The Importance of Continuing Education.
Professional development is a necessity When it comes to knowledge-based professions. Continuing education courses are an important part of keeping your skills updated. Not only does this allow you to fulfill your job requirements, but it also keeps you competitive within the profession.
So why does continuing education matter in the context of open-source intelligence (OSINT)? To start, the field of OSINT is evolving. This is in large part due to technological advances. In this ever-changing environment, it is important to able to adapt. We have found that one of the best ways to do this is through some type of systematic approach.
Another reason it is important OSINT practitioners pursue continuing education is because there are certain things an employer or organization expects from you. Organizations need to adjust to technological changes, while still being able to fulfill its mandate. They need to be able to identify and respond to operational risks. Naturally, these risks may vary, but can include amendments to legislation, emergent threat actors, or emergent threat vectors. They must stay updated on new techniques, trends, and technologies related to OSINT. Like the professional, organizations benefit from having some type of continuing education mechanism that will alert them to recent developments or changes within the OSINT field.
Staying Current on OSINT Tools Isn’t Enough.
A lot of the focus in the OSINT profession tends to be on “the tools”. It is important to be aware of changes to social media platforms, messaging applications, public record repositories, and so on. As an OSINT practitioner, it is likely that you have come across a tool that stopped working or changed, which affected how you used it. It is not surprising then, that professionals make learning new and emerging OSINT tools a priority.
Though this is an important consideration, it is not the only one. Amendments to legislation, or changes in jurisprudence also impact OSINT practitioners. A recent court decision can dictate how you conduct your duties, just as much, if not more, than an update of a tool can.
Another thing OSINT practitioners frequently deal with are changes to their operational environment. For example, new scams emerge, a group changes the way it communicates or raises funds, new internet sub-cultures materialize, and so on. These changes impact public safety, which is why it is essential for OSINT practitioners to keep abreast to emerging issues and trends.
Approaches to Professional Development.
When it comes professional development, there are different approaches one can take. Let’s look at two of the most common methods.
Continuing Professional Education (CPE) program
Typically, continuing education requirements can be achieved in one of two ways. The first is by partaking in a Continuing Professional Education (CPE) program. In this example, the participant is required to complete a certain number of continuing education credits within a specified timeframe. For instance a professional may be required to complete 20 hours of education a year, for a period of three years.
The activities which count towards credit hours can vary depending on the profession or organization. Alternate forms of training and education such as self-study, online courses, book reviews, etc. may qualify in some cases, but not others. However, while the particulars of a CPE program can vary among professions, the goal of remains the same.
A benefit of a CPE program is the practitioner has more influence over their learning path. Often, they can choose which courses they wish to pursue. This can result in a more diverse skillset among a group of practitioners, which benefits everyone, including the employer. The practitioner is able to bring has been exposed to new ideas and therefore brings a fresh new perspective to their work. Another advantage is CPE program is participants can complete the credit hours at their own pace, which affords them some flexibility.
There is however, a downside to this approach. The skills a practitioner develops through a CPE program may not be consistent with the organization’s training goals. Also, these programs assume that the employee will be diligent in meeting the training requirements. In many cases, the organization may need to incorporate some type of incentive (or disincentive) to keep the practitioner motivated. Lastly, CPE programs can be expensive. Finally, CPE programs can be expensive when compared to other in-house training options.
An good alternative to a CPE program is a recertification process, which can be achieved in different ways. Professions or organizations may use an assessment to help identify courses an employee requires. The assessment compares current skills with the mandatory job-skills, and highlights areas for improvement. Completing an assessment prior to starting recertification courses ensures the training is relevant. This approach flexible, specific, and tends to be less expensive, which makes it a popular choice.
Organizations also favour recertification because it ensures the practitioner learns the skills that are required to meet operational requirements. One downside to this method though, is unlike CPE programs, there is much less opportunity for the practitioner to network with others professionals.
How often Should You be Updating Your Skills?
Many professions rely on recertification to fulfill professional development requirements. A common question we get from OSINT practitioners is how often should they re-certify. Generally speaking, we recommend recertifying every three years, however this can vary. Tactical analysts use OSINT skills everyday, which exposes them to developments and changes to OSINT regularly. It makes sense for them to wait a bit before recertifying. Practitioners who do not use OSINT as much will however, benefit from updating their skillset more frequently.
Looking to Update Your Current OSINT skills?
Our team will work with you to create a customized training plan tailored to your specific needs. We provide OSINT training to individuals and organizations in English and French. Also, our courses can be completed in-class, or online. Contact us and get in touch with our training team today!