DECIDING YOUR AREA OF SPECIALIZATION
The field of adult education is very diverse and many adult educators already have mastered a particular skill area or specialization before deciding to seek employment within the many adult education settings available. For example, a professional writer already accomplished in the field, might decide to share her or his knowledge and help other people achieve the same status. Once that decision has been reached, the task is not to study the different areas of specialization and choose any particular one, but only to locate the most appropriate job setting. Will she or he teach in an adult continuing education program held at a community college or perhaps in an on-line campus? A professional cosmetologist might, for example, after many years in the field, decide to change gears and teach others the profession in a voc-tech institution.
For those just starting their own university training and who desire to teach, the choices of specialization within adult education are much wider and not limited to the field already accomplished in. Does the future instructor prefer working with students who require basic education skills such as reading and math, or would he or she prefer working with students from overseas, upgrading language skills necessary to enter college?
For those pursuing a master's degree in counseling as a profession, the adult education option is as viable as mental health counseling, school guidance counseling, college counseling, or any of the other many counseling majors.
Although administrative positions within adult education pro-grams are often filled from within, there are also advanced degree programs that prepare candidates specifically for roles within adult education administration.
Future adult educators, counselors, and administrators can make their choice of the path to follow based on their own interests and skills, the amount of training necessary to reach their goals, and the job availability predicted in the various areas. Whether starting out in another profession, then entering adult education, or choosing adult education as the end goal, the future adult education specialist has choices that are numerous and can be professionally and personally rewarding in each area.
Of the approximately 560,000 adult education teachers employed nationwide, most work part-time, teaching one or two courses in the evenings or on the weekends.
Most full-time adult education instructors generally work in the vocational-technical end of adult education. Some full-time workers are also employed by community colleges.
To accommodate students who may have job or family responsibilities, many adult education courses are offered at night or on weekends and range from two- to four-hour workshops and one-day mini sessions to semester-long courses.
Because adult education teachers work with adult students, they do not encounter some of the behavioral or social problems sometimes found when teaching younger students. Unless court mandated, the adults are there by choice and usually are highly motivated-attributes that can make teaching these students rewarding and satisfying.
However, teachers in adult remedial education deal with students at different levels of development who may lack effective study skills and self-confidence, and who may require more attention and patience than other students.
Some adult education teachers 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.
Although most adult education teachers work in a classroom setting, some are consultants to businesses and teach classes at the job site.
Training requirements vary widely by state and by subject. In general, teachers need work or other experience in their field and a license or certificate in fields where these usually are required for full professional status.
In some cases, particularly at educational institutions, a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree is required, especially to teach courses that can be applied toward a four-year degree program.
In other cases, an acceptable portfolio of work is required. For example, to secure a job teaching a flower arranging course, an applicant would need to show examples of previous work.
Most states and the District of Columbia require adult remedial education teachers to have a bachelor's degree from an approved teacher training program, and some require teacher certification.
Some school boards, such as those providing GED training or counseling, require their instructors to have a master's degree.
Adult education teachers update their skills through continuing education to maintain certification requirements, which vary among institutions. Teachers may take part in seminars, conferences, or graduate courses in adult education, training and development, or human resources development, or may return to work in business or industry for a limited time.
Businesses are playing a growing role in adult education, forming consortiums with training institutions and community colleges and providing input to curriculum development. Adult education teachers maintain an ongoing dialogue with businesses to determine the most current skills required in the workplace.
Adult education teaching requires a wide variety of skills and aptitudes, including good communications skills; the power to influence, motivate, and train others; organizational, administrative, and communication skills; and creativity.
Adult remedial education instructors, in particular, must be patient, understanding, and supportive to make students comfortable and to develop trust.
Some teachers advance to administrative positions for school boards, in departments of education, for colleges and universities, for government funded community agencies, and in corporate training departments within private business. Such positions may require advanced degrees, such as a doctorate in adult and continuing education.