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The Life of an Adult Continuing Education

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Adult continuing education can be divided into two major sectors: personal enrichment and skills upgrading.


Adult education instructors teach courses that students take for personal enrichment. This can be anything from aerobics to writing poetry, from raku pottery to ethnic cooking. The list is only limited by your imagination. Look at any adult continuing education catalog to see the wide range of offerings.

Personal enrichment instructors don't necessarily have to have any particular degree but, of course, they are usually proficient in their field. A pottery instructor, for example, must be an accomplished potter and also must have the ability to teach others. A writing instructor should have a portfolio of published work. In other words, those who can, do, and those who can, also teach.

Some areas, though, do require certain licensing or certificates. For example, a SCUBA instructor should be trained and authorized by a certifying body such as PADI or NAUI.

Employment Settings for Personal Enrichment Courses

Settings where you'd find personal enrichment courses include universities and colleges offering evening adult education programs; vocational-technical schools with adult evening programs; adult education and community centers; health centers, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers; recreation organizations such as the YMCA; Internet services such as America Online; and even some jails or prisons.


For some professionals to stay current in their fields, their employers may require a certain number of continuing education units each year. These are usually taught by trained professionals who are licensed by the state. For example, someone providing continuing education to nurses should also be a trained nurse.

In addition, some students take courses on their own to upgrade their skills so they can be promoted on the job or land a better job. Courses could range from how to use a particular computer pro-gram to improving business writing skills. These courses are taught by instructors with expertise in the particular areas.

Employment Settings for Skills Upgrading Courses

Settings include those mentioned above for personal enrichment courses as well as at corporate offices, where businesses might directly employ instructors to work with their personnel.

In a corporate setting, corporate trainers teach communications skills between staff and management, conduct seminars and work-shops, run motivational sessions, and teach new skills and upgrade existing ones.

A corporate trainer could work with employees and a new computer system or provide orientation to new employees. The role of the corporate trainer can be as varied as the company's enterprises.

In addition, there are several centers nationwide providing computer training services for people with disabilities. These people either have been disabled from birth or face dealing with a new disability that, in most cases, forces them to switch careers. Disabilities range from general back injuries, for example, which force a wallpaper hanger to change jobs, to very severe disabilities, in which someone has use of only one finger or is so paralyzed that she or he needs to blow through a puff stick to be able to type.


Salaries vary widely, depending on the hiring organization and the area of the country in which you might be employed. Some personal enrichment instructors are paid hourly-anywhere from $10 to $50 an hour. Others are paid a percentage of the registration fee per student. This could range from $15 to $50 or more, depending on the type of course or the organization offering it. The more students you attract, the better your salary. Some employers might require a minimum number of students, though, before the instructor would be able to teach the class.

Some corporations keep full-time instructors or trainers on staff and pay them an annual salary. In general, salaries in private corporations are higher than those in educational institutions. A corporate trainer with a few years' experience could expect to earn $50,000 a year or more.


What better way to learn about a profession than from specialists working directly in the field. The firsthand accounts that follow in this chapter cover adult continuing education classes conducted by a self-employed health professional; classes held in a four-year university; classes sponsored by a state district attorney's office; classes offered by an on-line campus; classes offered through the YMCA; classes held in a vocational-technical high school; and classes offered through a computer training center.

Pat Carroll-Educational Medical Consultant

Pat Carroll teaches continuing education programs for the health professions. She is owner of Educational Medical Consultants, based in Connecticut. Her work takes her all over the United States.

Carroll has a number of degrees including an A.A.S. in respiratory therapy, an A.S. and B.S. in nursing, a B.S. in health sciences, and an M.S. in education. She started her work in this field in 1983.


"I have loved* teaching since I lined up my stuffed animals and played 'school' when I was six years old. I have always loved to learn and subscribe to more than thirty journals so I can keep up on the latest information in health care. It was a natural step for me to take my love for learning new information to sharing it with others.

"My training was mostly on-the-job. There are seminars for health professionals who want to give seminars, but I pretty much did it all on my own.

"I started out my career as a respiratory therapist. But, I was always interested in nursing. I subscribed to a nursing journal when I was in RT school so I could learn more. After reading the journal for a year, I realized they didn't have many good articles about respiratory patients, so I wrote one. It was well received, so I wrote more. Then I went to nursing school. A company that put on nursing seminars saw my articles, called me up, and asked me if I wanted to travel around the country and give seminars.

"I have owned my own business now for thirteen years. Before I started my own business, I worked in the hospital as a respiratory therapist and a nurse. I enjoyed doing the seminars, but found it hard to keep a regular hospital job and travel at the same time.

"I took a job teaching in a program for medical assistants at a business school. It was only twenty hours a week, so that gave me the chance to start building my own business at the same time.

"Through my articles, I began to get calls from medical manufacturers who wanted to know if I did consulting work. Even though I didn't, I said yes, and was hired to design educational programs for them. When a company comes out with a new product, they need to train the nurses and other health professionals who will use the device, so that's where I came in. I don't sell the product-that's very important. I just provide education about the condition for which the product was designed and how the product is used for that condition.

"After two years, my side business had gotten busy enough that I stopped teaching and built the business full-time.

"Now, through my writing and teaching, I have a national reputation. I speak at national conventions for nurses and health professionals, and that's how new clients get to know me."
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