Teaching Adults to Read: Education Programs and Career Info

Those with an interest in adult literacy education have several options, including certificates, bachelor's degrees, or master's degrees. Get details on what you'll learn at each program level along with job outlook and what you can expect to earn as an adult education teacher.

Essential Information

Adult literacy teachers help non-native 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, though master's degrees are also available. To obtain a certificate in adult education, you'll need at least 15 hours of classroom instruction. Bachelor's degrees programs often include extensive classroom instruction and supervised internships.

Those interested in enrollment must have a high school diploma or GED, and some prior coursework, including speech, may be necessary.

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 taught are applicable to teaching several subjects, including literacy and mathematics. 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 7% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also noted that the average annual salary for these adult educators was $54,060 in May 2015.

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.

Certificate, bachelor's, and master's degree programs in adult literacy include extensive hands-on fieldwork to adequately prepare graduates for teaching adults, and some employers only hire certified teachers. This education field is expected to have average growth with a competitive annual average salary.

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