Adult educators work with students who are past the traditional age of earning a high school diploma or a first college degree. Technically, an adult student is anyone over the age of 24. Common adult education courses focus on the theory and psychology of andragogy. Distance learning and video conferencing are increasingly popular among adult educators as most adult students have family conflicts with attending residential courses. Online education allow those who work full-time or who have delayed earning a college degree in order to support a family. Some adult educators teach at community colleges, but most teach outside the college classroom, focusing on career training and workforce development. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 70 percent of workers participate in career training each year. Adult educators study learning motivation and classroom management as it relates to older students who are often engaged in career-related training. With a passion for teaching others and a belief that learning should be a life-long process, you can thrive in this fulfilling and rewarding career field.
THE CAREER PATH
A degree in adult education prepares you for many different careers, some dedicated entirely to general education for the community, while others are dedicated to the development of an efficient corporate staff. With this degree, you can enter careers such as a GED instructor, corporate trainer, or professor of continuing education. You can also work in careers where education is less direct. For example, you’ll have the basic skills to start a career as an HR manager, which includes training staff among other important tasks.
The benefit of completing an adult-education degree is that you get to work directly with people almost every day, helping them develop as professionals and citizens. As a GED instructor, for example, you help people study for and complete their GED-equivalency testing, which can have a colossal positive impact on a person’s life. You could also help develop more specific skills, such as technical skills that help someone operate a specific piece of machinery. It’s an important job, and you can take the pride with you wherever you go.
- Adult Literacy Teacher—According to Knoema, an informational-database, 99% of all adults in the United States are literate, meaning they can read and write. The sounds great, but for the remaining 1%, which represents roughly 3.25 million people, illiteracy can mean difficulty with employment and embarrassment in daily living. Adult literacy teachers seek to solve this problem by giving adults the skills they need through lessons and established methods of instruction. The median pay for this career is strong, and the top 10% can expect earnings over $87,000, but the career is expected to decline. In part, this is a good thing, as increases in high-school graduation rates have reduced the need for adult literacy training. However, there will still be almost 65,000 jobs in this profession.
- Career Education Teacher—Career and technical education teachers help students and employees gain valuable skills in a specific vocation. This can include virtually all industries, such as manufacturing, healthcare, mechanics, welding, or office work. Basically, they are dedicated to helping employees prepare to enter a specific occupation. This career also has strong salaries, with the top 10% earning over $89,000 annually. However, one of the downsides to this career is the slow growth. It will only grow by 4%, which is below the national average, but it will result in roughly 227,000 jobs by 2026, so there should be opportunities for qualified candidates.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
A career in adult education can be extremely fulfilling, but you need the right attitude and temperament for the career. As an underlying foundation, you need a deep appreciation for the process of learning. You need to understand that learning is a never-ending part of life, and you’ll need to impart this belief to your students. You also need to enjoy the educational process while having a patient, compassionate attitude, as adult education can move swiftly for some while requiring prolonged effort for others. Good communication and cultural sensitivity will also be crucial during your career, as you’ll be teaching people with a wide range of backgrounds.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
Expect an online adult education degree program to include courses in adult learning theory, course design, adult development, ESL, workforce education, aging and the brain, leisure learning, technical skill mastery assessment and leadership in the classroom. Some programs might also offer courses or specialties in distance learning or educational technology. This degree is most commonly earned as a master's. Your bachelor's degree could be in education, HR, library science or another field. Earning a master's will give you the knowledge necessary to teach adult learners. Doctoral degrees are also available.
As an adult educator, your career options are varied. You could work in the lifelong learning or online division of a traditional university. You might also work inside a remedial center at a community college. Corporations often hire adult ed teachers for continuing education courses. You could also work as a tutor or test administrator, such as for the GED. English as a second language (ESL) teachers often teach English to older students who seek greater language fluency for work and cultural integration. Your hours as an adult educator may also be varied. Residential classes are generally held in the evening or on the weekends, when students are out of work. As an online college instructor, expect most of your students to be adults in their 30s or 40s.
If you think you might be a good candidate for an adult-education degree, then it’s time to start looking at different programs. Review all programs for the coursework and general curriculum, as this will help determine if the program fits with your future goals. You should also review the program’s schedule and make sure the course are taught 100% online; if there are in-person requirements, it could disrupt your schedule, especially if you are a busy parent or working professional.
You also need to verify that the program is properly accredited. Accreditation ensures a quality education backed by a respected degree, so don’t skip this step. Administered by independent organizations, accreditation is crucial for any degree. All programs in this database are regionally accredited.
If you’re ready to enter the challenging yet fulfilling career of adult education, begin comparing your degree options with the information below.