Teaching Careers in Adult and Nontraditional Classrooms

Unemployment, midlife career changes, and a desire to further education are the driving forces of adult education programs. After young adults assume more familial and financial responsibility, a large number realize the benefits of an educational degree - be it a high school diploma equivalency or a graduate degree. For this reason, there is a demand for adult educators.
Individual adults, like younger students, learn through varying techniques, such as experiential, visual, and audio learning styles. With that said, the learning styles of adult students differ tremendously from that of younger counterparts. First and foremost, many adult students, also referred to as nontraditional students, voluntarily enroll in coursework because they want to learn. Furthermore, they want to know "how" and "why" in order to better grasp concepts. Most adults willingly attend class and complete assignments, and discipline is generally never a problem. In addition, mature students may ask more questions and they tend to lack tech savvy skills. Therefore, patience and a positive attitude are vital for the successful instruction of the adult educator.
Career opportunities for teaching in the adult environment include: continuing education coordinators; instructors at community colleges, community centers, or vocational schools; trainers within corporate human resource departments; education specialists; instructional technology resource teachers; and more. A graduate teaching degree in adult education is ideal for the working professional who desires a career change, or for secondary and/or elementary school teachers that wish to explore other avenues of education. For professionals that would rather create instructional materials for nontraditional learners than teach in a classroom setting, educational technology degrees and certificates offer an added alternative.
Licensure and/or certification may or may not be required in order to teach adult students. If professionals are teaching skills within their area of expertise, then on-the-job experience might serve as the best credential. However, for professionals desiring to teach at an institution of higher education, then at the very minimum, a graduate certificate or the completion of a graduate degree will be necessary. Most often, a graduate certificate will seamlessly transfer into a masters program at the same college. Furthermore, community colleges may hire adjunct faculty with a minimum of a graduate certificate who are in the processes of completing a masters program. Of utmost importance, it is beneficial to pursue graduate work targeting the needs of the nontraditional learner, in order to create and deliver effective instruction. Graduate curriculums typically include studies in multicultural perspectives, learning theories, along with assessment and evaluation strategies.

By Rita Rowe


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