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The Adult Education Field

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More people are realizing that lifelong learning is important to success in their careers and to their overall satisfaction with life in general. An estimated four out of ten adults participated in some form of adult education last year. To keep abreast of changes in their fields and advances in technology, more adults are taking courses for career advancement, skills upgrading, and personal enrichment, spurring demand for adult education teachers. This demand continues to rise and provides many opportunities for those entering the adult education field. Predictions are that this field will grow faster than the average of other fields, up through at least the year 2006.

The Main Areas of Adult Education

Adult education teachers instruct in three main areas - adult continuing education; adult remedial education, also known as adult basic education; and adult vocational-technical education, which also includes prebaccalaureate training and training for college credit.

In addition, adult education programs utilize the skills and services of career and vocational counselors and program directors and other administrators.

Adult Continuing Education

Adult continuing education instructors teach courses that students take for personal enrichment such as cooking, dancing, exercise and physical fitness, photography, writing for publication, and finance, to name just a few.

Other instructors help people update their job skills, maintain licenses, or adapt to technological advances. For example, an adult education teacher may provide courses that will help keep a health professional's skills current, or train students how to use new computer software programs.

Courses also can be mandated by courts or other bodies of law or offered by community service organizations and cover such topics as drunk driving, domestic violence, suicide prevention, crisis intervention, AIDS prevention, teen pregnancy prevention, gambling and other addictions, and financial management to help offenders stop writing bad checks.

Adult Basic Education

Adult basic education teachers provide instruction in basic education courses for those who need to improve their literacy skills, for those who did not complete high school and are studying to take the General Educational Development examination (GED exam), or for others who need to upgrade their skills to find a job. Within this category are also teachers of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) and those who provide instruction for citizenship classes.

Adult Vocational-Technical Education and Prebaccalaureate Training

Adult vocational-technical education teachers provide instruction for occupations that do not require a college degree, such as welder, dental hygienist, paramedic, x-ray technician, auto mechanic, and cosmetologist. They also work in junior or community colleges, providing students with prebaccalaureate training and training for college credit.

Other adult education teachers help students upgrade their skills so they can reach the level necessary to be allowed into an academic program. Often these precollege courses do not offer college credits but are, instead, a prerequisite for admission.

In addition, some four-year colleges and universities offer extension programs with credit-bearing courses that are taught by adult education instructors.

Career and Vocational Counseling

Students working to achieve high school equivalency, acquire new job skills, or upgrade existing skills often take advantage of the services of the career or vocational counselors their program provides. These counselors help students identify the skills they have, coupled with their interest areas, and then pinpoint possible career paths they would be suited to. Counselors can also help job candidates improve their resume-writing and interviewing skills.

Adult Education Administration

Just as with any work setting, in the adult education field administrators are needed to plan programs, supervise instructors and other staff members, schedule classes, oversee staff meetings, and take care of finances and budgeting.

Some administrators may also interact with other community agencies to identify needed services and the different populations they will serve. They might also write grant proposals or participate in fund-raising events to finance their programs.

Job Outlook

Rising demand for adult education courses for career advance-ment, skills upgrading, or personal enrichment and enjoyment will spur faster-than-average employment growth; opportunities should be best for part-time positions.

Many job openings for adult education teachers will stem from the need to replace people who leave the occupation. Many teach part-time and move into and out of the occupation for other jobs, family responsibilities, or to retire.

Opportunities will be best in fields such as computer technology, automotive mechanics, and medical technology, which offer very attractive, and often higher paying, job opportunities outside of teaching.

Help With the Job Hunt

If you have an employer in mind for whom you'd like to work, a phone call or an introductory letter sent with your resume is a good way to start. Some organizations such as adult education centers or community colleges have telephone job hot lines that are updated regularly with current openings.
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