Adult Education Teachers Career Information
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Significant Points· The majority of employed adult teachers work part time and receive
no benefits; many unpaid volunteers also teach these subjects.
· Opportunities for teachers of English as a Second Language are expected to be very good, as the number of immigrants seeking classes is expected to increase.
· Demand for self-enrichment courses is expected to rise as more people embrace lifelong learning.
Nature of the WorkAdult literacy and remedial education
teachers provide adults and out-of-school youths the education
needed to read, write, and speak English, and to perform basic math calculations—basic
skills that equip them to solve problems well enough to become active participants
in our society, to hold a job, and to further their education.
Students in adult literacy and remedial education classes are made up of those
who dropped out of school or have passed through the school system without an
adequate education. It also includes students who want to take the General Educational
Development examination, better known as the GED exam. The GED certificate—earned
by passing the GED exam—generally is considered the equivalent of a high school
diploma. Increasingly, though, the students in adult education classes are immigrants
whose native language is not English. In contrast, self-enrichment teachers,
unlike other adult education teachers, teach courses that students take for
personal enrichment, such as cooking, dancing, creative writing, golf or tennis,
photography, or personal finance.
Adult literacy and remedial education teachers, more commonly called adult basic education teachers, teach basic academic courses in math, geography, history, reading, writing, science, and other areas. They teach these subjects to students 16 years of age and older who have up to an eighth grade level education. Many of these adults have learning disabilities or emotional problems that prevented them from learning effectively in regular school. Because the students often are at different proficiency levels for different subjects, remedial education teachers must make individual assessments beforehand of each student's abilities. The assessment is used in many programs to develop an individualized education plan for each student. Teachers are required to evaluate students periodically to determine if they should be promoted to the next level.
Teachers who teach literacy to non-English speaking students are called English as a Second Language (ESL) or English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teachers. Along with English, ESL teachers provide survival and life skills instruction, and lessons on math, health, citizenship, and vocational topics. Adult education teachers, particularly ESL teachers, use real-life situations to promote learning. For example, a reading lesson may consist of reading a job application or a lease for an apartment. More advanced students concentrate on writing and conversational skills and more difficult vocabulary. ESL teachers must cope with a wide range of cultures and abilities in their classroom. Some of their students may have a college degree and be quick learners, while others may never have opened a book; and while some may need to be taught the alphabet from scratch, others may only need help with vocabulary.
Literacy and remedial education is taught in small groups or one-on-one. Teachers generally teach all subjects and only rarely specialize. They also may teach a combination of ESL and adult basic education. Attendance for students is mostly voluntary and coursework is rarely graded. Lessons tend to be very practical and put into meaningful contexts. For example, teaching job skills is a major topic in classes, including practicing for an interview, finding a job, following directions, reading a manual, giving opinions, and using technology.
For native-born and foreign-born students who wish to get a GED credential in order to get a job or to go on to college, GED teachers help them acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to pass the test. The GED tests students in writing, math, social studies, literature, arts, and sciences. Since most of the students have had some high school, the emphasis in class is on acquiring the knowledge needed to pass the GED test. Going over GED practice tests or GED instruction manuals are the main methods of preparing for the test. However, depending on the expertise of the teacher, some subjects may be taught in more detail.
All adult education teachers must prepare lessons beforehand, do any related paperwork, and stay current in their fields. Many new teachers also must learn the latest uses for the computer in literacy classrooms. Computers are increasingly being used to supplement instruction in basic skills and to teach students how to find jobs and other information over the Internet.
Working ConditionsBecause adult education teachers work with
adult students, they do not encounter some of the behavioral or social problems
sometimes found with younger students. Adults attend by choice, are highly motivated, and
bring years of experience to the classroom—attributes that can make teaching
these students rewarding and satisfying. However, teachers in remedial or adult
basic education deal with students who may lack effective study skills and self-confidence
have learning disabilities, and who may require more attention and patience
than other students.
Adult education teachers often feel they are not as respected by education departments as their general education peers. Many work with out-dated computers or in spare rooms with few resources. Funding is rarely adequate and class sizes are often large.
Many adult education teachers work part time. Some have several part-time teaching assignments or work a full-time job in addition to their part-time teaching job, leading to long hours and a hectic schedule. Classes often are held at night or on the weekends to accommodate students who may have a job or family responsibilities.
Teachers of adult literacy and remedial education held about 98,000 jobs in 2008. About 1 in 3 was self-employed. Many additional teachers worked as unpaid volunteers. Many of the jobs are federally funded, with additional funds coming from State and local governments. State and local governments employ the majority of these teachers, who work in adult learning centers, libraries, community colleges, juvenile detention centers, and corrections institutions, among other places. Others work for private educational institutions and for social service organizations, such as job-training or residential care facilities.
Training, Qualifications, Adv.Requirements for teaching adult literacy
and remedial education, including ESL and GED preparation, vary by State and
by program. Federally funded programs run by State and local governments usually
have higher standards than programs run by religious, community, or volunteer
organizations. Most State and local governments and education institutions require
that adult teachers have at least a bachelor's degree and preferably a Master's
degree. Some require an elementary or secondary teaching certificate and a few
have recently begun requiring a certificate in ESL or adult education. Teaching
experience, especially with adults, also is preferred or required. Volunteers
usually do not need a bachelor's degree, but must attend a preservice training
Most programs recommend that adult literacy and remedial education teachers take classes on teaching adults, using technology to teach, working with learners from a variety of cultures, and teaching adults with learning disabilities. ESL teachers should also have courses on second language acquisition theory and linguistics. In addition, knowledge of the citizenship and naturalization process is very useful. Knowledge of a second language is not necessary to teach ESL students, but can be helpful in understanding the students' difficulties. GED teachers should know what is required to pass the GED and be able to instruct students in the subject matter. Training for literacy volunteers usually consists of effective teaching practices, needs assessment, lesson planning, materials selection, characteristics of adult learners, and cross-cultural awareness.
Adult education teachers must have the ability to work with a variety of cultures, languages, and educational and economic backgrounds. They must be understanding of their students' circumstances and familiar with their concerns. All teachers, both paid and volunteer, should be able to communicate well and be able to motivate their students. Previous experience as a volunteer or an aide in a literacy program is recommended.
Professional development among adult education teachers varies widely. Because of the part-time nature of the job, attendance at classes is difficult for many instructors. Therefore, professional development usually consists of voluntary attendance at workshops, conferences, and seminars 1 or 2 days per year. The Internet is playing a larger role in helping teachers learn to expand approaches and techniques in the classroom. They can now take online courses, join chat groups with other teachers, and research journal articles.
There are very few opportunities for advancement in this profession. Most jobs are part time and offer limited career potential. However, those who do have full-time jobs often do administrative work along with teaching. Others may go into policy work at a nonprofit organization or perform research. The most experienced teachers may mentor new instructors and volunteers.
The main qualification for self-enrichment teachers is expertise in the subject area. A portfolio of one's work may be required. For example, to secure a job teaching a photography course, an applicant would need to show examples of previous work. Self-enrichment teachers should also have good speaking skills and a talent for making the subject interesting.
Job OutlookOpportunities for jobs as adult literacy, remedial, and self-enrichment education teachers are expected to be very good. Employment is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2012, and a large number of job openings are expected due to the need to replace people who leave the occupation or retire. Turnover is prevalent in this occupation due to its many part-time jobs. In addition, a large number of all types of teachers are expected to retire. Should a shortage of people seeking to enter the teaching profession arise, many of these jobs will be hard to fill.
Much of the growth in employment will be for ESL teachers who will be needed by the increasing number of immigrants and other nonEnglish speakers entering this country. In addition, a greater percentage of immigrants are expected to take ESL classes. With most immigrants going to States such as California, Florida, Texas, and New York, demand will be greatest in these regions. However, parts of the Midwest and Plains States have recently begun to attract large numbers of immigrants, making for especially good opportunities in those areas.
As employers increasingly require a more literate workforce, workers' demand will grow for all types of literacy and remedial classes. The need for basic education and GED teachers is expected to increase despite an increasing emphasis being placed on education. One reason is that the standards that many school districts are imposing to improve elementary and secondary education are causing some students who cannot meet the new criteria for graduation to drop out of school and enroll in adult education classes. Also, while dropout rates have declined for whites and blacks, they remain high for foreign-born Hispanics, who make up an increasing share of the population. Nevertheless, several branches of the military recently have allowed those who have dropped out of school to enlist—as long as they pass the GED first. This is expected to bring in new recruits and create demand for GED teachers.
The demand for literacy and basic education often fluctuates with the economy. When the economy is good and workers are hard to find, employers relax their standards and hire workers without a degree or GED. As the economy softens, more students find they need additional education to get a job. However, adult education classes are often subject to funding level changes, which can cause the number of teaching jobs to fluctuate from year to year. When this happens, volunteers may take the place of paid teachers.
As the baby boomers begin to retire and have more time to take classes and as more people embrace lifelong learning, the need for self-enrichment teachers will grow. Subjects that are not easily researched on the Internet and those that provide hands-on experiences will be in greater demand. Classes on spirituality and self-improvement are expected to be popular along with courses that provide hands-on experiences, like cooking and the arts. Topics related to current trends are always well-received.
Median hourly earnings of adult literacy and remedial education teachers were $18.74 in May 2009. The middle 50 percent earned between $14.07 and $25.49. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.57, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $34.94. Part-time adult literacy and remedial education instructors are usually paid by the hour or for each class that they teach, and receive few or no benefits. Full-time teachers are generally paid a salary and receive health insurance and other benefits if they work for a school system or government.
Related OccupationsThe work of adult literacy, remedial and self-enrichment teachers is closely related to that of other types of teachers,
Information on adult literacy, basic and secondary education programs, and teacher certification requirements is available from State departments of education, local school districts, and literacy resource centers. Information also may be obtained through local religious and charitable organizations. For information on adult education and family literacy programs, contact: For information on teaching English as a second language, contact:
Sources of Additional Information
Information on adult literacy, basic and secondary education programs, and teacher certification requirements is available from State departments of education, local school districts, and literacy resource centers. Information also may be obtained through local religious and charitable organizations.
For information on adult education and family literacy programs, contact:
For information on teaching English as a second language, contact: