If you're looking for the best online master's degree in adult education programs, you're not alone. With the highest-paid jobs in the field requiring a master's degree, more and more individuals are advancing their careers by earning an online master's degree in adult learning. Convenient and affordable, distance learning programs allow students to maintain a balance between school, work, and family as they increase their earning potential through education. The following guide is designed to help you find the best online degree in adult learning programs for your schedule, professional goals, and learning style.


While some degree program applicants undoubtedly have prior work experience in the field, it's usually not a requirement for admission. However, some programs do include a practicum or fieldwork component intended to teach students through hands-on experience.


Online degree programs are specially designed to let distance learners balance school, work, and family, without sacrificing one or the other. It's definitely possible to earn your master's while remaining employed, but some programs are more convenient for working professionals than others. Before selecting a program, it's important to take factors such as course load, pacing, and format into consideration, along with your current work schedule.


An online degree program offers the same rigorous academics and credentials as a traditional program, but at a fraction of the cost. Distance learning programs let you fit education into your life -- not the other way around. You'll be able to study and complete assignments when it's most convenient for you and from wherever you have access to the internet.
Rank School Cost Enrolled Online Description Toggle
1 University of South Florida Tampa, FL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 19%

A 36-credit program, the University of South Florida's master of arts in adult education focuses on the core principles of adult learning. Knowledge and experienced gained from the program can be applied to a swath of industries, from hospitals to corporations to nonprofit organizations. And as working adults look to shore up their resumes with new and improved skills, jobs in adult education have--and will--only grown in number. Graduates with an MA in adult education are uniquely qualified for these positions.

The program's hybrid curriculum combines eLearning study with face-to-face meetings once a week. Core requirements account for six to seven credit hours and students take 11 to 18 hours in their chosen concentration and between 12 to 19 in electives. A comprehensive written exam caps the program. To meet program admission requirements, applicants must have earned a minimum grade point average of 3.0 in upper-level division study (applicants with lower GPAs must submit GRE scores). Up to 12 transferable credits may be applied.

2 North Carolina State University at Raleigh Raleigh, NC Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 20%

North Carolina State University is a preeminent academic, research, and career training institution dedicated to providing accessible degrees to students. Distance learners may choose from a variety of pathways, including a master of science and a master of education in adult and continuing professional education. Both degrees help students synthesize their work experience with pedagogical knowledge and institutional effectiveness skills necessary to serve nontraditional learners in diverse community and organizational settings.

The MS degree and the M.Ed degree consist of 39 and 36 hours, respectively. All online master's adult education students take core classes like teaching in an online environment and assessment and evaluation of adult higher education. The MS track focuses on research, and requires the completion of a thesis, beneficial to those students wishing to pursue their doctoral degree. The M.Ed option offers room for hands-on application and degree personalization through electives.

North Carolina State University at Raleigh holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

3 Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, TX Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 12%

The future, like today, requires leaders who can administer modern learning programs in a variety of settings. Texas A&M University's Department of Educational Administration & Human Resource Development strives to help students transform into the educational leaders of tomorrow. The school's master of science in educational resource development (specialization in adult education) equips students with the skills and knowledge needed to reach, teach, and inspire adult learners. EAHR graduates can be found from community centers to conference rooms.

Texas A&M's 37-credit program consists of 10 required courses and three electives, which include--but are not limited to--study areas such as health, literacy, and public service administration. A final exam is not required, though students are expected to keep a professional portfolio which they will present during their final semester. While courses are delivered via distance learning, prospective students of this online master's adult education program are required to visit the College Station campus to complete an interview and a written exercise. As part of the school's interview process, applicants must submit transcripts, a statement of intent, and three reference letters.

4 University of Georgia Athens, GA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 1%

Offered through the University of Georgia's College of Education, the school's master of education in learning, leadership, and organizational development provides a first-rate answer to the growing prevalence of working adults pursuing additional skills and training. UGA's LLOD program, comprised of 33 credits, prepares students to assist others in maximizing their potential. Armed with a framework of theory, research, and practice, graduates emerge with the skills necessary to compete for a multitude of adult education teaching jobs across an array of fields.

UGA's prescribed sequence recommends students take two courses per semester, which translates to a two-year program. The program's curriculum is structured in a manner that allows students to gain both depth in their chosen discipline and breadth in such areas as teamwork, communication, and critical thinking. A maximum of six credits may be transferred into the program. Applicants must be accepted into UGA's graduate school. Distance learning students, regardless of state of residence, pay the same tuition as their on-site counterparts.

5 Florida International University Miami, FL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 23%

Located in Miami, Florida International University offers more than 190 fully-accredited academic programs. Many of these programs are available online, including a master of science in adult education and human resource development. The FIU program prepares students for leadership roles in planning, implementing, and assessing education and professional development programs. Graduates go on to advance their careers in school administration, human performance consultation, and instructional design.

Master's in adult education online students take 36 credits of courses that include research methods and an internship, facilitated and supervised by a faculty advisor. All distance learners pay the same affordable tuition rate, and financial aid is available, including the FIU Online Academic Merit Scholarship. Application materials consist of academic transcripts with a minimum 3.0 GPA, a resume or CV, and two recommendation letters, one of which must be from an academic source. (Three professional recommendations may be substituted for the academic source.)

Florida International University is regionally accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

6 Indiana University-Bloomington Bloomington, IN Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 24%

Tailored to guide students through revalent theory while, for example, taking a deep look at the ethics of policy, Indiana University's MSEd in adult education prepares students for future roles as corporate trainers or continuing education leaders. The school's master's in adult education online degree is primarily taught asynchronously.

Most students take three years to complete this 36-credit program. UI's curriculum is split between 20 hours of core courses and 16 hours of electives tailored to support a candidate's professional focus. A three-credit course on strategies for educational inquiry is required for all applicants. The admissions board at IU reviews GPA scores, official transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. For international applicants for whom English is a second language, TOEFL scores are required. Up to nine credits may be transferred into this practitioner-oriented program.

7 East Carolina University Greenville, NC Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 54%

East Carolina University enrolls over 29,000 students annually in its traditional academic and distance education programs, including the master of arts in education - adult education. This ECU program emphasizes reflective practice, and students analyze and improve educational programming to serve the complex and diverse needs of adult students. All classes are available online, and the majority of students in this online master's adult education program pursue their degree part-time while working. Degree completion usually takes two to three years.

The degree plan totals 36 credits and includes required coursework in instructional strategies, community education development, and research problems in adult education. Students have nine hours of electives with which to personalize the curriculum. Those with limited work experience in the field should pursue an internship. A thesis project is also an option, ideal for students who want to go on to earn a doctorate degree. All degree candidates must complete a portfolio of their work and education.

East Carolina University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

8 University of West Alabama Livingston, AL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 89%

The University of West Alabama's master of science in adult continuing education provides an excellent foundation for students interested in adult learning and yet undecided about an area of focus. The program's broad-based curriculum covers topics such as research, psychology, and historical development and can be applied to a wide range of settings, from civic to corporate. The school's online master's adult education degree is also a good match for those interested in pursuing personal development.

Program courses run for eight weeks, facilitating an accelerated pace for completion and, at 33 credits, the program can be completed in little over a year. Curriculum is broken down into nine hours of professional courses and 24 for core. A graduate-level statistics course is required. To graduate, students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or better for all classes taken. A written exam serves to cap the program's coursework. This degree does not qualify students for a teaching certificate in Alabama.

9 James Madison University Harrisonburg, VA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 15%

Located in Harrisonburg, Virginia, James Madison University offers several remote teaching degrees, including an online master of science in education in adult education/human resource development. Developed for students with relevant work experience, the JMU program emphasizes the use of technology in developing effective learning programs for nontraditional learners. Graduates qualify for diverse jobs in adult education as corporate trainers, performance analysts, and curriculum developers.

Totaling 36 to 39 credits, the degree plan includes core classes, such as principles of instructional design, learning in adulthood, and program evaluation and measurement. Students may choose an elective to pursue individual interests or craft a concentration with the assistance of a faculty advisor. All degree candidates must complete a research paper or thesis. Residency status determines tuition prices, and online students may apply for institutional scholarships and graduate assistantships.

James Madison University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

10 University of Arkansas Fayetteville, AR Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 32%

The University of Arkansas's master of education in adult education and lifelong learning aims to facilitate the needs of emerging scholars and practitioners who are interested in working with adults, including business personnel, military vets, and seniors. Program graduates are prepared to positively impact the learning experience of the increasing numbers of mature learners who are returning to school, acquiring new skills, or transitioning to new careers. In turn, jobs in adult education continue to grow.

A total of 33 credit hours are required to complete the school's non-thesis MEd in adult and lifelong learning. Most students complete these requirements in two years. An applied project for three credits serves as the program's capstone. To graduate, students must maintain at least a 2.85 cumulative GPA throughout their enrollment. Applicants to the program must first be admitted to the University of Arkansas's graduate school, which requires a minimum GPA of 3.0, GRE scores, and a CV for review.

11 University of Houston-Victoria Victoria, TX Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 11%

Successful graduates of the University of Houston--Victoria 's master of education in adult and higher education leave the program in possession of the skills, insight, and knowledge necessary for adult education teaching jobs in formal and non-formal learning environments. Comprised of 36 or 39 credits, this MEd is offered completely online from UHV and is available with a choice of three specialties or tracks: adult education, higher education, or discipline.

The program's discipline track is structured to provide students with the knowledge to pursue teaching roles at the undergraduate level and requires the completion of 18 credit hours. The program's other two specialized tracks require a total of 15 credit hours. UHV students in the 36 or 39 credit program also take on 15 hours of core courses and three for research. One unique feature of the program is the AHED internship, a real-world elective that can be taken in lieu of one specialty course (three hours). To apply, candidates must meet the school's general admissions requirements for graduate studies at UHV and students must complete a statement of purpose in which they explain why they desire to pursue the program.

12 Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 1%

PennState World Campus, Pennsylvania State University's online division, offers students a high-quality master of education in lifelong learning and adult education designed to address the unique needs of today's adult learners. This 30-credit program covers all aspects of adult education, from the strategic design of an effective class to a comprehensive exploration of contemporary coursework delivery. This program requires the completion of an upper-level statistics course. Prerequisites include an undergraduate degree, GRE or MAT, and writing samples. Students can also earn up to 15 non-degree credits before applying.

Penn State first delivered education from a distance via its correspondence courses back in 1892. The letters and stamps of yesterday have since been replaced by email and telecommunications technology, allowing PSWC to provide a robust eLearning experience once relegated to the world of science fiction. The school's online master's adult education degree in lifelong learning and adult education represents another step forward in that progressive tradition. Delivered asynchronously, the degree program is flexible: it works with each student's schedule, employing a combination of self-study and peer-to-peer interaction.

13 Troy University Troy, AL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 50%

As mentioned above, an increasing number of adult education teaching jobs are available today. From theory to practice, teachers, trainers, or managers interested in these positions must possess the background and skills necessary to plan and execute course. For those with a passion for teaching, training, or advising adults, Troy University's master of science in adult education provides the background necessary to approach the field with confidence.

Troy University offers students three specific concentrations: curriculum and instructional design, instructional technology, and leadership studies. Students who choose the curriculum and instructional design track will focus on analysis, design, development, and evaluation of curricula, while those in instructional technology will filter courses through the lens of their own field of specialty. A total of 33 credits comprise the non-thesis degree, while 36 are required for the thesis. Both are offered in an accelerated format and can be completed in as little as one year. This is a non-certification program.

14 Kansas State University Manhattan, KS Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 26%

For those who endeavor to work in adult education, this degree makes for a great first stepping stone. Kansas State's master of science in adult and continuing education is designed to prepare students for adult learning in either educational or training settings. The 33-credit program can be further tailored to meet a student's goal through three online graduate certificate programs: academic advising, adult learning, and social justice education.

Students enrolled in KSU's master's in adult education online degree program must complete a minimum of 33 credit hours: 18 hours dedicated to core requirements and 15 total elective hours. Available elective courses include a number of courses focused on 21st century topics (such as, for example, the emergence of self-directed learning). KS's program is available in three varieties: online, hybrid, and face-to-face. To apply, applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Letters of recommendation are not required for consideration.

15 University of Idaho Moscow, ID Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 25%

A flexible, 30-credit program focused on preparing tomorrow's educators and managers for a wide range of industries and settings, the University of Idaho's master of science in adult, organizational learning and leadership is a graduate program designed to meet the needs of the working professional with a passion for adult education.

Students must complete a minimum of 30 credits to receive a non-thesis online master's adult education degree. These credits break down to 21 core credits, six electives, and three research credit hours. For electives, students have the option of an internship that can count as one to three credits. Up to 12 approved non-degree credits may be transferred upon acceptance into the University of Idaho. Applicants must possess a relevant four-year degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0.

16 Northwestern State University of Louisiana Natchitoches, LA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 81%

Northwestern State University of Louisiana's master of arts in adult learning and development is a 33-credit program that offers students three concentrations: adult and workforce development, homeland security, and eLearning. For the spring and summer, fast-track courses of eight weeks are available and even shorter courses are offered during the summer. Out-of-state learners and Louisiana distance students pay the same tuition rates and students can enter the program at any time.

The school's eLearning track is particularly relevant today: technology has only increased the reach of distance learning. The technology has opened the door to new teaching tools, methods, and theory. NSU students who choose the eLearning concentration will learn about the computing systems within schools, colleges, and industry, and the latest ways to deliver curriculum. Out-of-state students should be aware that successful completion of this online master's adult education degree does not automatically lead to certification or licensure in their state.

17 Seattle University Seattle, WA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 1%

Seattle University fosters social justice consciousness and student collaboration through theoretical knowledge and hands-on skill development. Distance learners have several graduate degree options, including a master of arts in education and a master of education in adult education and training. Through an interdisciplinary curriculum, students learn to motivate nontraditional students and develop and assess learning programs that best suit client needs, whether that be in a school or work setting.

Seattle U’s master's in adult education online program follows a non-cohort model, meaning students don’t all pursue the same 45-credit degree plan. Beyond three core classes, students determine coursework, with close guidance from a faculty advisor. Topic choices include the American community college, fundamental counseling skills, and instructional leadership. Both the MA.Ed and the M.Ed enable students to personalize curriculum. However, the former is a little more structured than its counterpart and requires the completion of a capstone project.

Seattle University holds accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

18 City University of Seattle Seattle, WA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 39%

As part of the renowned National University System, the City University of Seattle offers fully-accredited online degrees that prepare students for professional advancement in a global work environment. The distance learning catalog includes a master of education in adult education that can be completed in as few as 18 months. Applicants don’t need to submit standardized test scores. All online students pay the same affordable tuition rate and CityU provides free textbooks and software to further reduce costs.

All courses are asynchronous, and most CityU students pursue their degree full-time while working. The degree plan for this online master's adult education program consists of six required classes in topics like adult learning theory, instructional technology, and program design, assessment, and evaluation. Students have the option to add a 17-credit TESOL emphasis to their degree work, gaining specific language pedagogy skills and certificate training. Those who opt out of the emphasis must complete a capstone project.

City University of Seattle is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

19 Morehead State University Morehead, KY Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 75%

Morehead State University's master of arts in adult and higher education addresses head-on the challenges of meeting the needs of adult learners. A 30-credit program, Morehead State's MA is designed to develop the capacity of individuals to lead education or service programs, from planning to application. As jobs in adult education continue to grow, they must be filled by those who are qualified to teach it.

Students can choose between one of seven possible preapproved concentrations, such as the English as a second language concentration that covers topics like language and culture, theory and practice, and linguistics for teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). There is also an opportunity to create an individual concentration working with the school's advisors. Students may choose between a thesis or non-thesis, and those who work on a thesis may do so in lieu of six hours of coursework. Applicants are asked to provide GRE or MAT scores. Morehead State waves test requirements for applicants with a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher.

20 Western Kentucky University Bowling Green, KY Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 46%

For anyone interested in adult education teaching jobs, it all starts with the right degree. Western Kentucky University's master of arts in education in adult education readies students for careers in the field. At WKU, learners choose from four concentrations: general, higher education, training and development, and community and technical college. All concentrations are structured to afford the student time to also focus on the broader principles of adult learning, course planning, and teaching methods.

WKU's degree program consists of 39 credit hours in total, 18 of which consist of a student's discipline of choice. A six-credit capstone finishes off the program's coursework. WKU's MAE in adult education is one of 90 online degree and certificate programs offered by Western Kentucky, and the school endeavors to accommodate the busy schedules of its online students in particular. WKU conducts orientation online and proctored exams are offered, a service which has grown from a few hundred administered a year to 13,000 annually.

21 Texas A & M University-Kingsville Kingsville, TX Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 11%

Established as a teachers’ school in 1917, Texas A&M University-Kingsville continues the proud tradition of training skilled and empathetic educators through its programs, many offered entirely online. Included in this list of online programs is a master of education in adult education that emphasizes the importance of community partnerships in developing effective continuing and higher learning programs. The 36-credit degree plan consists of courses like methods of adult education, community college teaching, and family literacy. There are no thesis or internship requirements within the program.

Students take two courses at a time, earning their degree in two years or less. Application materials include baccalaureate credentials, GRE or MAT scores, and two recommendation letters. Online students pay tuition based on residency status and financial aid. Scholarships are available to high-achieving students and transfer students. TAMUK also provides assistance through its Center for Student Success, including online tutoring, individualized counseling, and career assistance as they move on to pursue adult education teaching jobs.

Texas A&M University-Kingsville holds accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

22 Cleveland State University Cleveland, OH Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 10%

As Cleveland State notes, learning is a lifelong endeavor and adult learners hail from a multitude of backgrounds and circumstances. A master of education in adult learning and development prepares educators to effectively assist adult learners as they keep pace with an ever-changing world. Graduates will gain the theories, competencies, and knowledge that shape adult education in the 21st century. From this flexible master's in adult education online degree, students will learn how to plan, teach, and administer programs for a diverse and growing group of adult students.


This 30 credit hour degree program is split among three coursework areas: core, specialization, and elective. Students take classes in adult learning and development theories, program planning, organizational learning and development, internship/practicum, and adult education social, political, and historical contexts. Students also take at least three elective courses related to their personal and professional interests and career objectives. At the end of the program, students develop a professional portfolio for the program's capstone project. Classes are primarily taught in an asynchronous format. To apply, candidates must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 2.75 and must provide GRE scores. The school accepts up to 12 hours of transfer credit (with the stipulation that a student's grade point average is a B or better).

23 SUNY Empire State College Saratoga Springs, NY Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 81%

Blending theory and application, SUNY Empire State College's master of science in adult and higher education offers a pathway for students looking to excel as adult educators in an array of settings, from the workplace to night school. Indeed, adult education teaching jobs today are highly diverse and are in demand like never before. SUNY Empire's master's in adult learning provides the background and skill set students need to make a real impact and contribution to their communities.

This 36-credit program is divided between 12 course credits for core courses and 18 credits for electives. A final, focused project caps the curriculum. Students can earn their degree in as few as two years. In addition to holding a bachelor's degree, applicants of this competitive program are required to convey to admissions the extent of their ability to handle graduate studies. SUNY Empire accepts a maximum of nine transfer credits. This degree does not directly lead to teacher certification.

24 Indiana University of Pennsylvania Indiana, PA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 12%

Designed for the working adult, Indiana University of Pennsylvania's master of arts in adult and community education is delivered completely online via cohort study. IUP's 36-credit program can be completed in two years' time on a part-time basis. Students choose between a thesis or non-thesis program. Non-thesis students present a portfolio as their culminating ACE experience. All students are required to take a theory-to-practice internship consisting of a total of six hours.

The school's master's in adult education online degree combines a balance of academic courses, individual research, and field experience. Students come away with a solid understanding of what ACE requires from an educator or trainer. Courses cover such topics as the adult learner, issues in distance education, and practice research. As a cohort study program, students are expected to interact with both their peers and professors in order to foster collaboration and expand learning beyond one's own experiences. To apply, prospective candidates must submit academic transcripts, a personal goal statement, and two letters of recommendation.

25 Georgia Southern University Savannah, GA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 18%

Beginning as a junior college with 175 students, Georgia Southern University, formerly Armstrong State University, has become a fully-accredited and comprehensive institution of higher education. Georgia Southern enrolls over 7,100 students annually in both its campus-based and distance education programs, which includes an online master of education in adult education and lifelong learning. Building on the student’s prior work and academic experience, this master’s track develops the instructional and interpersonal skills required to effectively teach adult learners in a variety of corporate and community settings. Graduates move on to successful careers in areas like occupational preparation, social services, and business training.

The curriculum totals 30 credits, with course topics that include educational research and development, grant writing in adult learning, and program planning and evaluation. Students must also complete a capstone practicum experience. Georgia Southern offers three entry dates every year. To qualify for this master's in adult education online program, applicants must have a minimum 2.5 GPA.

Georgia Southern University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Online master's in adult learning programs tend to vary from school to school, in format as well as content. While characteristics like concentrations and course length differ between institutions, the following sections are designed to provide a general overview of online master's degree in adult education programs.


No two programs are the same, but some courses are considered fundamental to any online master's in adult education curriculum. While researching degree programs, you're likely to encounter several variations of the following courses:

  • Adult learning theory: This course explores fundamental concepts and key principles in andragogy, or the instruction of adults, as well as their practical applications and expected outcomes. Students examine the motivations of adult learners, common instructional tactics, and the role of technology in the learning environment.
  • Adult literacy: Participants in this class learn to identify a variety of instructional models commonly used in adult literacy education and their methods of implementation. Along with these instructional strategies, future educators learn to assess the needs and strengths of adult students and determine which educational model serves learners best.
  • Educational program planning: Ideal for those interested in the field of instructional coordination, this course provides foundational knowledge in curriculum design for adult learners. Covering major approaches to program planning and course design, lessons synthesize concepts in adult learning theory with administrative skills and technological topics to demonstrate curriculum construction methods.


While most online master's in adult education programs can be completed in 30 to 40 credit hours, some are only a few months long and others may require several years of study. There are several factors than can influence the length of a degree program, from lesson delivery format to any practicum components, but few characteristics influence program length as much as pacing.

Asynchronous or self-paced programs are designed with convenience in mind. Ideal for working professionals, self-paced programs allow students to review lessons and complete coursework at their convenience. Relaxed deadlines and accelerated courses offer maximum flexibility and faster completion times, but also require strong time management skills. Providing more structure and support, cohort-based programs emphasize collaboration between classmates and faculty. Students may be expected to log in at certain times and participate in group discussions. Programs using a cohort model typically take longer to complete than their asynchronous counterparts.


  • TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages): The 140-hour TESOL certificate program is designed for those interested in teaching English as a second or foreign language. Program participants can choose a concentration in adult or childhood/adolescent education. Certification coursework builds on key principles of adult learning theory, applying them to foreign language instruction.
  • Teaching Certificate: The requirements for earning a teaching certificate can be quite different from state to state. Depending on location, additional exams, such as Praxis, or certification courses may be required. A teaching certificate is necessary for most positions in adult education, including adult literacy specialist, corporate trainer, or GED course instructor.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Adult Education Degrees

You've probably seen the term "accredited" pop up repeatedly while researching master's programs, but what does it mean? Accreditation is a process agencies use to ensure that schools operate according to particular academic and ethical standards. Schools can be regionally or nationally accredited, depending on the agency that assesses them. It's important to understand the distinction between the two categories, and the characteristics of both, before you select an online degree program.

Regionally accredited institutions are typically nonprofit, academically-focused schools such as state universities, while for-profit vocational schools usually receive national accreditation. Credits earned at regionally accredited colleges transfer easily between other institutions, but most regionally accredited schools won't accept transfer credits from nationally accredited schools. If you think you might want to pursue a doctorate program in the future, finding a master's program offered through a regionally accredited school is a must.

Accreditation also allows the U.S. Department of Education to award federal funding to eligible schools. While this branch of the government doesn't itself accredit institutions, it does rely on external accrediting agencies to determine a school's eligibility. In turn, organizations like the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) monitor accrediting bodies and ensure that operating standards are upheld. Consisting of representatives from over 3,000 colleges and universities around the country, CHEA provides the public with information about the accreditation process and the dangers of degree mills. An extensive database of accredited institutions can be found on CHEA's website.


The best online degree in adult education can open up a new world of career opportunities. If you have a knack for planning and love helping others succeed, earning an online master's in adult education can help you apply your talents to a diverse range of professions. Whether you're interested in teaching English as a foreign language or coaching adult athletics, a master's degree can help advance your career. The following professions are only a few of the paths taken by individuals with a master's in adult learning:

  • Adult Literacy/High School Equivalency Diploma Teacher: These instructors specialize in teaching basic reading and writing skills to adult learners. Additionally, many teach courses designed to prepare adult students for GED and other diploma equivalency exams. While some teach with only a bachelor's degree, most schools prefer to hire instructors with work experience and higher credentials.
  • Instructional Coordinator: Instructional coordinators use educational theory to develop lesson plans, instructional materials, and curricula as they ensure that educational standards are upheld throughout an institution. Many begin as teachers or school administrators, gaining necessary work experience before earning their master's degree and transitioning to a coordinator position.
  • Career and Technical Education Teacher: Often employed at vocational schools, community colleges, and training centers, these teachers provide career-based instruction to adult learners. Common courses taught include automotive repair, culinary arts, cosmetology, and nursing. Depending on their area of expertise, technical education instructors often hold several certifications in addition to a teaching license.
  • Foreign Language Instructor: This category includes teachers of English as a second or foreign language, as well as American Sign Language instructors. Foreign Language Instructors are employed in a wide range of venues, including colleges, private educational facilities, community centers, and religious institutions. Along with a master's, this profession typically requires TESOL certification.
  • Training and Development Manager: Combining adult educational theory with managerial principles, this position is ideal for those who like working in a corporate environment. Training managers are hired by organizations to coordinate employee educational programs and enhance professional development through skill-building practices. Some oversee groups of training instructors or specialists.

Salary and Growth Rate by Career

Position Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate
Adult Literacy/High School Equivalency Diploma Teacher $50,650 7%
Instructional Coordinator $62,460 7%
Career and Technical Education Teacher $54,020 4%
Foreign Language Instructor $63,500 6%
Training and Development Manager $105,830 7%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


Numerous factors can impact an educator's salary, including experience, individual employers, and credentials. Location can also influence how much you make. The following table uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to show which five states employ the most certified adult educators, as well as how annual wages can differ sharply based on location.

State Average Annual Wage
California $65,580
Texas $57,460
New York $69,900
North Carolina $45,970
Washington $50,610

Source: BLS


Whether you're studying for your master's, currently employed in the field, or both, joining a professional organization can help you succeed academically and professionally. Not only does membership look good on any resume, it comes with opportunities that range from annual conferences and seminars to members-only certification and job assistance programs. The following are just a few of the many professional organizations dedicated to the support and advancement of adult educators:

  • American Association For Adult and Continuing Education: Committed to developing leadership among adult educators, this group extends a wealth of benefits to members. In addition to voting privileges, conference registration discounts, and networking opportunities, members can participate in exclusive webinars and online community features.
  • National Adult Education Professional Development Consortium: Among other benefits, NAEPDC members benefit from privileged access to the organization's vast resource database. Containing hundreds of handbooks, training manuals, certification programs, and lesson plan outlines, the database offers something useful for every adult educator.
  • Correctional Education Association: This organization is dedicated to supporting educators who teach in a correctional environment. Membership includes access to an open educational database, free teaching resources, and the chance to participate in leadership events and annual conferences.

Paying for your online master's in adult learning might seem intimidating, but you're not alone: over half of all college students apply for financial aid. By filling out a FAFSA form, you'll learn which federal grants, loans, and scholarships are available to you, as well as any work-study programs offered through your school. Additionally, some employers will pay all or part of tuition costs when employees pursue degrees in a work-related field.


Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.


Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.


Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

Rankings Archive

Best Online Master's in Adult Education Programs for 2017
Rank School Location
1 Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, TX
2 University of Georgia Athens, GA
3 University of South Florida-Main Campus Tampa, FL
4 Indiana University-Bloomington Bloomington, IN
5 University of Arkansas Fayetteville, AR
6 University of Houston-Victoria Victoria, TX
7 University of Idaho Moscow, ID
8 Kansas State University Manhattan, KS
9 SUNY Buffalo State Buffalo, NY
10 Pennsylvania State University-World Campus University Park, PA
11 Troy University Troy, AL
12 Oregon State University Corvallis, OR
13 Cleveland State University Cleveland, OH
14 University of West Alabama Livingston, AL
15 Morehead State University Morehead, KY
16 Western Kentucky University Bowling Green, KY
17 Northwestern State University of Louisiana Natchitoches, LA
18 Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus Indiana, PA
19 University of Southern Maine Portland, ME
20 SUNY Empire State College Saratoga Springs, NY