What Is an Adult College Education?

Adult education courses are available for adult learners who may not be able to follow a typical college course schedule because of obligations or busy lifestyles. These students can receive college training, a high school education or take individual courses through an adult college program.

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Depending on their academic needs and goals, adults can pursue education in the form of career training, GED preparation, English language lessons and continuing education credits.

Adult College Education Overview

Adult education is geared toward adults who have full-time commitments that may prevent them from attending a traditional school program, such as jobs or family. Although adult education courses typically focus on career development, regular academic programs in core subjects like English and math are available as well. Some colleges offer these career development courses for free.

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Types of Programs

Adult education courses are offered at times that are more convenient to individuals with busy lifestyles. Classes are usually provided at night, as well as during the weekends. Distance education, also known as online study, is another option. First-time college students may enroll in adult education programs, as well as those who haven't graduated from high school. Here are some of the most common types of adult education programs available.

Career Training

Many adult colleges and departments provide vocational training in the form of individual courses, certificate programs and degree programs. These programs may train students for entry-level positions in a variety of careers and trades, including:

  • Medical billing and coding
  • Nursing
  • Dental assisting
  • Event planning
  • Food service
  • Child care
  • Computer technology

High School Education

Many adult colleges offer free GED preparation programs that provide study in the four subjects of the GED exam. Taking this test can allow individuals to earn their high school equivalency certificate. Some schools also offer adult high school diploma programs for adults who wish to complete their education traditionally without GED testing. These students can receive counseling and take both day and night classes in typical high school subjects like:

  • English
  • Physical science
  • Biological science
  • Math
  • U.S. history
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Performing arts
  • Foreign languages

English Skills

Courses and programs are offered for both native English speakers and English as a second language (ESL) individuals. These adult education courses focus on improving English reading and writing skills, along with practicing speech and pronunciation.

Continuing Education

Continuing education courses are a form of adult education offered through the adult learning departments of many community colleges or state colleges and universities. They are intended for working professionals who have already earned a degree and want to increase their expertise in a particular area of interest or stay current in their field. Another reason to pursue continuing education is to fulfill licensure renewal requirements, which is necessary for workers in many fields, such as the health professions.

Continuing education opportunities are typically much shorter in duration than a full-time program. For example, a program may consist of one or two short weekend classes that fulfill required continuing education credits. In general, adults can pursue continuing education through:

  • Courses
  • Conferences
  • Camps
  • Workshops
  • Seminars
  • Certificates

Because the academic needs of adults vary, so do adult education options. Adult students may look to launch or boost their careers by taking advantage of educational opportunities, at both the GED and postsecondary levels.

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