Adult and Continuing Education Teacher Career Guide

Teachers in adult and continuing education work in a variety of educational settings instructing adult students in a diverse assortment of courses such as art, literacy, high school equivalency, music, math, English as a second language, technology, cooking, and health. These educators work with students seeking self-enrichment and recreation and/or those seeking academic instruction for career advancement. 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.

Adult and Continuing Education Teacher Job Description

Adult and continuing education teachers work with adult learners in multiple subjects. These teachers may instruct academic courses, especially courses relating to GED or college preparation, or professional development courses oriented towards career training, which may take place at high schools, libraries, or local community colleges, or even online. Other adult and continuing education professionals lead courses taken for personal development or enjoyment, such as cooking, art, or photography. Depending on the subject taught, adult education teachers may work with groups of students in a classroom or in one-on-one private instruction situations. 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.

Teachers working in adult and continuing education need a passion for what they teach and excellent communication skills to effectively impart their knowledge of a subject. As many adult and continuing education programs rely on tuition for revenue, instructors working in this field must be excellent program managers to ensure that instruction is given within budget while effectively serving students and encouraging future enrollment. Teaching adults can be very different from teaching children; one main difference is that adult learners are almost always there by choice for their own personal enrichment or professional development, so they are typically more motivated and eager to learn.

Adult & Continuing Education Degrees and Programs

Adult and Continuing Education Teacher Requirements & Common Tasks

Many adult education teachers are trained and certified educators or professionals. Others simply have advanced experience and knowledge in their course matter. A teacher working in adult and continuing education needs interpersonal skills to deal with adult students, an approachable attitude, thorough knowledge of their subject matter, and an aptitude for teaching others. Teachers in this broad field will need to prepare lectures and assignments for students and must have 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. As well as teaching regularly scheduled courses, teachers working in adult and continuing education may also give presentations or lectures to the wider public about their programs or on the subject(s) in which they are experts.

How to Become an Adult and Continuing Education Teacher

Adult continuing education programs encompass a vast array of career possibilities including everything from math and foreign language to visual arts and time management. In most cases, an adult and continuing educator is expected to have at least a bachelor’s degree in education or the field of his or her specialty as well as at some years of experience in the subject area(s) to be taught. Prospective educators in this field should plan to start their careers by earning a bachelor’s degree at an accredited school. The following steps represent the typical pathway to becoming an adult and continuing education teacher:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in the desired career field.
  2. After graduating from your bachelor’s program, earn experience in your career 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, future 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 adult and continuing education 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. As in most subjects, those who wish to teach adult and continuing education subjects in high schools or vocational schools typically must hold a state-issued teaching license. Those who are seeking to teach at the high school level (in GED and high school equivalency programs) and 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 in education.

For some careers in adult education, including adult education at community colleges, candidates should have at least a master’s degree in education or a related subject, preferably with a concentration in adult and continuing education. An adult and continuing education degree prepares students to teach using methods geared specifically towards 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 and Continuing Education Teacher Salary & Job Outlook

Adult and continuing education professionals’ salaries vary based on the subject taught 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 which 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 Though many positions for adult and continuing education professionals are part-time, there are opportunities for full-time positions for qualified educators.

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.

Helpful Skills and Experience

The qualifications for becoming an adult and continuing education professional vary widely. If you are teaching at the postsecondary level, you likely need a graduate or postgraduate degree and/or certification in the field you wish to teach. Experience working in an industry related to the subject area(s) taught may also be 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

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