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Adult & Vocational Education Teachers




Nature of the Work | Working Conditions | Employment | Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement | Job Outlook | Earnings | Related Occupations | Sources of Additional Information


Significant Points

  • More than one-third works part time; many also hold other jobs—often involving work related to the subject they teach.
  • Practical experience is often all that is needed to teach vocational courses, but a graduate degree may be required to teach nonvocational courses.
  • Opportunities should be best for part-time positions.
Nature of the Work [About this section] Index

Adult and vocational education teachers work in four main areas—adult vocational-technical education, adult remedial education, adult continuing education, and prebaccalaureate training. Adult vocational-technical education teachers provide instruction for occupations that do not require a college degree, such as welder, dental hygienist, x-ray technician, auto mechanic, and cosmetologist. Other instructors help people update their job skills or adapt to technological advances. For example, an adult education teacher may train students how to use new computer software programs. Adult remedial education teachers provide instruction in basic education courses for school dropouts or others who need to upgrade their skills to find a job. Adult continuing education teachers teach courses that students take for personal enrichment, such as cooking, dancing, writing, exercise and physical fitness, photography, and personal finance.

Adult and vocational education teachers may lecture in classrooms or work in an industry or laboratory setting to give students hands-on experience. Increasingly, adult vocational-technical education teachers integrate academic and vocational curriculums so students obtain a variety of skills that can be applied to the "real world." For example, an electronics student may be required to take courses in principles of mathematics and science in conjunction with hands-on electronics skills. Generally, teachers demonstrate techniques, have students apply them, and critique the students’ work. For example, welding instructors show students various welding techniques, watch them use tools and equipment, and have them repeat procedures until they meet the specific standards required by the trade.

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

Businesses also are increasingly providing their employees with work-related training to keep up with changing technology. Training is often provided through contractors, professional associations, or community colleges.

Adult education teachers who instruct in adult basic education programs may work with students who do not speak English; teach adults reading, writing, and mathematics up to the 8th-grade level; or teach adults through the 12th-grade level in preparation for the General Educational Development tests (GED). The GED offers the equivalent of a high school diploma. These teachers may refer students for counseling or job placement. Because many people who need adult basic education are reluctant to seek it, teachers also may recruit participants.

Adult and vocational education teachers also prepare lessons and assignments, grade papers and do related paperwork, attend faculty and professional meetings, and stay abreast of developments in their field. (For information on vocational education teachers in secondary schools, see the Handbook statement on kindergarten, elementary, and secondary school teachers.)

Working Conditions [About this section]  Index

Since adult and vocational education teachers work with adult students, they do not encounter some of the behavioral or social problems sometimes found with younger students. The adults attend by choice, are highly motivated, and bring years of experience to the classroom—attributes that can make teaching these students rewarding and satisfying. However, teachers in adult basic education deal with students at different levels of development who may lack effective study skills and self-confidence, and who may require more attention and patience than other students.

More than 1 in 3 adult and vocational education teachers work part time. To accommodate students who may have job or family responsibilities, many institutions offer courses at night or on weekends, which range from 2- to 4-hour workshops and 1-day mini-sessions to semester-long courses. Some adult and vocational education teachers have several part-time teaching assignments or work a full-time job in addition to their part-time teaching job, leading to long hours and a hectic schedule.

Although most adult and vocational education teachers work in classroom settings, some are consultants to businesses and teach classes at job sites.

Employment [About this section]  Index

Adult and vocational education teachers held about 588,000 jobs in 1998. About one-fifth were self-employed.

A variety of establishments employed adult and vocational education teachers in 1998: public school systems; community and junior colleges; universities; businesses that provide formal education and training for their employees; schools and institutes that teach automotive repair, bartending, business, computer skills, electronics, medical technology, and other subjects; dance studios; job training centers; community organizations; labor unions; and religious organizations.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement [About this section]   Index

Training requirements vary by State and by subject. In general, teachers need work or other experiences in their field, and a license or certificate in fields where these usually are required for full professional status. In some cases, particularly at educational institutions, a master’s or doctoral degree is required to teach nonvocational courses which can be applied towards a 4-year degree program. Many vocational teachers in junior or community colleges do not have a master’s or doctoral degree but draw on their work experience and knowledge, bringing practical experience to the classroom. For general adult education classes, an acceptable portfolio of work is required. For example, to secure a job teaching a photography course, an applicant would need to show examples of previous work.

Most States and the District of Columbia require adult basic education teachers and adult literacy instructors to have a bachelor’s degree from an approved teacher training program, and some States require teacher certification.

Adult and vocational education teachers update their skills through continuing education to maintain certification—requirements vary among institutions. Teachers may take part in seminars, conferences, or graduate courses in adult education or training and development, or may return to work in business or industry for a limited time. Businesses are playing a growing role in adult education, forming consortiums with training institutions and junior colleges and providing input to curriculum development. Adult and vocational education teachers maintain an ongoing dialogue with businesses to determine the most current skills needed in the workplace.

Adult and vocational education teachers should communicate and relate well with students, enjoy working with them, and be able to motivate them. Adult basic education instructors, in particular, must be patient, understanding, and supportive to make students comfortable, develop trust, and help them better understand concepts.

Some teachers advance to administrative positions in departments of education, colleges and universities, and corporate training departments. These positions often require advanced degrees, such as a doctorate in adult and continuing education. (See the statement on education administrators elsewhere in the Handbook.)

Job Outlook [About this section]  Index

Employment of adult and vocational education teachers is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2008 as the demand for adult education programs continues to rise. Opportunities should be best for part-time positions, especially in fields such as computer technology, automotive mechanics, and medical technology, which offer attractive—and often higher-paying—job opportunities outside of teaching.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, an estimated 4 out of 10 adults participated in some form of adult education in 1997. Participation in continuing education grows as the educational attainment of the population increases. To keep abreast of changes in their fields and advances in technology, an increasing number of adults are taking courses—often subsidized or funded entirely by employers—for career advancement or to upgrade their skills. In addition, an increasing number of adults are participating in classes for personal enrichment and enjoyment. Enrollment in adult basic education and literacy programs is increasing because of changes in immigration policy that require basic competency in English and civics. And, more employers are demanding higher levels of basic academic skills—reading, writing, and arithmetic—which is increasing enrollment in remedial education and GED preparation classes.

Employment growth of adult vocational-technical education teachers will result from the need to train young adults for entry-level jobs. Experienced workers who want to switch fields or whose jobs have been eliminated due to changing technology or business reorganization also require training. Businesses are finding it essential to provide training to their workers to remain productive and globally competitive. Cooperation between businesses and educational institutions continues to increase to insure that students are taught the skills employers desire. This should result in greater demand for adult and vocational education teachers, particularly at community and junior colleges. Since adult education programs receive State and Federal funding, employment growth may be affected by government budgets.

Additional job openings for adult and vocational education teachers will stem from the need to replace persons who leave the occupation. Many teach part time and move into and out of the occupation for other jobs, family responsibilities, or retirement.

Earnings [About this section]  Index

Median annual earnings of adult education teachers were $24,800 in 1998. The middle 50 percent earned between $18,170 and $34,140. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $13,080 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $47,430. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of adult education teachers in 1997 were:

Elementary and secondary schools  $29,900
Colleges and universities  25,900
Schools and educational services, not elsewhere classified  24,600
Dance studios, schools, and halls  23,600
Individual and family services  19,400

Median annual earnings of vocational education teachers were $34,430 in 1998. The middle 50 percent earned between $24,890 and $45,230. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,010 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $63,850. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of vocational education teachers in 1997 were:

State government, except education and hospitals  $37,200
Elementary and secondary schools  37,000
Colleges and universities  34,800
Vocational schools  32,600
Schools and educational services, not elsewhere classified  24,700

Earnings varied widely by subject, academic credentials, experience, and region of the country. Part-time instructors usually are paid hourly wages and do not receive benefits or pay for preparation time outside of class.

Related Occupations [About this section]  Index

Adult and vocational education teaching requires a wide variety of skills and aptitudes, including the ability to influence, motivate, train, and teach; organizational, administrative, and communication skills; and creativity. Workers in other occupations that require these aptitudes include other teachers, counselors, school administrators, public relations specialists, employee development specialists, and social workers.

Sources of Additional Information [About this section]  Index

Disclaimer: Links to other Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

Information on adult basic education programs and teacher certification requirements is available from State departments of education and local school districts.

For information about adult vocational-technical education teaching positions, contact State departments of vocational-technical education.

For information on adult continuing education teaching positions, contact departments of local government, State adult education departments, schools, colleges and universities, religious organizations, and a wide range of businesses that provide formal training for their employees.

General information on adult and vocational education is available from:

  • Association for Career and Technical Education, 1410 King St., Alexandria, VA 22314. Internet: http://www.acteonline.org
  • ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, 1900 Kenny Rd., Columbus, OH 43210-1090.

An industry employing adult and vocational education teachers that appears in the 2000-01 Career Guide to Industries: Educational services

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