Adult Education Degrees: Program Options and Information

Bachelor's and master's degree programs train graduates for careers in adult education, primarily teaching literacy and high school equivalency courses. Students learn about teaching, instructional methods, course design and adult learning styles.

Essential Information

Requirements to teach adult education vary by state, but most states require that adult education teachers have a bachelor's degree and pass a state competency test. Bachelor's degree programs in adult education require four years of study, and master's programs usually require about two to three years to complete. Some programs are available online, but may require that students be employed in an academic setting where they can practice their skills. Students at both levels may be required to complete teaching internships. Prerequisites for a bachelor's degree program include a high school diploma or GED, while a master's degree program requires a bachelor's degree.


Bachelor of Science in Adult Education

The bachelor of science in adult education program prepares students to design courses for adult learners in a variety of educational settings. Programs provide students with a foundation in adult education theory, methods and classroom technology. Applicants must possess a high school diploma or its equivalent, usually also having to meet specific GPA requirements. Courses may cover the following topics:

  • Learning evaluation and assessment
  • Instructional technology and design
  • Continuing education
  • Motivational techniques

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Master's Degree in Adult Education

Students in a master's degree in adult education program gain the skills necessary to assist adults with learning basic literacy and mathematics skills. Some programs require students to complete prerequisite courses or possess an undergraduate degree in a specific major, such as education, psychology or sociology. Coursework provides the foundation for research opportunities or a chance to focus on a specific area of education. Students may select a thesis option or a non-thesis option that offers a practical experience requirement. Courses may include:

  • Basic skills for adults
  • Literacy
  • Linguistics
  • Program evaluation
  • Qualitative research

Popular Career Options

Graduates have job options in multiple settings, including state-funded programs, corporations, non-profit organizations and schools. Opportunities for developing programs for social services agencies or workforce development programs with local governments are available. Specific career choices include recruiter, corporate trainer, community college instructor, continuing education teacher, and student affairs administrator.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that adult literacy and secondary education teachers can expect faster than average job growth, with a 7% increase from 2014-2024. Adult literacy and secondary education teachers earned a median salary of $50,280 in 2015.

Continuing Education

Graduates seeking research or administrative opportunities can pursue a doctoral degree in adult education. A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Adult Education is a terminal degree program that furthers students' teaching abilities and prepares them for leadership positions in adult and higher education. Doctoral programs provide the foundation to perform original research and development in adult education.

Adult education can be studied at both the bachelor's and master's degree levels, with both programs offering students the tools to teach adults in a classroom setting. Depending on what level of study students choose, they will be able to find jobs either teaching or taking an active role in developing educational programs.


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