondering what the difference between all of these abbreviations and terms is! We hope this blog may help give you a starting point to understand what you may need.

First, let’s look at the terms

Contact hours:

This term is usually seen as a universal recognition of time spent learning and serves as a measurement of time if CEUs or PDUs would not be applicable. Typically, this is tracked in minutes and then converted to hours. If you spent 75 minutes in a course, that would be 1.25 contact hours.


A CEU (continuing education unit) is a different way to measure the time you spend learning during a CE course. You will always see this measurement related to courses that are AOTA-approved. 1 CEU is equal to 10 hours of learning time (AOTA). This can seem confusing if you are taking shorter courses as anything less than 10 hours will be a decimal instead of a whole number. This means if you spent 75 minutes in a course you would earn .125 CEUs.


Yet a third way to measure the time you spend learning! PDUs (professional development units) are related to renewing your National Board Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT®) certification which maintains your status as an Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) or as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA). One hour of learning is considered 1 PDU (NBCOT). Breaks and meals are not included in the learning time. If the course is an AOTA Approved CE, one hour of learning plus a quiz is considered 1.25 PDUs. (That means our Aspire OT courses are worth 1.25 PDUs for each hour of learning!)

Next, how do you know how many of these you need?

This is where things get trickier. Each state has different continuing competency requirements based on its licensure laws and rules. You will need to understand the requirements for the state(s) in which you are licensed in. We recommend that you review those laws and rules.

Here is why: Looking anywhere else could be risky. If you receive incorrect information (even from well-meaning sources like friends or co-workers) and carry out your renewal based on that information, you may be at risk for discipline by the state OT board if you are audited.

Here are some tips to help:

  • Review the licensure laws and rules to determine what the requirements are. You may want to create a cheat sheet for yourself as a resource.
  • Consult AOTA’s resources for state licensure laws and regulations. They have a summary chart and a full chart on continuing competence. These charts may help you know you are on the right track. (AOTA membership is required for these resources)

Are you finding the rules and regulations confusing? You have a couple of options to help. You can reach out to the state’s board of occupational therapy with your questions or confirm your understanding if the rules is correct.
 AOTA has a full list of contact information for those boards.  Based on the AOTA website, it also seems that the AOTA State Affairs department may be able to point you in the right direction. You can email them.

There may be more requirements than the number of hours of learning.

This goes back to understanding the licensure laws and rules of the state(s) you have a license in. There can be requirements related to specific courses such as an ethics course. Some states require you to report your CE learning through a certain online platform. Some states have requirements for the CE course to be approved by AOTA, the state board, the state association or some other recognized provider while other states do not have specific requirements for approval of courses. Again, look at the licensure laws and rules of the state(s) you have a license in and use those tips above!

Here's an example to help

Let’s use Tennessee as an example: Rules and Regulations for the Tennessee Board of Occupational Therapy

Per section 1150-02.12 Continued Competence:

  • 24 credits of continued competence activities are required within 24 months
  • 1 hour must be for ethics and 1 hour related to the Tennessee Occupational Therapy Practice act
  • An OT must have 2 hours of suicide prevention training every 4 years
  • The rules list approved continued competency providers including AOTA, AOTA approved providers, TNOTA, and other state OT associations
  • There is an also activity table provided to determine how to calculate your credits based on time spent on the activity. For example, 1 hour spent in an interactive online course such as a webinar is worth 1 credit.


If I take a 2-hour webinar from Aspire OT (an AOTA-approved provider) then that would be:

  • 2 contact hours
  • .20 CEUs
  • 2.50 PDUs for NBCOT

By the chart in the Tennessee code, 2 hours in an interactive online course by an AOTA-approved provider would equal 2 credits toward the 24 required credits for my Tennessee OTA license renewal. I also maintain my certification with NBCOT so I would have earned 2 PDUs toward my 36 PDUs required for that renewal.


If I take a 2 hour, self-paced (non-interactive) course from the Occupational Therapy Association of Colorado that would be:

·       2 contact hours

·       .20 CEUs

·       2 PDUs for NBCOT

By the chart in the Tennessee code, 2 hours in a non-interactive course would equal 1 credit towards the 24 required credits. The course is eligible for continued competence credit because Tennessee recognizes courses produced by state OT associations. For my NBCOT renewal, I would have earned 2 PDUs because their chart does not distinguish interactive versus non-interactive.


We definitely know the rules and regulations can be confusing. Maintaining your OT or OTA license is so important which means you want to get the renewal requirements correct! Remember to go directly to the source at the state level instead of asking others. We hope the tips and definitions are helpful.

check out our FRee ceu course

What is OT? Nailing Your OT Elevator Speech

1.0 Contact hours, 0.10 CEU 
AOTA Approved
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Occupational therapy continuing education courses  to help make your job easier. 

Want more?

Find courses that will provide you with practical strategies you can take straight to your OT practice. 

Aspire OT is a different kind of CEU company, owned by an OT & OTA. 

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Created by OT practitioners JUST for  OT practitioners, our occupational therapy continuing education CEU courses allow you to advance your skills and help your clients.

Choosing Aspire OT for your CEU needs means you are supporting other OT and OTA instructors as well as our partner occupational therapy state associations.  

Aspire OT was created to provide exceptional evidence-based CEs at reasonable prices designed to meet the needs of occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants in everyday practice.

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