Adult Education Teacher Requirements and Career Goals

Helping adults improve themselves with better reading skills, writing skills or the knowledge to complete a GED is not only rewarding, but an important service to the community. The right education can increase the odds of employment and earning potential for adults who missed important pieces of their education or need help due to language barriers. Better language competence can give people the tools to understand contracts, leases, directions, instructions and other crucial social skills for living as an adult. You can be a part of building a stronger community with more productive members.


An adult educator typically works for organizations dedicated to improving the life or employment possibilities for citizens. If you choose a career teaching adults, you may find a position in a community college or a prison or working with government or charitable groups who provide assistance to individuals in your area. Getting on the path to this rewarding career usually involves three steps:

  1. You will need to earn a bachelor’s degree, often through a degree program for education and ESL. Some positions in the field require master’s degrees or coursework offered at the master’s degree level.
  2. You must get certification or a license from your state to teach adult education. Requirements for this step differ for each state.
  3. You will need to gain two or three years of experience teaching. Teaching experience with children is acceptable for completing this step.

What Coursework is Required to Teach Adult Education?

Most positions in the adult education field require at least a bachelor’s degree. You can choose your major based on your interests since there is no particular major requirement to teach adults. However, education programs can offer you specialized preparation for your career, and there are many colleges that offer adult education degree programs.

While it is usually acceptable to pursue any course of study, there are some courses that will give you the fundamental concepts needed for teaching. These education courses may also be required if you want to work for a government agency. Some of the undergraduate courses that are recommended for a career in adult education include:

  • Adult Education Theory: The majority of courses in education cover theories that apply to children and teenagers. An adult learning theory course can prepare you for the different approaches needed to educate and motivate individuals who did not get a full education as minors.
  • English as a Second Language: Many of the students who seek reading or writing help as adults are immigrants who need English language skills. Some students had an education in their homeland but are not yet able to speak, read or write English. Other students have poor English skills and have received no formal education. Studying ESL prepares you to work with these students.
  • Learning Styles: As an adult educator, you will work with students who have diverse learning styles due to different backgrounds and visual or audio abilities. You will need to prepare lessons based on your students’ individual needs.

Many community colleges and some government agencies require adult educators to complete master’s degree coursework. Master’s-level studies give you specialized knowledge that can help you qualify for more adult education teaching jobs. Whether or not a position requires master’s degree studies, master’s degree courses can help you better educate your students.

If you decide to pursue a master’s degree, you could specialize in adult ESL or adult education. Other master’s degree program courses that that can help you educate students and further your career includes:

  • Historical and Social Issues in Adult Education: Learning the history of the adult teaching experience and the social issues that adults without reading and writing skills have faced can help you adjust your teaching style.
  • Adult Education Program Planning: This course prepares you to design an adult education program by exposing you to relevant theories and methods.
  • Adult Education Research: Master’s level work includes research requirements. A research course can prepare you for the work you will need to complete during your exploration of adult education theories. This coursework is also designed to help you investigate adult teaching issues during your career.

What Kind of Requirements Are There to Teach Adult Education?

There are other requirements besides education and licensing to consider before you pursue a career in adult education. As an adult educator, you will need to pass background checks performed by your state. Though background requirements may be different in each state, you will most likely need to have a clean criminal record.

If you do not hold a teaching license, you may be able to enter the field of adult education through part-time work or through organizations that work with adults in need of assistance in your area. Using this method, you could work and gain experience in the field while pursuing your degree and teaching license. Many degree programs offer online courses so that you can complete your work at times that are convenient to you.

Other requirements for a career in adult education are not related to your ability to complete coursework or licensing obligations. You should consider whether or not the career is right for your goals and personality. If you are going to excel in the adult education field you will need flexibility and certain character traits.

What Kind of Person Excels in Adult Education?

Adult education teaching jobs are not right for everyone. The education requirements are an important part of a career in teaching adults, but there are personality traits, talents and strengths that also attribute to success in the field. Some of the characteristics and career goals important for adult education teaching jobs include:

  • Flexibility: If your goal is full-time employment with regular workday hours, teaching adults may be difficult for you. Adult education courses usually are scheduled for evenings and are offered part-time. Your schedule and class size may change frequently.
  • Communication: Communicating to your students is crucial, but so is listening to them. In order to prepare lessons properly, you will need to take cues from your students and learn to effectively communicate, listen and respond to their developments.
  • Compassion: Individuals usually enter adult education programs due to hardships or language barriers that prevented a formal English education when they were younger. You will need to have compassion for their experiences and teach with their backgrounds in mind at all times.

If you feel you have these traits and are motivated to pursue the education and licensing requirements for adult education, you may find a rewarding career teaching adult students. Adult educators are in demand in communities who want to improve the lives of individuals who missed out on a formal education. The first step to your career path is pursuing your degree and getting a foundation in education to better teach your students.

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Updated Sep 14 2016 About content Print Topic