A program that prepares individuals to teach adult students in various settings, including basic and remedial education programs, continuing education programs, and programs designed to develop or upgrade specific employment-related knowledge and skills. Some teachers are more interested in instructing students closer to their own age.
Why Teach Adults
For a variety of reasons, adult students may seek out education to enable them to assimilate in a new environment or complete a level of education that will allow them to better pursue a career or further formal education.
Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers instruct adults in basic skills, such as reading, writing, and speaking English. They also help students earn their high school equivalent diploma.
Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers typically do the following:
- Plan and teach lessons to help students gain the knowledge and skills needed to earn their high school equivalent diploma
- Adapt teaching methods based on students’ strengths and weaknesses
- Emphasize skills that will help students find jobs, such as learning English words and common phrases used in the workplace
- Assess students for learning disabilities
- Monitor students’ progress
- Help students develop study skills
- Connect students to other resources in their community, such as job placement services
Students’ educational level and skills are assessed before they enter these programs. Teachers may conduct the assessments; however, sometimes another staff member assesses students. Based on the results of the assessment and the student’s goals, teachers develop an education plan.
Teachers must formally evaluate their students periodically to determine their progress and potential to go on to the next level of classes. However, teachers may informally evaluate their students’ progress continually.
Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers often have students of various education levels in their classes. As a result, these teachers need to use different strategies to meet the needs of all of their students. They may work with students in classes or teach them one-on-one.
There are three types of education that adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers provide
Adult basic education (ABE) classes teach students the basics of reading, writing, and math. The students generally are age 16 or older and need to gain proficiency in these skills to improve their job situation. Teachers prepare students for further education and help them to develop skills that they will need in the workplace. For example, they may teach students how to write a resume.
English as a Second Language (ESL), also called English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), classes teach students to read, write, and speak English. Students in these classes are immigrants to the United States or those whose native language is not English. ESL teachers may have students from many different countries and cultures in their classroom. Because the ESL teacher and the students may not share a common native language, ESL teachers must be creative with their communication in the classroom.
ESL teachers often focus on helping their students with practical vocabulary for jobs and daily living. They also may focus on preparing their students to take the citizenship exam.
High school equivalency and adult secondary education classes prepare students to take the test to earn a high school equivalent diploma. Some programs are combined with career preparation programs so that students can earn a high school equivalent diploma and a career-related credential at the same time.
The high school equivalency exam is composed of four subjects: language arts, math, science, and social studies. In addition to teaching these subjects, teachers also help their students improve their skills in communicating, critical thinking, and problem solving—skills they will need in preparing for further education and successful careers.
How to Become One
Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers who work in public schools must have at least a bachelor’s degree and a license or certification.
To research schools and programs in Adult Education, click here.
Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers in public schools must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Some community colleges may prefer to hire those with a master’s degree or graduate coursework in adult education or English as a Second Language (ESL).
Programs in adult education prepare prospective teachers to use effective strategies for adult learners, work with students from a variety of cultures and backgrounds, and teach adults with learning disabilities. Some programs allow these prospective teachers to specialize in adult basic education, secondary education, or ESL.
Prospective ESL teachers should take courses or training in linguistics and theories of how people learn second languages. Knowledge of a second language is not necessary to teach ESL, but it can be helpful.
Teacher education programs instruct prospective teachers in how to present information to students and how to work with students of varying abilities and backgrounds. Programs typically include an opportunity for student-teachers to work with a mentor and get experience in a classroom. For information about teacher preparation programs in your state, visit Teach.org.
Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers may take professional development classes to improve their teaching skills and ensure that they keep up with research about teaching adults.
The median annual wage for adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers was $54,350 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,580, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $93,760.
Teachers often work in the mornings and evenings, because classes are held at times when students are not at work. They typically work part time.
Employment of adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers is projected to decline 10 percent from 2018 to 2028.
Enrollment in adult education and ESL programs has declined in recent years. At the same time, high school graduation rates have increased, reducing the number of adults seeking to obtain high school equivalent diplomas. As these trends continue, the demand for adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers may decline.
Changes in government funding for adult education and ESL programs may impact the demand for adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers.
Many adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teacher positions are part time. As a result, prospects will be best for workers who are willing and able to take a part-time position. In addition, those with experience teaching will have better opportunities than those without experience.1
Adults who have a high school level education and basic language and math skills, have far more opportunities than those who don’t. Adult Basic Education and literacy instructors teach those basic skills… and also help adult students complete their high school credential. Adult basic education teachers focus on teaching reading, writing, and math to students… usually adults who have not completed high school and who want to improve their work prospects. High school equivalency and adult secondary education teachers prepare students to earn a high school equivalent diploma. Classes may include specific workplace vocabulary, skill development in critical thinking, and problem solving. English as a Second Language or ESL—teachers emphasize English reading, writing, and speaking for students whose native language is not English. Classes include practical vocabulary for jobs and daily living, and often, preparation for the citizenship exam. ESL teachers must be creative with their communication, as students in a class may not share a common language or read and write in their native language. Adult Education and ESL teachers work in elementary and high schools, community education programs, and colleges. Many work part time, in the mornings and evenings. Typically, candidates need a bachelor’s degree. Some states require licensure or a certificate to teach, while some community colleges prefer candidates with related graduate coursework or a master’s degree.2
- U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook
- U.S. Department of Labor, Career One Stop
Links and Resources for Adult Education
National Coalition for Literacy--The National Coalition for Literacy is an alliance of the leading national and regional organizations dedicated to advancing adult education, family literacy, and English language acquisition in the United States. Through collaborative efforts with other advocacy organizations and individuals, NCL ensures that leaders and legislators at the national level make informed decisions about policies, regulations, and funding for adult education and family literacy.
American Association for Adult and Continuing Education--The mission of the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE) is to provide leadership for the field of adult and continuing education by expanding opportunities for adult growth and development; unifying adult educators; fostering the development and dissemination of theory, research, information, and best practices; promoting identity and standards for the profession; and advocating relevant public policy and social change initiatives.
Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers--To stimulate the self-development and professional growth of teachers and reading specialists at all educational levels, encourage the continuing improvement of college and university curricula and preparation programs for teachers and reading specialists, and encourage the continuing improvement of administrative, clinical, diagnostic, and instructional practices related to the learning process