Master’s in Adult Education Program Guide

May 10, 2021

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Adult education professionals use theoretical knowledge and technical skills to enhance the learning experience of their students. Whether they aspire to teach ESL classes at a community center or train the next generation of business leaders, professionals with a master's degree in adult education gain skills applicable to many careers.

An adult education master's degree can lead to careers involving seemingly disparate ideas, such as social justice, advocacy, or corporate profits. The following page takes a close look at master's degrees in adult education, what students learn, and what they can do with their degree.

Should I Get a Master's in Adult Education?

Students earning a master's in adult education graduate with the theoretical and technical skills needed to meet the needs of adult learners.

Students earning a master's in adult education graduate with the theoretical and technical skills necessary to meet the needs of adult learners. Whether students want to work in traditional educational settings or the private sector, they gain knowledge of pedagogical theory, educational technology, and curriculum design.

In addition to core coursework, adult education master's students often choose from concentrations like adult literacy, distance learning, and adult curriculum development. Before graduation, degree-seekers typically complete a thesis or capstone project, and programs often require a practicum experience.

Online learners often tackle coursework asynchronously, completing assignments on their own schedules while keeping up with personal and professional obligations. Many programs also offer hybrid and on-campus academic opportunities. These programs usually require students to complete 30-40 credits, and degree-seekers can expect to finish their master's degree in adult education in 2-4 years.

What Will I Learn in an Adult Education Master's Program?

Curricula for online master's in adult education programs can vary significantly. Required coursework often covers topics, such as distance education, adult literacy, and program planning for adult education.

Most programs culminate with a thesis or capstone project. Additionally, some programs require learners to complete a practicum experience. Students can often choose between M.Ed. and MS degrees.


Adult Literacy

This concentration provides students with the skills needed to address literacy education. Courses for this specialization cover topics like effective reading and writing instruction for GED diplomas and adult basic education.

Educational Technology

Keeping current on technological trends helps students develop teaching skills and advance their careers. Courses cover topics, such as teaching with digital tools, multimedia design for educators, and developing e-learning environments.

Higher Education

In this concentration, degree-seekers tackle coursework focused on adult learners in higher education. Common topics include fundamentals of college teaching, assessment in higher education, and college course design for adults.

Human Resources Development

Enhancing adult education skills is also valuable in non-academic environments. A human resources concentration often includes courses, such as workforce development and foundations of human resources development.

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How to Get Into a Adult Education Master's Program

Admission requirements vary significantly between programs, but there are some general components applicants can expect. Prospective students for an adult education master's program must often hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university. Additionally, applicants typically need a 3.0 minimum GPA.

Applicants usually submit a personal statement or essay. While not all schools require GRE scores, students who do not meet GPA cutoffs may need to submit test scores. Some programs also require a resume outlining academic, professional, and extracurricular work.

Read Our Guide to Graduate Admissions

What Can I Do With a Master's in Adult Education?

Graduates with a master's degree in adult education can apply their skills in a variety of professional settings. Common career paths include ESL instruction, postsecondary education,

and career counseling. Additionally, many graduates work outside traditional educational environments, providing services to nonprofits.

While education conjures images of a classroom, skills gained from an adult education master's program also widely apply to the private sector. Employee training often plays a significant role in human resources careers, and adult education graduates can find work as training managers and developers.

How Much Money Can I Make With a Master's in Adult Education?

Salaries for adult education graduates can vary, but a master's degree often leads to expanded career opportunities and increased pay. Career counselors earned a median salary of $58,120 in 2020, while training managers earned $115,640 during the same year. As a general rule, professionals working in the private sector tend to earn higher wages.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Adult Education Programs

What is adult education?

Adult education covers a wide spectrum of learning formats that include GED and ESL education and non-traditional education, such as professional training, career counseling, and community education. A master's degree in adult education focuses on the theories and skills necessary to meet the needs of older learners.

How much does it cost to get a master's in adult education?

It varies. As a general rule, public schools offer considerably more affordable tuition rates than private programs. Additionally, online learning often reduces travel and program fees while not differentiating between in-state and out-of-state students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, average graduate tuition and fees totaled about $18,420 during the 2016-2017 school year.

Are adult educators in high demand?

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a decline in adult education jobs between 2019 and 2029, the skills gained from a master's degree in adult education apply beyond traditional educational settings.

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

In addition to teaching adult classes, graduates work in diverse environments, such as large corporations, small nonprofits, and social justice-focused community organizations. Graduates also commonly work as instructional coordinators and education administrators.

What's the difference between a master's in adult education and a master's in higher education?

A master's in higher education traditionally focuses on preparing students for administrative roles in colleges, technical schools, and universities. A master's in adult education focuses on the learning needs unique to adults and older populations.

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