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Teaching Adults to Read: Education Programs and Career Info

Those who would like to study adult literacy in order to teach adult students to read can opt to earn either a bachelor's degree in an education field or a certification in adult education. These programs may emphasize techniques of teaching adult students or cover theories and methods that can be applied to teaching adult learners.

Essential Information

Adult literacy teachers help nonnative English speakers or other atypical students learn to read and write. Requirements for teaching adults to read vary substantially by program, with some requiring instructors to be state-certified instructors. Generally, adult literacy instructors have a certificate in adult education or a bachelor's degree in education. These programs allow students to explore educational technology, adult learning theories and career development training.

  • Program Levels in Adult Literacy: Bachelor's; Certificate in Adult Education; Master's
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED, some prior coursework including speech may be necessary; Bachelor's degree and teaching certification possible for adult literacy certification
  • Program Length: Bachelor's degree, 4 years; Certificate in Adult Education, 15 hours of classroom instruction
  • Other Requirements: Bachelor's degree, extensive classroom instruction and supervised internship

Certificate in Adult Education

Since many adult literacy programs are informal and run by private organizations, licensure requirements can vary substantially. Earning a certificate isn't enough to qualify someone for an elementary or secondary teaching position, but it is adequate for some adult literacy programs.

Coursework in adult education certificate programs emphasizes theories and practices of teaching nontraditional adult students. Techniques covered are applicable to teaching several subjects, including literacy and mathematics. Some programs also include a practical element through which students complete supervised teaching exercises. The following topics are usually covered:

  • Adult education theory
  • Adult learning methods
  • Assessment of adult learning
  • Educational technology
  • Career development training

Bachelor's Degree in Education

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) programs in education discuss current theories of curriculum design, classroom management and learning assessment. These programs do not specifically emphasize literacy instruction or adult education, but the theories and methods can be adapted to adult literacy education.

Coursework in education B.A. and B.S. programs focuses on practical skills used to instruct students. Programs are often interdisciplinary, covering topics in psychology and sociology that influence educational theory. Students usually learn about the subjects listed below:

  • Teaching pedagogy
  • Educational psychology
  • Curriculum design
  • Teaching multicultural students
  • Behavior management

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that job growth for adult literacy instructors and other remedial teachers would be about 9% between 2012 and 2022. The BLS also noted that the average annual salary for these adult educators was $52,830 in May 2014.

Certification and Continuing Education Information

City- or state-run adult literacy programs typically require instructors to be certified teachers. Certification standards vary by state, but usually include holding at least a bachelor's degree and passing a state certification test. Most states offer alternative certification programs for people who have a bachelor's degree in a subject other than education.

A few adult literacy programs require instructors to hold a master's of education. Curricula for most Master of Education (M.Ed.) programs emphasize educational leadership and research, but some classes cover topics relevant to teaching adults to read.

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