When most people think of teachers, they think of people who work with children in school classrooms. But that’s not where your passion lies. Your desire is to equip adults with the information and skills they need for success.
Through the practice of teaching adult learners, also known as andragogy, you can help people better their lives and cultivate their strengths.
As a trained adult educator, you’ll understand what it takes to reach learners in this demographic. Whether you want to work in corporate positions, colleges or community settings, your master’s in education will help you become an effective communicator who can tap into your learners’ motivation.
With an online degree in adult education, you can gain valuable teaching skills without fully rearranging your life. Through the flexibility of online classes, you can earn a graduate degree while working a full-time job or caring for your family.
Concentrations for a Master’s in Adult Education Online
Since adult educators can work in a wide variety of settings and teach learners with vastly different needs, you may want to pursue a concentration for your degree. Taking concentration-specific classes will provide a focused education that’s tailored to your career goals.
- Classroom Technology and Distance Learning
- Education in Human Resources
- Higher Education
- Literacy and ESL
Keep in mind that concentrations are not a necessity. Many schools offer a generalist degree in adult education that will give you an overview of working with adult learners in many different capacities.
Classroom Technology and Distance Learning
In classes like Multimedia Presentations and Digital Tools for Teaching, you’ll become proficient at incorporating technology into your lessons and teaching through online formats.
This concentration is perfect for teachers who want to take advantage of all that technology has to offer and possibly teach via online platforms.
Education in Human Resources
Corporate training is closely linked to the field of human resources, so this concentration can prepare you for a career in professional development. You can teach job skills and company policies in a variety of industries.
The perk to this track is that if a company hires you to teach its workforce, you can be sure that it values its people very highly. This is an opportunity to combine education with business for a very rewarding career.
You’ll prepare for a career in a college setting through courses like Postsecondary Curriculum and Testing in College Classes. Many adults go back to school, so you’ll have unique training for this demographic.
You can begin teaching college courses with a master’s degree, but this track will also set you up for pursuing a doctorate in education if you so choose. Earning your terminal degree can open more doors and provide a salary for professors.
Literacy and ESL
If you’re interested in helping undereducated adults and non-English speakers improve their employability, pursue this concentration. You’ll take classes like Reading and Writing Instruction.
You’ll work side-by-side with adult learners who need the skills you teach. Seeing them learn and succeed can be a very satisfying day’s work, though probably not the highest paying.
Example Coursework for a Master’s in Adult Education
The curriculum for your master’s program will cover the ways that adults learn and the best strategies for communicating information. The specific courses will vary from school to school, but you may take classes like the following.
- Curriculum and Instruction: Get set to deliver powerful teaching in this class that focuses on choosing materials and presenting them in effective ways.
- Education Methods for Adult Learners: This course features an overview of how adults learn and what motivates them.
- Literacy and Basic Education for Adults: You’ll learn to work with adults who have limited reading skills or no high school diplomas.
- Professional Education: In this class, you’ll learn to lead corporate training sessions or teach adults in continuing education programs.
- Technology-based Learning: Discover ways to make the most of multimedia presentations, online programs, and other digital technologies in educational settings.
You may also have the opportunity to take an assortment of electives. These can help you customize a course of study that’s directly applicable to your career goals.
Careers with a Master’s in Adult Education
Adult learning takes place in a variety of settings. Both young adults and nontraditional students regularly enroll in courses at vocational schools, community colleges, and universities.
Others aren’t ready for that level of learning and instead need to become fluent readers or speakers of English or to gain high-school-level math and science skills.
Many adults in the workforce need to advance their professional skills, or they must earn continuing education credits. With a master’s degree in adult education, you can teach adult learners in these or other settings.
- Basic education or literacy teacher: In this capacity, you could run GED classes to prepare adults for passing a high-school-equivalency test. You could also help adults learn to read more fluently, or you could teach English as a second language.
- Health educator: Through non-profit organizations, hospital systems, medical clinics, or health departments, you might help people learn to make healthy choices for themselves or their family members.
- Instructional coordinator: To select and supervise the curriculum used in adult education programs and ensure that classes fit together well, consider a career as an instructional coordinator.
- Postsecondary teacher: With a master’s, you may be able to begin teaching students at the college level, especially in community college settings.
- Training and development specialist: You could be a corporate trainer who boosts employee performance, or you could offer classes to adults who need continuing education credits to maintain their licensure status.
- Vocational education teacher: In this role, you’ll help adults learn skilled trades so that they can launch new careers. Your area of expertise might involve automotive, culinary, electrical, healthcare, or welding skills, and you may need certifications in your field.
Some roles, such as adult literacy teachers, have a declining number of positions available, but others, such as health educators, are increasing by as much as 11% over the next few years.
Salary for Adult Educators
Adult education can be a personally fulfilling career path, and it can also help you earn a reliable income. The following list will give you an idea of what sort of salary you might be able to expect in this field.
- Postsecondary teacher: $78,470 per year
- Instructional coordinator: $64,450 per year
- Training and development specialist: $60,870 per year
- Basic education or literacy teacher: $53,630 per year
- Vocational education teacher: $53,120 per year
- Health educator: $46,080 per year
Salaries typically increase with experience, and they can vary greatly throughout the country.
For example, training and development specialists generally make anywhere from $32,950 to $102,740 annually. The average specialist earns $54,480 a year in Utah but could make $76,800 in Washington.
Licenses and Certifications
The line of work you plan to pursue will determine what certifications or licenses you should get.
- Adult Learning Certificate: Enhance your competence as an adult educator with this program from the Association for Talent Development.
- Certified Performance Management Professional: Earn this certification from The KPI Institute by participating in a three-day intensive course.
- Certified Professional in Learning and Performance: Pursue this certification from the Association for Talent Development to demonstrate your advanced knowledge in instructional design or corporate training.
- Certified Professional in Training Management: This certification from Training Industry can be useful for those interested in advancing workplace knowledge.
- International Society for Technology in Education Certification: Consider ISTE’s program if you use technology to enhance your teaching endeavors.
- Online Teaching Certificate: Enroll in this program from the Online Learning Consortium to improve your skills as a digital educator.
- Teaching license: For some adult education jobs, such as running a GED program, you may need to be a licensed teacher. Requirements for teaching licenses vary from state to state.
- TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages): If you want to help others become fluent in the English language, you should pursue TESOL certification from the TESOL International Association or another organization.
For some of these certifications, you may need to complete additional studies after graduation.
Professional Associations for Adult Educators
Teaching adults can be very different from teaching kids. To network with others who understand what it’s like to work with adult learners, consider joining a professional organization in this field.
- American Association for Adult and Continuing Education: AAACE encourages research, professional standards and networking opportunities in adult education.
- Coalition on Adult Basic Education: COABE advocates for learning and literacy opportunities for undereducated adults.
- Correctional Education Association: CEA members provide education for people in the correctional system.
- National Association of State Directors of Adult Education: State adult education staff can join NASDAE for professional development and public policy advocacy.
Becoming a member of one of these groups may give you access to industry publications, discussion boards, training opportunities, conferences, job listings, discounts, and other resources.
To ensure that you’re earning a reputable degree that will serve you well in the years to come, you must attend a regionally accredited institution. Otherwise, your credits may not transfer elsewhere, and you may not be eligible for federal financial aid. In addition, potential employers may not hold your degree in high regard.
You can save yourself this sort of trouble by attending a school approved by one of the country’s official regional accreditors.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) maintains the list of organizations, such as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), that are approved to evaluate whether schools meet the required standards for academics, student support, and ethical leadership.
Check the accreditation of the university you want to apply to on the U.S. Department of Education’s database.
Many master’s students receive financial aid from the federal government. To learn about federal loans, grants, or work-study options you might be able to get, start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
This document may also help you obtain financial aid from your state.
Other financial aid options include scholarships and grants from private sources. You can look for national scholarship programs or pursue funds from organizations in your community. Your university may also offer scholarships or give you the opportunity to set up a payment plan.
If you plan to use your master’s degree to better serve your current company, they may be willing to cover part of your tuition costs. Talk to your human resources department about whether that’s an option.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here’s a little more information regarding specific questions master’s students ask.
What is a Master’s in Adult Education?
In many ways, teaching adults requires a different skill set than the one required for leading classrooms of youngsters. In a master’s degree program for adult education, you’ll acquire the specialized knowledge that is needed for working with adult learners.
Your coursework will help you learn about the education process from beginning to end. You’ll explore the ways that adults assimilate new knowledge, and you’ll use that foundation to think about curriculum design and instructional methods.
If your goal is to help adults develop their knowledge base and acquire new skills, then this degree program could be a good fit for you.
Should I Get a Master’s in Adult Education?
Teaching others can be a fulfilling career because it gives you opportunities to help others improve their lives and their professional success. To enter this field for the first time or to advance your current teaching career, you should consider earning a master’s degree in adult education.
Studying in this field will give you a thorough understanding of the processes involved in knowledge acquisition. Because you’ll become adept at working with adult learners in many settings, you’ll possess a versatile skill set that will allow you to seek work with community organizations, health departments, community colleges, or consulting firms.
How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Master’s in Adult Education?
It’s common for graduate programs in adult education to require 30-39 credit hours of study. It may take you about two years to earn them.
What Can You Do with a Master’s in Adult Education?
A master’s program in adult education will prepare you to teach adult learners in nearly any setting. You could help people get basic skills for a GED or through ESL, literacy, or community health programs. You could also provide more advanced knowledge in vocational, college, or business settings.
What Are the Benefits of Earning My Master’s in Adult Education Degree Online?
Accredited online programs are held to the same standards as on-campus ones, so digital classes are a great way to get a high-quality education in a convenient format.
You may be able to earn your degree without quitting your job, moving far from home, or paying exorbitant fees.
List of Online Masters in Adult Education Degree Programs
- Ashland University
- Auburn University
- Ball State University
- City University of Seattle
- Cleveland State University
- Colorado State University
- East Carolina University
- Florida Atlantic University
- Indiana University Bloomington
- James Madison University
- Kansas State University
- Marshall University
- North Carolina State University
- Northwestern State University of Louisiana
- Oregon State University
- Pennsylvania State University
- Point Park University
- Rutgers University
- Saint Joseph’s College of Maine
- Seattle University
- Texas A&M University
- Troy University
- University of Arkansas
- University of Georgia
- University of Houston – Victoria
- University of Idaho
- University of Tennessee – Knoxville
- University of West Alabama
- Valdosta State University
- Western Kentucky University
These schools are all accredited to award adult education master’s programs and do so via an online platform.
- Master of Education in Adult Education
Ashland University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association.
- Master of Education in Adult Education
- Master of Science in Adult Education
Auburn University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
- Master of Arts in Adult and Community Education
BSU is accredited by Higher Learning Commission.
- Master of Education in Adult Education and Instructional Design
City University of Seattle holds regional institutional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
- Master of Education in Adult Learning and Development
Cleveland State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
- Master of Education in Education and Human Resource Studies – Adult Education and Training
Colorado State is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission
- Master of Education in Adult Education
East Carolina University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
- Master of Education in Adult and Community Education Leadership
FAU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate, baccalaureate, masters, specialist and doctorate degrees.
- Master of Education in Adult Education
Indiana University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission
- Master of Education in Adult Education – Human Resource Development
James Madison University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate, masters and doctorate degrees.
- Master of Science in Adult Learning and Leadership
Kansas State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
- Master of Science in Adult & Continuing Education – Adult Education and Evaluation
- Master of Science in Adult & Continuing Education – Career and Technical Center Teaching
Recently reaffirmed for 10 years, Marshall University is formally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
- Master of Education in Adult and Continuing Professional Education
- Master of Science in Adult and Continuing Professional Education
North Carolina State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees.
- Master of Arts in Adult Learning and Development – Adult and Workforce Development
- Master of Arts in Adult Learning and Development – Homeland Security
- Master of Arts in Adult Learning and Development – e-Learning
Northwestern State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate, baccalaureate, masters, specialists, and doctorate degrees.
- Master of Education in Adult and Higher Education
Oregon State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
- Master of Education in Lifelong Learning and Adult Education
The Pennsylvania State University is accredited by the Middle States Association.
- Master of Arts in Adult Learning and Training
Point Park University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
- Master of Education in Adult and Continuing Education
Rutgers is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (1921), and in 1989, became a member of the Association of American Universities.
- Master of Science in Education – Adult Education & Training
Saint Joseph’s College is accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education, Inc.
- Master of Arts in Education – Adult Education and Training
- Master of Education in Adult Education and Training
Seattle University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
- Master of Science in Educational Human Resource Development – Adult Education
Texas A&M University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award degrees at the bachelors’, masters’, doctoral and professional levels.
- Master of Science in Adult Education – Curriculum and Instruction Design
- Master of Science in Adult Education – Instructional Technology
- Master of Science in Adult Education – Leadership in Workforce Development
Troy University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS) to award associate, baccalaureate, master’s, education specialist, and doctoral degrees.
- Master of Education in Adult and Lifelong Learning
The University of Arkansas continues to be an accredited institution of higher education, following a decision by the Institutional Actions Council of the Higher Learning Commission.
- Master of Education in Learning, Leadership and Organizational Development – Adult Learning
University of Georgia is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
- Master of Education in Adult and Higher Education – Adult Education
- Master of Education in Adult and Higher Education – Discipline & Instruction
- Master of Education in Adult and Higher Education – Higher Education
The University of Houston-Victoria is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate, masters, and specialist degrees.
- Master of Science in Adult Organizational Learning & Leadership
The University of Idaho is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
- Master of Science in Educational Psychology – Adult Education
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has been continuously accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees.
- Master of Science in Adult Continuing Education – Counseling and Psychology
- Master of Science in Adult Continuing Education – Library Media
The University of West Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award bachelor’s, master’s and education specialist degrees.
- Master of Education in Adult and Career Education
Valdosta State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate, bachelor’s, master’s, educational specialist, and doctoral degrees.
- Master of Arts in Education – Adult Education
Western Kentucky University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.
Hit the Books!
To teach, you first have to learn. Here’s how to get where you want to be in a few easy steps.
- Decide if you want to specialize or go for a general adult education degree.
- Narrow down which schools offer your intended degree.
- Research and apply for financial aid.
- Apply to 5-8 universities.
Once you’re accepted, take as many classes online classes as you can comfortably fit (or maybe a little uncomfortably) into your schedule so that you can graduate and re-enter the workforce with your new degree as quickly as possible.