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Adult Vocational-Technical Education and Prebaccalaureate Training

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Vocational-technical education prepares students for continuing education, work, and life through the application of academic and specific occupational skills.

Traditionally, adult education teachers working in the vocational-technical (voc-tech) sector have instructed people who choose to enter occupations that do not require a college degree. These students could be high school graduates or GED holders, or they might have left high school without finishing.

The occupations that fall into the vocational-technical category cover a wide range. These are just a few examples: welder, dental hygienist, emergency medical technician, automotive mechanic, automated systems manager, x-ray technician, farmer, and cosmetologist.

But vocational-technical education is changing. It now incorporates both school-based and work-based learning and prepares participants for postsecondary education as well as employment. In fact, vocational-technical education prepares individuals for the bulk of America's jobs. In 1996, only about 20 percent of America's jobs required a four-year college degree. But many jobs require some education beyond high school, often at the community college level. For most occupations, postsecondary education is essential. Vocational-technical education now encompasses postsecondary institutions up to and including universities, providing prebaccalaureate training for courses offering college credit. Vocational-technical education also takes place within secondary schools. Vocational-technical education allows students to explore career options and develop the skills they will need both in school and in the workplace.


Adult education instructors prepare lessons and assignments, grade papers and do related paperwork, attend faculty and professional meetings, and stay abreast of developments in their field.

Vocational-technical education's combination of classroom instruction, hands-on laboratory work, and on-the-job training meets students' different learning styles so all may learn.

Increasingly, adult vocational-technical education teachers integrate academic and vocational curricula so that students obtain a variety of skills. For example, an electronics student may be required to take courses in principles of mathematics and science in conjunction with hands-on electronics skills.

Generally, teachers demonstrate techniques, have students apply them, and critique the students' work so they can learn from their mistakes. For example, welding instructors show students various welding techniques, including the use of tools and equipment, watch students use the techniques, and have them repeat procedures until students meet specific standards required by the trade.

Adult education teachers may lecture in classrooms or work in an industry or laboratory setting to give students hands-on experience.

Minimum standards of proficiency are being established for students in various vocational-technical fields. Adult education teachers must be aware of new standards and develop lesson plans to ensure that students meet basic criteria. Also, adult education teachers and community colleges are assuming a greater role in students' transition from school to work by helping establish internships and providing information about prospective employers.


All fifty states and the District of Columbia require public school teachers to be licensed. Licensure is not required for teachers in private schools. Usually licensure is granted by the state board of education or a licensure advisory committee. Teachers may be licensed to teach the early childhood grades (usually nursery school through grade three); the elementary grades (grades one through six or eight); the middle grades (grades five through eight); a secondary education subject area (usually grades seven through twelve); a special subject, such as reading or music (usually grades K through twelve); or guidance counseling, and, in some states, adult education.

Requirements for regular licenses vary by state. However, all states require a bachelor's degree and completion of an approved teacher-training program with a prescribed number of subject and education credits and supervised practice teaching.

Some states require specific minimum grade point averages for teacher licensure. Some states require teachers to obtain a master's degree in education, which involves at least one year of additional course work beyond the bachelor's degree with a specialization in a particular subject.

For those teaching academic subjects in junior or community colleges, a master's degree is more often than not the minimum requirement, but more and more instructors are going on to earn doctorate degrees.

Many vocational teachers in junior or community colleges do not have a master's or doctoral degree but draw on their work experience and knowledge, bringing practical experience to the classroom.


The firsthand accounts that follow in this article include a cosmetology instructor, an associate professor of English at a community college, an English instructor at a voc-tech institute, a basic skills instructor at a technical college, and a computer instructor at a voc-tech institute.
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