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Adult Education Programs: Overview of Common Programs

Adult students have a wide variety of programs to choose from if they wish to further their education. In addition to certificates, adults can also earn associate's, bachelor's, or graduate degrees. These options are available at many 2-year colleges and 4-year universities.

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Learn about some of the common options for students to look into when it comes to adult education.

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Program Information

Depending on what you'd like to study, there is likely an adult education program option for you. Whether it's digital animation, accounting, finance, healthcare science, drawing, photography, sculpture, or many other options, there is likely something to interest you and help define your adult education pursuits. Some common forms of education include GED completion programs for those who did not finish high school, English as a Second Language study for those fluent in other languages, and undergraduate degrees for those taking a more traditional route to education. Trade or vocational school programs are also available for those who'd liked to enter the workforce in a shorter period of time via their studies. Listed below are some examples of types of program options available to you.

Programs At a Glance

GED Completion

  • These on-campus programs are used to make up for any deficit in education and enable them to earn an equivalent credential.
  • There are no prerequisites to begin study in this postsecondary program.

English as a Second Language

  • These post-secondary programs last four years, teaching English to those who have no or limited knowledge of the language with no specific prerequisites.
  • Depending on the learning institution, they can be found online or on-campus

Undergraduate Degree

  • Requiring a high school diploma or equivalent, students can study to earn an associate's or bachelor's.
  • On-campus, online, and hybrid programs are available depending on the area of study and the school.

Trade or Vocational Program

  • These programs typically award a certificate or diploma to those with a high school education.
  • Online and on-campus programs are available depending on the area of study and institution.

GED Completion

By passing a state-issued GED test, a student earns the equivalent of a high school diploma. These programs teach students the topics covered by the GED test, which includes basic math, science, English, social studies, and language arts.

Aimed at adults who have not completed their high school education for whatever reason, earning a GED helps individuals improve their job opportunities, as well as allows them to apply for college programs. GED programs are usually offered for free at adult education centers or through accredited college or universities, though seating may be limited. The test itself is formatted to include multiple-choice questions on math, science, and reading, as well as a written essay portion.

English as a Second Language

English as a Second Language (ESL) programs are used by non-native English speakers to improve their English writing and speaking skills. These programs vary based on location and the needs of the local community, as well as on the resources of the adult education program that provides them.

Many ESL programs are taught with native Spanish speaking students in mind, though others are available for all non-native English speakers. The program largely focuses on the development of conversational English, proper grammar, and writing skills. Occasionally, an ESL program will focus on English for business purposes.

Undergraduate Degree

Adult students can earn an associate's or bachelor's degree from a college or university. Earning a bachelor's degree can increase job options and be a great starting point for any further education, including a master's or doctoral degree program.

Students can opt to go straight to a 4-year college or university to earn their bachelor's degree or begin at a community college. Most community colleges offer 2-year associate's degree programs. With an associate's degree, students can either enter the workforce or transfer to a 4-year school and complete a bachelor's degree program. Many careers today require bachelor's degrees or above as a minimum.

Trade or Vocational Program

Trade schools prepare students to enter the workforce. Programs offered by trade schools include specialized fields like plumbing, cosmetology, and truck driving. These vocational programs offer hands-on education so that students are ready to work immediately upon completion of the program.

There are many avenues adults can pursue for their education. GED completion programs, English as a second language programs, undergraduate degrees, and trade and vocation training are all good options for expanding your horizons.

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