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Adult Education Programs

Many adults are going back to school, whether to earn a high school equivalency diploma, become more computer literate, or learn about a topic of interest such as music or art. If you have expertise in a specialized area, you can share your skills by becoming an adult educator.

Explore what it means to become an adult educator, programs you can join based on your degree type, what’s required to complete the program, online options, jobs you can obtain and exactly how this all can benefit your career.

What is an Adult Educator?

Adult educators have a specialized knowledge or skill in a specific field and desire to teach adults what they know. In this role, you will encourage adult students to further their education and learn new skills. Whether an adult is trying to obtain their GED, improve their computer skills or are simply learning for fun, adults need a teacher who understands the issues surrounding adult education today.

As an adult educator, you may work in a large classroom of adult students in a community college, smaller groups of adults in a corporate setting or even working one-on-one with students to improve basic skills like reading and writing to earn their GED. Teaching adults can also take place online, but often takes place in postsecondary schools such as vocational schools (technical colleges) or universities.

Typically, adult educators have specialization or work experience in a specific field. A degree in adult education may allow you build upon your education and work experience to later teach in the field of your expertise. For example, if you had a degree in finance and earned your graduate degree in adult education, you could teach accounting courses in a university setting.

Adult Education Programs by Degree

While most adult education degrees are master’s degrees or higher because they build on generalized education degrees granted at the undergraduate level, some bachelors programs do exist to prepare corporate setting trainers or vocational or technical school educators. Adult education programs include:

Curriculum for Adult Education Programs

Adult education courses will prepare you create informative and interesting lectures for your students or employees and may require a minimum of 30 credit hours of academic coursework. The curriculum may provide information on:

  • Adult growth and development
  • Adult psychology
  • Program planning and development
  • Research methods

To work in government programs, you may need to earn a state teaching license and have taken a few education courses. Employers may also look for a valid state-issues teaching license or certification and two or three years of teaching experience. General requirements each adult educator must meet include:

  • Bachelor’s degree, usually with some education courses
  • Completed student-teaching program, which may mean a semester or more of student teaching
  • Passed criminal background check

Although there isn’t an adult education license, you may be required to obtain certification or licensure in your specialty to get a teaching position, especially if you plan to teach vocational courses. Requirements may vary based on your county or state, so it’s important to keep up with any required continuing education programs in your specialty or any necessary license renewals.

If you’re not a licensed teacher, you may still be able to find part-time teaching positions at community colleges or community organizations. However, most of these positions may require you to start with teaching ESL.

Common Courses in Adult Education Programs

Becoming an excellent teaching involves know-how in fundamentals. If you plan to obtain your Ph.D., you may be required to take 18 credits of core coursework, nine or more credits in a specific concentration, nine of more credits in research design and methods and complete a dissertation. Here are a few courses that may serve you well in an adult educator role:

Adult Learning Theory

Teaches theories for motivating, developing curriculum and teaching adults.

English as a Second Language (ESL)

Some students in adult educator courses could be immigrants who never earned a formal education in the United States. ESL courses will help you understand the challenges these students face as you help them overcome their language barrier.

Differences in Learning Style

Shows you how to design and plan lessons that are visual, audio or hands-on to help different types of learners succeed.

General Educational Development

To teach GED prep classes at a community college, you may learn how to train students who don’t have a high school diploma in topics like reading comprehension, writing, math and other core classes so they can pass the GED test.

Online Adult Education Degrees to Consider

Because adults often have busy lifestyles, more and more adult education courses are being taught online. Many professionals in this field choose to both teach and learn using online degree programs.

An online degree in adult education and training typically includes courses in distance and continuing education and methods of evaluating and teaching adult learners. Most programs allow students to choose electives tailored to their particular career goals. Some common areas of concentration include English as a Second Language for adult learners and education technology.

An online adult education degree may allow you to push your career forward, open new job prospects and earn more money without altering your work schedule. Some programs, such as Colorado State University’s Master of Education in adult education and training, can be completed in as little as 16 months. Others may take two years or more to complete. Some common online options include:

  • Penn State University’s online Master of Education in adult education was designed, in part, by Professor Michael Moore, the founding director of the American Center for the Study of Distance Education. This 33-credit-hour program allows students to concentrate in distance education, education technology or family literacy.
  • Saint Joseph’s College of Maine in Standish offers several online program options in adult education and training. Students can choose from a Bachelor of Science degree program, an Associate of Science degree program or a certificate program.
  • Colorado State University in Fort Collins offers an online Master of Education in adult education and training. Students in this 30-credit-hour program can choose to complete a thesis or a final project. Students also can take elective courses that support their career goals, such as English as a Second Language (ESL) for adult learners or distance learning.

When assessing the quality of an online adult education program, look for programs that are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Also, examine the curriculum carefully. Some programs are aimed at those who wish to teach adult learners in school settings while others are geared toward corporate trainers and human resources professionals.

Jobs for Adult Educators

Adult education master’s degrees typically cover literacy, ESL and general learning needs involved with teaching adults. With many specializations available, possible career paths for an adult educator may include:

  • Adult literacy or GED teacher – Adult literacy and GED teachers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, make an average salary of $50,650 each year. This position typically required a bachelor’s degree, and employers prefer to hire those who already have a teaching license or certification.
  • Community college professor – Also known as postsecondary teachers, community college teachers instruct students in a variety of subjects (English, computer science, etc). The average salary was $75,430 per year according to the BLS, and jobs for those who teach in a community college is expected to rise faster than the average for all occupations at 15% from 2016 to 2016 (BLS, 2017).
  • Human resource specialist – Working in an office environment, human resource specialists recruit, screen, interview and train workers. According to the BLS, human resource specialists brought home an average of $59,180 per year (2017).
  • Education administrator – Postsecondary education administrators oversee student services, academics, faculty research and more at colleges and universities (private and public), and according to the BLS, make an average of $90,760 each year (2017).

In addition to these common jobs, an adult education program may allow you to work in various settings. Adult educators can teach GED classes in prisons, work for yourself by teaching online e-learning courses or even find careers as administrators in community organizations like your local YMCA.

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