A career in educating adult learners

  • A career in educating adult learners

    If you know that you’d like to become an educator, you might be in the process of figuring out what grade level you’d like to teach. Maybe you’d like to shape elementary school students, igniting their passion for education at a young age. Or perhaps you’re interested in inspiring high school students, shaping them for college and careers. An often overlooked age group that educators can work with are adult learners. Whether they needed to drop out of high school to make money for their families or simply didn’t get around to getting their General Education Diploma (GED), adult learners can be just as bright and passionate in a classroom setting as adolescent students.

    Working with adult learners differs greatly from teaching children and teenagers. However, a career as an adult continuing education professional can be just as rewarding as that of a K-12 teacher. Read on to find out what there is to know about a career as an adult educator and discover how you can pursue this career.

    How adults learn differently from children

    Even though adult learners may be reviewing similar curriculums as those being administered to high school students, they learn in completely different ways. Here are some of the major differences you will encounter when working with adult learners:

    • Adults have fully developed problem-solving skills. Unlike children and teenagers, adult learners’ cognitive skills are completely evolved, providing them with the ability to think more critically than many adolescent students.
    • Adults have specific goals. While many children and teenagers view going to school as a requirement, many adult learners choose to pursue their GED. Perhaps they decided to go for their own sense of accomplishment, or maybe they want to broaden their career prospects by attaining a GED. Regardless of whether this motivation is intrinsic or extrinsic, there’s nobody forcing adult learners to be there. This may lead to higher engagement in your students.
    • Adults have more life experience. Quite simply, adult learners have lived longer than adolescent learners. The extra years typically give them a broader perspective on multiple subjects, as well as a larger set of educational tools than children and teens. They might be able to acquire skills as a result of thinking back on prior experiences and memories.
    • Adults are independent. Unlike children and teenagers, who have limited autonomy, adult learners have a level of independence that can be both helpful and detrimental when put in a classroom setting. Adults have the freedom to plan their own schedules, but they usually have more responsibilities and, as a result, a higher chance of schedule conflicts. They might have children to care for, hectic work schedules and other responsibilities that could prevent them from completing assignments on time or make it to every class session. As an adult educator, it’s important to understand that your learners have their own independent schedules and may require more flexibility than adolescent students, who typically have fewer responsibilities to juggle.

    Ideal traits of an adult educator

    Before deciding that this is the right path for you, it’s important to make sure you are cut out for a rigorous career as an adult educator. Even though it’s an extremely rewarding and respectable occupation, it surely isn’t an easy one. Here are some characteristics you may need to have to succeed in this fulfilling career:

    • Patience. You will be working with students from all learning backgrounds. You might have adults with learning disabilities or students who don’t speak English fluently in your classroom. It is essential that you maintain a level head when working with all students, particularly those who are struggling to understand the content material.
    • Cultural sensitivity. It’s important to be respectful when working with students that come from different cultural, economic and educational backgrounds than what you’re used to. You should always be respectful of students’ values and aware of cultural behaviors and traditions that come up in the classroom.
    • Communication skills. As an educator, it is essential that you have exceptional communication skills, both in the classroom with your students and when collaborating with teachers and program administrators. You should be able to explain concepts in terms that your students will understand and should have the breadth of knowledge to back up and reiterate certain points that need clarifying.

    How to become an adult educator

    The path to becoming an adult educator is somewhat similar to that of becoming a K-12 educator, but it has some key differences. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many states will hire adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers that have completed a bachelor’s degree and hold a teaching license in the state for this age group.

    However, many community colleges prefer to hire candidates with a master’s degree in adult education. These comprehensive programs teach future educators how to work directly with adult learners and how to develop curricula that meet their needs. Some programs even allow adult educators to specialize in certain areas, such as special education or English as a Second Language (ESL). This additional certification allows educators to work with a larger population of adult learners, increasing their marketability for job applications as well as their salary outlooks.

    Finding the right master’s degree in adult education

    Whether you plan on specializing in special education or ESL or earning a holistic master’s degree in adult education, there are plenty of universities that offer programs for future adult educators. Maybe you’d like to get your graduate degree online or perhaps you think you would benefit from an on-campus education. Regardless, you should have no trouble finding a master’s program that fits your needs.

    A graduate degree in Education, with a specialization in working with adult learners, can lead you in the right direction to becoming an effective educator. You can use Graduate Guide’s search functions to filter through advanced degree programs and find which one works best for your learning goals.

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