Best Online Master’s in Adult Education Programs

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Published on February 3, 2021

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An online master's in adult education prepares students for careers in education and human resources. Graduates with this degree can teach in a classroom, design curricula for adult learners, and teach career-specific skills for corporations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers earned a median annual salary of $54,350 in 2019. Training and development specialists, who work in corporate settings across many different industries, earned a slightly higher salary — $61,210 in 2019.

In this guide, readers can explore a ranked list of the top online master's in adult education programs. This page also provides information about potential coursework for a master's in adult education, general program requirements, and potential career paths for graduates.

What Are the Best Online Master's in Adult Education Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top 10:

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#1 North Carolina State University Raleigh, NC
#2 University of Georgia Athens, GA
#3 Texas A&M University College Station, TX
#4 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey New Brunswick, NJ
#5 Indiana University Bloomington Bloomington, IN
#6 Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
#7 Appalachian State University Boone, NC
#8 James Madison University Harrisonburg, VA
#9 Auburn University Auburn, AL
#10 Colorado State University Fort Collins, CO
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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Adult Education Programs

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North Carolina State University View School Profile Raleigh, NC

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

University of Georgia View School Profile Athens, GA

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.

Texas A&M University View School Profile College Station, TX

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.

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey View School Profile New Brunswick, NJ

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.

Indiana University Bloomington View School Profile Bloomington, IN

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.

Michigan State University View School Profile East Lansing, MI

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.

Appalachian State University View School Profile Boone, NC

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.

James Madison University View School Profile Harrisonburg, VA

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.

Auburn University View School Profile Auburn, AL

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.

Colorado State University View School Profile Fort Collins, CO

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.

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

This graduate program helps students develop concrete skills in curriculum development, instructional technology, and teaching.

An online master's in adult education requires about 36 credits and takes full-time students two years to complete. Students enrolled part time may need longer to complete their degree. This graduate program helps students develop concrete skills in curriculum development, instructional technology, and teaching.

Although program requirements differ by college, common concentration options for a master's in adult education include distance education, instructional technology, higher education, and organizational learning.

Students enrolled in a master's in adult education program should enjoy working in a classroom setting, and should feel comfortable designing and delivering their own curricula. Aspiring adult educators will also need strong organizational and communication skills.

Many online master's in adult education programs require a teaching practicum, during which master's students are placed in a school and teach classes. Readers should note that only some colleges provide practicum placements for their students. Practica typically last a year.

Many programs also require students to complete a capstone or thesis project before graduation. Students must conduct original, independent research under the guidance of a faculty member in an area relating to adult education. Schools require students to present their findings in a written and/or oral report.

Admission Requirements for Online Master's in Adult Education Programs

Most master's in adult education programs require GRE scores and a bachelor's degree in education or a related field. Top programs may set minimum GPA and GRE score requirements. Almost all programs require letters of recommendation and a personal statement to get to know applicants better.

Students can research specific admission requirements on the college's website. For more information about applying to graduate school, consult our Graduate Admissions Guide.

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

A master's in adult education prepares students for careers as educators in a school or business setting. Students learn how to design curricula and strengthen their communication and public speaking skills. The following section highlights five common courses for an online master's in adult education.

Adult Literacy

This course delves into the theory and practice of building literacy skills for adult learners. Degree-seekers receive instruction in how to create curricula, select material, and set practical goals for their adult learners.

Distance Education

This class explains the importance of distance education, particularly for working and part-time learners. Students enrolled in this class gain experience in planning lessons that work for both synchronous and asynchronous online learning. This course also teaches students how to use established and emerging distance learning technologies.

Program Planning in Adult Education

This course teaches aspiring adult educators how to create curricula tailored to individual learners' needs at different stages of their education. This course allows students to build curriculum models and test out evaluation methods for the best results in the classroom.

Social Theory and Lifelong Learning

This class covers the social and philosophical theory behind lifelong learning. Students discover the reasons why adults return to the classroom and how best to meet their needs. This class may include research projects and seminars for students to discuss learning theory.

Research and Evaluation

In this course, students explore research methods and learn how to bring research insights into the classroom. Learners also test out various evaluation models to develop grading systems for different types of research projects.

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

Most graduates from an online master's in adult education program begin careers in education, although some graduates apply their skills in a business setting to help employees build concrete skills.

Career prospects in adult education differ depending on the job. The BLS found that postsecondary teachers earned a median annual salary of $79,540 in 2019. The BLS also projects 9% job growth for this career between 2019 and 2029, a rate much faster than the national average.

true Postsecondary Teacher

Postsecondary teachers work in universities, technical colleges, and vocational schools. These professionals need at least a master's degree to teach. Professors develop curricula in their specialty and teach in the classroom. Many postsecondary teachers also conduct independent research with the assistance of undergraduate and graduate students.

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators, sometimes known as curriculum developers, work with schools and nonprofits to ensure that the instructional material meets educational standards. These professionals review textbooks and curricula to ensure material stays current. Instructional coordinators also use student testing data to determine if the curriculum needs changing.

Career Counselor

Career counselors guide students toward a career path that fits the student's skills, goals, and needs. Counselors evaluate students' interests and strengths through aptitude tests and interviews, and then help students develop a concrete career plan. These professionals work in universities, technical colleges, high schools, and nonprofit organizations.

Training and Development Manager

Training and development managers typically work in the private sector in an office setting. These professionals assess employees' knowledge gaps and develop curricula to impart concrete skills. Training and development managers select instructional materials and train facilitators in how to effectively teach in a business setting.

Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers

Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers help adult learners build basic skills in reading and writing to prepare them to earn a GED or other high school equivalency diploma. These professionals can work with adults of all ages and backgrounds, including multilingual and special needs learners.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Adult Education Programs

Is a master's in adult education worth it?

Most careers in adult education require a master's degree. Even careers that don't require a master's tend to offer more opportunities for advancement and higher salaries to professionals with a master's degree versus those with a bachelor's degree.

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

Most professionals with an online master's in adult education work in the private sector or in education. Graduates can pursue careers as postsecondary teachers, curriculum developers, and training managers. Some professionals also teach adult learners with special needs and students who speak English as a second language.

Is adult education in demand?

Yes. The BLS projects that postsecondary teachers will experience 9% growth between 2019 and 2029. During the same time period, the BLS projects 6% growth for instructional coordinators.

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

Salary outlook depends on the specific career, the location of the job, and the applicant's level of experience. Salaries for professionals with a master's in adult education range from $54,350 for adult literacy instructors to $113,350 for training and development managers.

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

In general, professionals in this field earn higher salaries working in the private sector rather than going into education. The BLS found that training and development managers earned a median annual salary of $113,350 in 2019.

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