Adult and Continuing Education Teacher Career Guide

Adult and continuing education teachers work with adult learners in multiple subjects spanning continuing education, professional development, and personal development. This guide provides further information on what adult and continuing education teachers do, how to become one, and the salary and outlook you can expect for this job.

Table of Contents

How to Become an Adult and Continuing Education Teacher

Adult continuing education programs encompass a vast array of subjects, from math and foreign language to visual arts and time management. In most cases, an adult and continuing education teacher is expected to have at least a bachelor’s degree in their specialty area. They also typically have several years of experience in the subject area they teach. The following steps represent the typical pathway to becoming an adult and continuing education teacher:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in your desired field.
  2. After graduating from your bachelor’s program, earn experience in your field.
  3. Complete a teacher preparation program through an alternative route or by earning a master’s degree, if necessary.
  4. If you plan to teach at the post-secondary level, earn a doctoral degree.
  5. Apply for teacher licensure in your state, if necessary.
  6. Begin applying to open positions.

Following graduation, prospective adult and continuing education teachers should plan to enter the workforce for at least three to five years to gain experience in the field, as most jobs demand demonstrated expertise and field-specific education. For example, to qualify for an adult education position, a photography teacher may need a professional portfolio, a writing instructor may need to be a published author, and a personal finance instructor may need an accounting or finance background. Those who wish to teach adult and continuing education subjects in high schools or vocational schools must typically hold a state-issued teaching license. Those seeking to teach at the high school level (in GED and high school equivalency programs) who did not complete a teacher preparation program while earning their bachelor’s degree will typically return to school for an alternative route teacher certification program or a master’s degree.

For some careers in adult education, including positions at community colleges, candidates should have at least a master’s degree. An adult and continuing education degree prepares students to teach using methods specifically designed to meet the needs of adult students. Many prospective educators earn this master’s degree through classes online and in the evenings while working. There are also graduate-level certification programs that can qualify students to pursue adult and continuing education positions.

Adult & Continuing Education Degrees and Programs

Adult and Continuing Education Teacher Job Description

Teachers in adult and continuing education may instruct academic courses, especially courses relating to GED or college preparation, or professional development courses in career training. Other adult and continuing education professionals lead personal development courses in subjects like cooking, art, and photography. Depending on the subject taught, adult education teachers may work with groups of students in a classroom setting or in one-on-one private instruction. Adult education teachers may be employed in a variety of settings, including adult education enrichment programs, night schools, secondary schools, healthcare facilities, continuing education programs at community colleges and universities, or even in prisons teaching inmates.

Common Tasks

Teachers in this broad field will need to prepare lectures and assignments for students and may need the flexibility to work evenings and weekends since many adult education courses take place after hours.

In addition to having responsibility for direct instruction, adult and continuing education professionals must review and acquire lesson materials and commonly share responsibility in planning and administering course budgets. In some adult and continuing education programs, teachers are also responsible for developing curricula based on community needs. Teachers working in adult and continuing education may also give presentations or lectures to the wider public about their programs or areas of expertise.

Helpful Skills and Experience

Experience working in an industry related to the subject area(s) taught is helpful. Teachers of adult and continuing education subjects that commonly require licensing, such as nursing, should hold the appropriate credentials. Educators should have excellent communication and writing skills as well as flexibility and patience with adult learners.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

  • Adult and Continuing Education Coordinator
  • Adult Education Instructor
  • Adult Program Coordinator
  • Community Education Instructor
  • GED Prep Instructor
  • Vocational Teacher

Adult and Continuing Education Teacher Salary & Job Outlook

Adult and continuing education professionals’ salaries vary based on the educational level as well as the teacher’s education and experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), teachers specializing in adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma education, a segment that includes adult English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers, earn a median annual salary of $59,720 per year, with job growth prospects expected to decrease by 6% through 2031.1 As high school graduation rates are on the upswing, the demand for high school equivalency teachers has decreased.1

Postsecondary teachers who teach for-credit courses on a full-time schedule earn a median of $79,640 per year and have job growth prospects of 11% through 2031, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.2 Keep in mind that a graduate degree is typically required for these jobs, so this median salary may be higher than is typical for adult and continuing education teachers.

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Do I need certification to become an adult and continuing education teacher?

Answer: State-level licensing is not required to become an adult and continuing education professional if the teacher is only leading classes of students who are over the age of 18. In some cases, such as remedial education or high school equivalency preparation classes that include students under the age of 18, a teaching license may be required.

Question: Is experience in the field always required to become an adult and continuing education teacher?

Answer: Experience in the workforce is not always demanded by prospective employers, but is seen as a factor to the candidate’s benefit. In some fields, such as vocational automotive or business courses, experience may be more important than in others. Checking with local adult and continuing education employers in your area can provide a better understanding of the qualifications expected.

Question: Where do adult and continuing education teachers find work?

Answer: Educators in this field find work with many different types of employers. Community colleges and trade schools employ many adult and continuing education professionals. Community organizations also employ continuing educators, as do larger high schools and private schools that offer community programs after school hours. Still other work opportunities are found in private businesses looking to develop their employees’ abilities.

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/adult-literacy-and-ged-teachers.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Postsecondary Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm