Degree programs in adult education equip you to teach adults in the setting and field of your choice. Most adult education degrees are master's degrees or higher, building on more generalized education degrees and experience at the undergraduate level. Some undergraduate adult education programs do exist, however. Online degree programs in adult education have become increasingly widespread as working teachers and educators seek to boost their credentials without losing income by taking time off work. Master''s and PhD programs are particularly suited for online study, with their high component of independent study and research.
Associate's Degrees in Adult Education
Associate's degrees in adult education are rare and focus primarily on the vocational education industry. They generally include courses in human behavior and adult psychology. Vocational educators often begin their careers with only an associate''s degree and work experience in their field. For example, a person with experience as a welder may earn their associate's degree in adult education in order to teach welding at a vocational school. The associate's degree prepares students for a bachelor's degree, since few career opportunities exist for adult educators without one. An associate's degree typically takes two years to complete.
Bachelor's Degrees in Adult Education
A bachelor's degree in adult education includes courses on communication, curriculum development, and theories and practices of adult education. The bachelor''s degree prepares you to enter a corporate setting as a trainer, or to teach adults in a postsecondary setting such as a vocational or technical school.The bachelor's degree typically takes four years to complete. A bachelor's in adult education should not be confused with a K-12 teacher education program, as it does not certify you to teach in an elementary or secondary school.
Most adult education programs are master's degrees. Although you must complete a bachelor's degree before entering a master's degree program, your it need not be in adult education (in fact, such programs are uncommon). You may enter an adult education master's degree program after completing a bachelor's degree in nearly any subject. Master's level coursework includes:
- Planning and executing adult education programs,
- Adult education administration, and
- Adult education in social context.
An internship in an adult education setting is typically required before graduation. Many master''s degree programs in adult education are now offered online, allowing working professionals both inside and outside the education field to get the credentials they need without disrupting their careers. The master's degree in adult education provides continued preparation and education for becoming a trainer or postsecondary teacher, and it is almost always a minimum requirement for college or university teaching (except at the community college level). Your master's degree should take about two years to complete.
If you're really devoted to the field of adult education and want to take a leadership role, change or influence policy or perform groundbreaking research, you can work towards a PhD. Adult education PhD programs focus primarily on research and policy, and can take up to six years to complete. People with PhDs in adult education often pursue careers as academic deans, professors, or high-level corporate trainers.
What can you do with a Graduate Degree in Adult Education?
- Career specializations postsecondary and adult education administration
- College and Postsecondary Education
Postsecondary educators teach in educational institutions attended by high school graduates. This category includes colleges and universities, as well as vocational or technical colleges. The majority of postsecondary educators teach at the college or university level. A postsecondary educator with a graduate degree in adult education typically holds an undergraduate degree in a particular field of expertise and often has some work experience in that area as well. For example, a person with an undergraduate degree in accounting might work for a few years as an accountant and then pursue a master''s degree in adult education. With this combination of experience and education, he may then pursue a career as a teacher of finance or accounting at his local university. Colleges and universities typically require that their instructors hold at least a master''s degree. Higher-level instructors, such as professors, will typically hold a PhD in the subject they teach. In the world of postsecondary education, the higher your education level, the more career options are available to you. Colleges and universities offer significant potential for advancement. With a master's degree, you may start out as an instructor. As you reach higher levels of education, you may advance to a professorship or even take on a position in the administration. Teachers and administrators at colleges and universities enjoy relatively flexible schedules, but must occasionally teach night or weekend classes. In addition to classroom responsibilities, adult educators must attend staff meetings and perform administrative work.
Colleges and universities often expect their educators to conduct research in their primary field and publish their findings. They can sometimes use their three month's summer vacation to conduct extra experiments or spend time on research. Many professors also use this time to teach additional courses in order to earn more money. Vocational and technical schools typically teach skills that will help students in a particular job, such as welding or small engine repair. These schools offer opportunities for adult educators as well. To teach in a vocational or technical school, job experience in a specific field is important, as well as recognition in that field through certification or licensure. For example, an individual with experience as a welder and an associate's degree in adult education is a good candidate for a position as a welding instructor. Although vocational schools may not always require a master's degree or a bachelor's degree, formal education plays a major role when schools hire new teachers. In addition to teaching, schools expect instructors to stay current on trends and new techniques in their specialty. Schedules are typically flexible, though night or weekend courses may be taught here as well.
- Education Administration
Education administrators oversee a variety of educational institutions, ranging from day care centers to universities. Universities typically require administrators to have a PhD, although a master''s degree is sometimes sufficient at a childcare center or at a secondary school. Education administrators typically begin as teachers. They leverage their classroom experience, along with their education, to excel and advance in their careers. Administrators govern the school and supervise the staff. They should possess strong communication skills and the ability to work well with a diverse staff and community. Administrative positions require a year-round commitment, and often involve attendance at nighttime meetings and events. Administrators at a college or university often spend most of their time handling managerial duties, including fundraising, budgeting, and personnel development. At this level, administrators might hold college degrees in many different fields. A formal degree in adult education can make a big difference to an administrator who wants to advance her career to the next level. Most high-level university administrators hold a PhD, and have experience teaching college students.
Examples of university and college administrators include department chairs, deans, and university presidents. Most universities make hiring decisions on a career-ladder basis. For example, department chairs may advance to positions as deans, and deans can become college presidents.
Corporate Training Specialists
Training managers and training specialists typically work for a corporation''s human resources department (or come in from the outside as consultants). They create and execute on-the-job training programs for employees. These programs may include basic employee orientation, as well as more complex programs such as teaching employees how to use new software.While training managers and specialists come from a wide variety of educational and work related backgrounds, they all must possess strong skills in teaching and program development. A bachelor''s degree is usually required, as well as some work experience. A degree in adult education, along with work experience, can prepare you for a career in this field. Government programs providing job and life skills to underserved populations often employ training managers and specialists. In these cases, training managers are responsible for working with the client to determine what type of training they require, and seeing that they receive it. Programs are as varied as the clients they serve, from literacy skills to basic budgeting. Although these positions require varying levels of education, most require at least a bachelor''s degree. Professionals in this field report high levels of job satisfaction as they help clients achieve everything from basic solvency to major life goals.
Adult Education Salary Levels
In nearly every career path, a higher level of education often translates into a larger annual salary. This is very true in the field of adult education. In 2004, the U.S Department of Labor reported a median annual income of $38,979 for adult literacy and remedial education teachers. University instructors reported income of $36,590 to $72,490. Instructors typically reported lower incomes, while professors earned higher salaries because of their enhanced education and experience. Since training specialists and managers work in a variety of settings, their income varies. In 2004, training managers earned a median income of over $67,000 per year. The salary of education administrators in postsecondary schools varies widely with the position. A typical Dean of Students reported an annual income of about $75,000. Academic deans reported earnings ranging from $79,000 to $110,000. Earnings varied according to location and enrollment of the school.