Adult Education Courses and Classes Overview

A variety of community colleges, vocational schools and other institutions provide adult education classes intended to help adult students develop competency in reading, writing, math and several other areas. These programs also aim to help adults find and keep a job.

Adult education programs are intended for those who are interested in gaining certification or training in certain fields or want to improve their general education and skillset. Read below to learn about the different adult education programs that can be taken on-campus or online and what kind of work will be required to graduate.

Schools and Programs

Adult education courses are designed for adults 16 years and older. Many of these classes are available at no cost through community, technical and vocational colleges. Some popular areas of adult education include General Educational Development (GED) preparation, English as a Second Language (ESL), family literacy and citizenship training. Below are just a few examples of the many schools across the country offering adult education programs.

Schools At a Glance

Pima Community College

  • Located in Tucson, AZ, this two-year public school offers a range of adult education classes, including GED, ESL, family literacy and citizenship classes.
  • Most classes are only available on-campus, but the GED class is partially available online.

Santa Barbara City College

  • This is a public, two-year school that is based in Santa Barbara, CA.
  • This school offers students both GED and ESL adult education classes on-campus.

Cerritos College

  • This is a 2-year public school located in the large suburban area of Norwalk, CA.
  • It offers adult education classes in GED prep and ESL on-campus.

Everett Community College

  • This is a public, two-year school located in Everett, WA.
  • This school offers both GED and ESL classes that students will need to attend on-campus.

Downey Adult School

  • This two-year public institution is located in Downey, CA, and offers on-campus ESL, medical assisting and EMT classes; court reporting classes can be completed on-campus and online.
  • GED classes can be completed through at-home study and on-campus.

General Educational Development

Community colleges and adult education centers usually offer GED prep classes that prepare adults to take a test and earn their high school diploma. Students can complete GED courses online, or they can buy books that help prepare for the test. Public libraries usually have GED prep books available.

The 2014 GED test consists of four parts and was developed by the American Council on Education (ACE). Adults who do not have a high school diploma are eligible to take the test. Other requirements to take the GED test vary from state to state and can be found through the student's particular school. The exam includes sections on language arts, math, science and social studies. GED prep classes will give students training in topics such as reading comprehension, writing skills, mathematics and other core subjects so that they will be able to pass the GED test.

English as a Second Language

English as a Second Language (ESL) courses are often divided into basic, intermediate and advanced levels. Basic grammar and writing courses introduce non-native speakers to English grammar, punctuation, spelling and speech. Intermediate classes continue to focus on grammar and writing skills. Students also can improve their reading skills. Advanced ESL courses teach students how to structure sentences, paragraphs and essays.

Family Literacy

Several community colleges offer family literacy courses. These programs include the entire family in the learning experience and promote parental involvement in their child's learning process, particularly as their children will likely be attending school in English. Students and members of their family can attend classes that focus on four core educational areas; reading and speaking English, earning a GED credential, developing job skills and strengthening parenting skills.

Citizenship Training

Adult education centers can provide citizenship classes in both English and Spanish for adults preparing to take the U.S. citizenship and immigration services exam. Students learn about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and may receive an education into the history of the USA and its civic governing processes. Information on local services and resources available in the immediate community will also be available. The course is designed as a study guide to help prepare students for their citizenship exams.

Court Reporting Classes

To enter this program, students must have a high school diploma or GED. Students gain key skills related to the world of court reporting, such as learning how to operate a stenograph machine with a professional level of accuracy. After completing all the relevant classes and certification, students will be able to find work as transcriptionists within the court system or provide captions in other contexts, such as within college classes or for TV shows.

EMT Classes

An Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course prepares students to provide medical support and care to patients that are being transported from the site of their injury to a hospital. A wide range of medical techniques are covered, with students being given a full introduction to medical conditions and traumatic injuries. They will learn about the role of EMTs in an emergency, relevant anatomy and physiology, and patient transportation, among other topics. After completing this course, students will be prepared to sit for the national exam for EMT certification, which is necessary in order to find work.

Medical Assisting Classes

This program is intended to give students the skills needed to work in the healthcare field as administrative or clinical medical assistants. They will learn about medical terminology, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, and learn core anatomical and medical concepts. Medical assistants work in a wide variety of medical contexts and may work in hospitals, nursing homes, medical offices or other institutions after graduation. After completing this program, students should be certified or prepared to be certified through a nationally accredited certification board.

There are a wide range of adult education programs available in many two-year schools across the country, designed specifically to fit the needs and schedules of adults with jobs and families. Many of these programs, such as the GED and citizenship classes, prepare students for externally regulated examinations and tests.

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