Best Online Master’s in Adult Education Programs

Compare the top online master's in adult education programs by cost and convenience. Learn where a master's in adult education can take you.

portrait of Bethanny Parker
by Bethanny Parker

Updated April 25, 2022

Edited by Darlene Earnest
Share this Article

A master's in adult education program can prepare learners for careers ranging from instructional coordinator to community college professor.

This program typically takes about two years to complete, regardless of whether you go to graduate school online or on campus.

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

According to Education Data Initiative, a master's degree in education usually costs around $55,200.

Tuition for private schools typically costs more than tuition for public schools. In fact, the average cost of a master's degree at a public school is $54,500, and the average cost at a private school is $81,100.

Out-of-state tuition is usually higher than in-state tuition as well. However, some online schools charge lower rates to attract out-of-state students.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median annual salary for adult basic and secondary education and (English as a second language) ESL teachers is $55,350, as of May 2020.

The BLS projects a 5% decline in the number of jobs for these professionals from 2020-2030. The projected decline is partly due to increased high school graduation rates and changes in government funding.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Adult Education Program?

The qualities of a good teacher include strong speaking, writing, and listening skills; teamwork; patience; empathy; and a love of learning. These qualities also help learners excel in their master's in adult education programs. Working on your communication skills is one way to prepare for graduate school.

An online master's in adult education program generally requires the same courses and the same number of credits as an on-campus program. This program usually requires 30-36 credits and takes about two years to complete.

Students enrolled in a master's in adult education program learn about educational policy, the social and cultural foundations of education, and methods for teaching adult students. They also gain skills in organization and administration of higher education.

Some schools require a final master's project or thesis from students. This capstone project may be worth 1-6 college credits, and students may need approval from an advisor before beginning the project.

A master's in adult education can be a master of arts (MA), master of science (MS), or master of education (MEd). An MA usually includes more humanities, while an MS focuses more on science. An MEd focuses solely on education.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.

Related Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Adult Education Program?

Foundations of Adult Education

In this course, students learn the foundations of adult education, including popular learning theories that apply to adult students. They learn various characteristics of adult learners and engage in interactive activities related to adult education.

Theories and Principles of Adult Learning

Students examine learning principles, models, and theories and learn how they apply to adult students. They evaluate their ethics, dispositions, and personal philosophies and how they relate to adult education.

Multicultural Perspectives in Adult Education

In this course, students examine cultural diversity within adult education. They study strategies for handling diversity and theories on multicultural education.

Adult Education Program Development

Students learn how to use their knowledge of program planning, evaluation models, policies, and theoretical foundations to create education programs for adult learners. They learn to manage instructional environments and engage their students.

Faculty Leadership

In this course, students learn about the role of leadership in adult education and higher education settings. They learn how to lead ethically, build effective relationships, and evaluate leadership effectiveness based on self-reflection and theory.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Adult Education Program?

Most graduate schools have the same admission requirements whether you plan to attend online or on campus. However, admission requirements vary from one school to another. All graduate schools require an application, and you'll have to prove you have a bachelor's degree. Depending on the school, your bachelor's degree may need to be in education.

Other requirements may include a personal statement, letters of recommendation, work experience, or an interview with the admissions team.

Application

Although undergraduate applicants can apply for several schools at a time using college application systems, such as the Common App, that is not the case for graduate schools. You must apply to each school separately. Most schools have an online application process, but you may also be able to request a paper app. Most graduate schools require an application fee.

Test Scores

Depending on the school, you may have to submit test scores from the GRE or another test. You'll want to take the time to prepare well before taking the GRE. Study beforehand to ensure that you do as well as possible on the test. If you score above the 75th percentile on all sections of the GRE, you should have a good chance of getting into most graduate programs.

Letters of Recommendation

If you have work experience, ask your supervisor for a letter of recommendation. This person is familiar with your work, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. A human resources manager is another good choice. If you do not have any work experience, consider asking the professors you worked most closely with during your bachelor's program.

Resume and Work Experience

Some schools require that you submit a resume and a list of your work experience. You may be required to have teaching experience before you enroll in your master's in adult education program. Be sure to include every college you've attended on your resume, even if you did not earn a degree there.

Essays

Grad school essays come in many forms. Candidates may be asked for a personal statement, a statement of purpose, or a letter of intent. Although slightly different, each of these fulfills the same purpose. They demonstrate to the admissions team that you have a clear career path and that this degree will help you reach your ultimate career goals.

Official Transcripts

You'll need to request official transcripts for any college credits you've taken, and possibly for high school as well. Even if you didn't earn a degree, your new school will still want transcripts from every college you've attended. If you've taken graduate-level courses, some of those credits may transfer toward your master's in adult education.

What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Adult Education Degree?

Career Outlook

Although the job outlook for this career is declining, the BLS still projects about 5,100 job openings for adult basic and secondary education and ESL teachers from 2020-2030. Most of these jobs are expected to be the result of workers retiring or changing careers.

Payscale reports the annual average base salary for people with a master of education in adult education and training is $68,000, as of January 2022. Common job titles include training manager, human resources manager, instructional designer, learning and development consultant, and training director.

The average annual base salaries for these positions range from $64,800 for instructional designers to $89,370 per year for training directors, both as of January 2022. The median annual salary for adult basic and secondary education and ESL teachers, as reported by the BLS, is $55,350, as of May 2020.

See where a master's in adult education can take you. Learn more about teaching careers.

Career Paths

Instructional Designer

Instructional designers create instructional materials for their companies' technical products. For example, they might design customer training courses that teach customers how to use the products. Instructional designers must understand the customers' needs as well as the correct way to use the company's products.

Median Annual Salary (as of January 2022): $64,800

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators work with principals and teachers to create effective curriculums for the classroom. They evaluate curriculum standards, discuss them with staff members, and create procedures for implementing the curriculum. They train teachers and other staff members in using the new curriculum and any supplemental materials.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $66,970

Training Manager

Training managers identify the training needs within a department or sometimes within an entire company. They research the types of training that are available, coordinate the training schedule, and conduct the training. In some cases, team trainers conduct the training and the training manager oversees the trainers.

Median Annual Salary (as of January 2022): $69,890

Learning and Development Consultant

Learning and development consultants provide leadership for an educational institution's learning initiatives. They talk to students and staff to determine the learning goals for the organization. Learning and development consultants define the scope of the learning program and help to implement it.

Median Annual Salary (as of January 2022): $80,000

Training Director

Training directors determine the training needs of the organization and establish the goals for training programs. They gather data about the current training programs and work with subject matter experts to determine the strengths and weaknesses of those programs. Then they write a report stating what they think the goals of the program should be. These professionals also offer recommendations on how to improve the current program by building on its strengths and eliminating its weaknesses.

Median Annual Salary (as of January 2022): $89,370

Adult Education Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

Some master's in adult education graduates go on to earn a doctorate in education. They may also opt for a related degree, such as a doctorate in special education, a doctorate in educational administration, or a doctorate in higher education.

According to Payscale, people with a doctor of education degree earn an average annual base salary of $80,000, as of January 2022. Common job titles include assistant postsecondary professor, executive director, academic dean, postsecondary professor, and elementary school principal.

How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Adult Education Program?

Cost

Although the average cost of a master's in education is around $55,200, the cost can vary greatly from one school to another. In general, private schools cost more than public schools, and out-of-state tuition costs more than in-state tuition. However, there are exceptions. It pays to shop around.

Consider the true program cost, including housing and transportation costs, when determining which school is the cheapest. Sometimes online programs charge less than on-campus programs. However, that is not always the case.

Program Format

Consider whether the school offers full-time and part-time programs and whether the classes are synchronous or asynchronous. If you want to attend classes part time while you work, does the school allow that? Check to see if there are live online classes that you must attend. Or can you log in whenever it is convenient for you?

Location

If you're taking an online master's in adult education program, location may not seem important. However, check with the school to make sure there are no in-person requirements.

If you have to attend orientation or labs in person, you probably don't want to choose a school that's a thousand miles away. Whether you decide to go to college online or on campus, there may be in-person requirements that make location an issue.

Accreditation

Accreditation provides a way for a school to demonstrate that its curriculum meets certain minimum academic standards. If a school is not accredited, most other schools will refuse to accept its credits. A degree from an unaccredited school may not carry as much weight as one from an accredited school.

Student Support

Consider student support services when deciding on a school. Many schools offer services such as mentorships, academic advising, tutoring, career services, internships, and alumni networking events. Distance learners may be able to access student services online or over the phone.

Best Accredited Online Master's in Adult Education Programs

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

Is your school on this list? Get the BestColleges ranking seal.

How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

Best Online Master's in Adult Education

  1. North Carolina State University
    Location

    Raleigh, NC

    Tuition

    $14771

    NC State serves approximately 36,000 students and offers more than 300 academic programs, including an online master of education in adult and continuing professional education. Designed for working educators, this 36-credit program allows students to complete all coursework online or take some on-campus courses for a hybrid experience.

    Program coursework covers topics like instructional strategies, assessment and evaluation, and teaching in an online environment. Students round out the curriculum by completing a research project or an internship.

    Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA. NC State provides a variety of financial aid opportunities, including teaching and research assistantships

  2. University of Georgia
    Location

    Athens, GA

    Tuition

    $15539

    Located in Athens, UGA powers distance education with the Desire2Learn platform. The university's graduate catalog includes an online master of education in learning, leadership, and organization development. Throughout the program's integrative curriculum, students gain the skills needed to work as talent managers, corporate trainers, and adult educators.

    The program's 33-credit curriculum helps mid-career professionals with 3-5 years of experience master effective interventions. Students also delve into theories of organizational development and change. Prior to graduation, students must complete an applied project, a professional portfolio, and an oral exam.

    Applicants must submit GMAT, GRE, or MAT scores; a current resume or CV; three recommendation letters; and a statement of purpose. The program only accepts students for the fall semester. Students can bring in up to six transfer credits.

  3. Texas A&M University
    Location

    College Station, TX

    Tuition

    $19118

    Texas A&M was founded in 1876 as the state's first public higher education institution. Today, the university serves more than 69,000 students, many of whom earn online degrees like a master's in educational human resource development with an emphasis in adult education. The program's 37-credit curriculum focuses on critical reflection and student-centered teaching practices, preparing graduates for careers at literacy centers, healthcare facilities, and community colleges.

    Required courses include organizational development and performance; evaluation models in human resource management; and adult education, globalization, and social justice. Students personalize the curriculum through three guided electives. The program offers fall and spring entry dates and does not require campus visits.

    Applicants should submit transcripts, a current resume, three reference letters, and a one-page statement explaining why they want to pursue this degree.

  4. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
    Location

    New Brunswick, NJ

    Tuition

    $16295

    Rutgers is a public research university that serves over 70,000 students every year. The school delivers distance learning through the Blackboard Learn platform, offering graduate degrees like an online master's degree in adult and continuing education. After completing this 30-credit program, graduates are equipped to design, implement, and assess adult learning experiences in formal and informal settings.

    Students in the program take courses like organizational leadership and change management, creating and sustaining a learning environment, and learning and teaching in global contexts. Students can use electives to pursue one of three optional specializations, including higher education and educational technology.

    Applicants with a GPA below 3.0 must submit GRE scores. Additional requirements include a personal statement and three recommendation letters.

  5. Indiana University Bloomington
    Location

    Bloomington, IN

    Tuition

    $11931

    IU is a leader in distance learning, providing 142 remote certificates and degrees through the Canvas platform. Graduate students may enroll in IU's fully online master's in adult education program. Throughout a 36-credit curriculum, students gain the research and organizational development skills needed to create adult learning programs in academic, professional, and community-based settings.

    Program courses cover topics like adult learning through the lifespan, participation training, and educational theory. Students also learn to develop and implement remote education systems, focusing on accessibility and student outcomes. Learners individualize the curriculum through 15 guided and open elective credits.

    IU offers fall and spring entry dates. The adult education program requires applicants to have a minimum 2.75 GPA. Prospective students with a GPA of at least 3.2 do not need to submit GRE scores.

  6. Michigan State University
    Location

    East Lansing, MI

    Tuition

    $16227

    Based in East Lansing, MSU serves nearly 50,000 students and offers over 200 academic programs, including an online master's in higher, adult, and lifelong education. Distance learners complete an entirely online curriculum that prepares them for leadership positions in higher education institutions, private industries, and nonprofit organizations.

    Program courses include inquiry in postsecondary education, organizational development, and budgeting and finance in higher education. Learners also delve into program planning and evaluation. They round out the program by completing a portfolio, which is reviewed by a committee of three faculty mentors.

    All program applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Prospective students should have professional experience in a postsecondary education setting and must submit a personal statement, a resume, and three reference letters.

  7. Appalachian State University
    Location

    Boone, NC

    Tuition

    $10491

    Appalachian maintains its flagship campus in Boone, North Carolina. The university delivers online programs through the AsULearn platform, with degree options like an online master's in adult and developmental education. Graduates learn about research and program development, preparing to work as academic support specialists, professional trainers, and vocational faculty.

    The program's curriculum covers topics like college access and student success, American higher education, and learning assistance in higher education. Degree-seekers learn to implement student-centered evaluation and assessment practices. Participants finish the program by taking two advanced electives or completing a thesis.

    Applicants need a minimum 2.5 GPA and MAT or GRE scores in the 25th percentile or higher. Prospective students with a GPA of at least 3.0 do not need to submit test scores.

  8. James Madison University
    Location

    Harrisonburg, VA

    Tuition

    $17753

    JMU offers 139 academic programs, many of which students can access online through Canvas. The university's online offerings include a master's in adult education/human resource development. Students in this program can complete an entirely online curriculum or take some courses at JMU's campus in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

    With options for two-year and four-year plans, the program's 36-credit curriculum covers topics like learning theories, diversity and ethics, and instructional design principles. Students also complete a thesis and sit for a comprehensive exam as part of their capstone requirements. Graduates are prepared for careers as e-learning designers, human capital consultants, and performance analysts.

    Admission requirements include a minimum 2.75 GPA, a resume, two recommendation letters, and a 2-3-page personal statement.

  9. Auburn University
    Location

    Auburn, AL

    Tuition

    $23205

    Founded in 1856 as the first land-grant college in the South, Auburn now serves over 30,000 students. Auburn's distance learners can earn an MS or M.Ed. in adult education. After completing this 30-36-credit program, graduates can find work related to corporate training, postsecondary teaching, and educational program evaluation.

    Required courses in the program include the nature of adult education, teaching the disadvantaged adult, and program development in non-school settings. MS students complete the program with thesis research and defense. All learners gain hands-on experience through an internship and a practicum.

    Auburn offers fall, spring, and summer entry dates. Applicants need a minimum 2.75 GPA and adequate GRE scores. Prospective students must also submit a statement of intent and three recommendation letters.

  10. Colorado State University
    Location

    Fort Collins, CO

    Tuition

    $17914

    CSU powers distance education through the Canvas platform. The university's graduate catalog includes an online master's in adult education and training. This program's five-semester curriculum emphasizes project-based assignments, teaching students the practical skills needed to succeed in health education, athletic coaching, and ESL instruction.

    Students in the program complete classes that cover multicultural and special populations, research methods, and adult teaching and learning. Participants individualize the curriculum through electives, with options like cognitive theory/learning transfer and philosophy of workforce education.

    Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must submit a statement of purpose, a resume, and three recommendation letters. However, the program does not require standardized test scores.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Adult Education Programs

Is a master's in adult education worth it?

When deciding whether a master's in adult education is worth it, think about the qualitative and quantitative benefits. Qualitative benefits include your level of satisfaction with your career choice and your general level of happiness with your life. Consider what qualitative benefits you'll achieve by earning this degree.

The quantitative benefits include any boost in salary or benefits you might receive by earning this degree. Consider the difference between your current salary and the salary you expect to earn with the degree. Also, consider the cost of the degree and the number of years you have left until retirement. Figure out how much additional income you could earn with this degree. Then compare that to its cost. That will help you determine whether the degree is worth the cost.

What can I do with a master's in adult education?

People with a master's in adult education work as adult basic and secondary education and ESL teachers. However, even though this career sounds like a perfect match for the degree, it usually only requires a bachelor's degree. Other career options include vocational instructor, remedial education teacher, and community college professor.

Many people with a master's degree in adult education work as instructional designers, instructional coordinators, training managers, learning and development consultants, and training directors.

Are adult education graduates in demand?

While the demand for adult basic and secondary education and ESL teachers is declining, the BLS projects that the number of jobs for instructional coordinators will grow 10% from 2020-2030. That's an increase of about 18,400 jobs in 10 years. Some people with a master's in adult education work as human resources managers. The BLS projects that jobs in this career will grow by 9% from 2020-2030.

There have been job openings listed recently on websites for "instructional coordinator" and "adult education." It is possible that coronavirus could be partially responsible for the surge in job postings in late 2021. Bloomberg reports that over 3 million U.S. workers retired early due to COVID-19, which created a huge number of job openings.

How much money can I make with a master's in adult education?

Payscale reports that the average base salary for someone with a master of education in adult education and training is $68,000 per year, as of January 2022. However, the actual amount of your salary will depend on your level of experience, gender, and the area of the country where you live.

You can expect to earn more if you live in an area with a high cost of living, such as San Francisco or New York City. However, your expenses will likely be higher as well.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a master's in adult education?

Training directors earn an average annual salary of $89,370. These individuals decide what an organization needs to do to create the appropriate training programs. They evaluate the company's current training programs and design a new program that takes advantage of the current program's strengths while improving upon its weaknesses.

Another high-paying job for someone with a master's in adult education is learning and development consultant, with an average annual salary of $80,000. These consultants provide leadership in the area of learning and training. They usually work for educational institutions such as colleges or universities. They set learning goals for the organization.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.