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Students who complete a master’s degree in adult education can effectively teach adult learners to improve their career outlooks and fulfill lifelong interests. Many career opportunities are open, including adult literacy and GED diploma teacher, vocational instructor, remedial education teacher, community college professor, training and development manager, and more.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median pay for adult primary and secondary education and ESL teachers in 2021 was $59,720, while postsecondary teachers earned an average of $79,640. The average annual salary for human resources specialists was $64,240. The National Center for Education Statistics lists the average cost of a master’s program as $12,394 at public universities and $26,621 at private institutions in 2020-21. Typically, it takes two years of full-time study to complete this degree.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Adult Education Program

Choose your area of study

Because a master’s in adult education can lead to many different careers, you should consider your chosen career path and why you want this degree. Look for a program with specializations that will best prepare you for your chosen field. For example, some programs may concentrate on how to teach English as a second language, while others focus more on training in corporate settings. Also, look for universities that partner with institutions for internships and confirm they are available in your area.

Research schools and programs

Once you select your area of study, set aside time to research what programs are offered and by which schools. As noted above, students should look for programs with specific concentrations or specializations related to their career path. Still, there are other components to consider, including:

  • Is the school accredited? Look for schools accredited by agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Institutional accreditation can impact what financial aid students qualify for, job opportunities, and eligibility for other postsecondary programs.
  • What is the tuition? Although students may receive scholarships and grants to help offset the cost of their adult education degree, they’ll still likely have to shoulder some of the cost themselves. Have a general idea of what you can afford, and then focus on the programs that make sense for you from a financial standpoint.
  • Where is the school located? It may seem that the school’s location isn’t important for an online program, but it may be. Programs are often offered in a hybrid format, allowing students to study online and on campus. This may be an attractive option for students who want more opportunities to get to know their instructors and fellow students. Additionally, there may be special events, career days, or student clubs and organizations you’d like to participate in, and proximity to the school will allow you to do so.
  • What is the learning format? Is the program provided synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination? An asynchronous program gives you maximum control over your schedule, while a synchronous one makes establishing relationships with students and instructors easier. Determine your preferences and requirements in this area. Additionally, if you plan to study part-time instead of full-time, find out if this is available. Not all universities offer a part-time option.

Prepare for tests and applications

Most universities require that applicants have a bachelor’s degree, although it doesn’t necessarily have to be in a specific discipline. Transcripts will likely be needed, and a minimum 3.0 GPA is expected. Not all schools require GRE scores, so check each university’s website and speak with an admissions counselor about this. There may be alternate paths for applicants who do not meet all the academic requirements. Since this is a graduate program, you’ll likely be required to provide letters of recommendation and a personal statement.

Select your program

Carefully consider all the features of the programs you’ve researched. Note the pros and cons of each, determine where you’re willing to compromise and where you’re not, and compile a list of all the programs you will apply for. List them in order of preference, then submit applications to all of them. Once you’ve received the letters of acceptance, choose the program from among them that’s highest on your list.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Check to see if you qualify for scholarships from the university or other institutions. Also, look into financial aid that is available via federal and state loans and grants, and be sure to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your university may offer financing, and there also may be a pay-per-course option as you work through the program. Work-study programs are also available, and if you have room in your schedule, you can get a part-time job to help pay for your degree.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Adult Education Programs

Best Online Master's in Adult Education Programs

NC State College of Education

Texas A&M Education & Human Development

Indiana University Bloomington

ECU College of Education

James Madison University

UGA College of Education

City University of Seattle

Colorado State University

Auburn University College of Education

Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Ball State University

University of West Alabama

Kansas State University

Cleveland State University

Rutgers Graduate School of Education

Penn State World Campus

University of Idaho

Ashland University

University of Arkansas

Michigan State University

Troy University

Texas A&M University at Kingsville

Florida Atlantic University

Appalachian State University

Marshall University

Oregon State University

University of Southern Maine

Point Park University

Park University

Western Kentucky University

Louisiana State University

Eastern Washington University

University of Houston at Victoria

Morehead State University

Valdosta State University

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How We Rank Schools

For this list, we concentrated on master’s degrees in adult education/learning. Students can earn a variety of different degrees in this field, including a Master of Education (M.Ed), Master of Science (MS), and Master of Arts (MA). Each type of degree has a slightly different approach and requirements, so compare programs to find the one that best suits your needs.

To ensure flexibility for working students, we primarily reviewed programs that can be completed online. Some programs are also available on-campus or can be achieved through a combination of in-person and online classes.

All listed programs are offered by regionally accredited institutions, which guarantees that they meet high standards of quality postsecondary education. Several programs also have programmatic accreditation through accrediting bodies like the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

Once we compiled our list, our team evaluated each program based on its cost, flexibility, course offerings, outcomes, reputation, and faculty. We then gave each program an Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Adult Education Program?

Along with developing strong reading, writing, and communication skills, this degree emphasizes other qualities educators need, such as patience, empathy, a love of learning, and teamwork. Students of this program learn how to teach reading and math to adults who lack basic skills, and they also gain insight into how the social circumstances and psychological development of adults influence the way they learn.

An online master’s in adult education requires 30-36 credit hours to complete, the same number needed for an on-campus program, and it can be an MA, MS, or MEd. Programs often include a final master’s project or thesis. Many programs can be completed entirely online, with no requirement to attend on-campus classes or lectures, and course materials delivered via an online learning management system such as Canvas, Blackboard, or Moodle.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in adult education degree program

  • Processes and methods of instruction. This course introduces students to various methodologies and techniques used in adult education. They learn how to employ different approaches and strategies and conduct adult education in a classroom and in a workplace environment.
  • Multicultural perspectives in adult education. In this course, students learn about cultural diversity and how to develop inclusive educational programs. They learn how to teach in a culturally diverse environment, where language, customs, and approaches to learning and education can vary greatly.
  • Distance teaching and learning. Since so much education now takes place online, this course covers effective education strategies and methods for teaching online as opposed to a classroom. Various technologies are explored as well as how to develop materials for interactive and collaborative learning.
  • Program development. Students learn how to develop and manage training and educational programs within learning organizations. The course examines such subjects as instructor support, budgeting, stakeholders, marketing, course design, and instructor support.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Adult Education?

Career outlook

The career outlook for individuals with an online master’s degree in adult education is promising, given the increasing demand for skilled educators and trainers in various industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), training and development managers earn a median salary of $120,000 annually, with the top performers in the field earning more than $210,470. This field is growing at a rate of six percent a year, while postsecondary teachers, who make a median salary of $80,840 a year, will see their field expand by roughly eight percent in the coming decade.

Career paths

A master’s in adult education opens up diverse career paths in the field of education and training. Graduates work in higher education, the corporate world, nonprofit organizations, and healthcare. They may pursue roles in government, language schools, or the online educational sector. Consulting and community development are also fields that welcome those with this academic credential.

Here are some common career options for those with an online master’s in adult education:

  • Postsecondary education administrator — manages adult education programs at colleges, universities, or vocational schools
  • Educational consultant — provides expertise to organizations seeking to improve their adult education or training programs
  • Community college instructor — teaches adult learners in community college settings
  • Adult literacy teacher — provides literacy instruction to adults with limited reading and writing skills
  • ESL instructor — teaches English language skills to non-native speakers in adult education programs, community centers, or language schools

Adult Education Program Manager

Earning Potential: $50,000-$90,000 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in adult education or related field

An adult education program manager is responsible for overseeing and leading educational initiatives tailored to adult learners. They design, develop, and manage programs, ensuring they meet the specific needs of adult students. This role involves curriculum planning, assessment, and program evaluation to enhance the quality of education offered. Adult education program managers also handle administrative tasks, such as budget management, staff supervision, and resource allocation. They collaborate with instructors and staff to create a supportive learning environment. Additionally, they may explore new teaching methods and technologies to optimize adult education outcomes, ultimately contributing to the personal and professional growth of adult learners.

Corporate Trainer

Earning Potential: $45,000-$100,000+ annually

Education Required: master’s degree in adult education, organizational development, or related field

A corporate trainer is responsible for designing and delivering training programs to employees within a company or organization. They assess training needs, develop curriculum, and create engaging materials to enhance employee skills and knowledge. Corporate trainers facilitate workshops, webinars, and on-the-job training, focusing on job-specific skills, compliance requirements, and professional development. They monitor training effectiveness and adjust programs accordingly. Corporate trainers play a pivotal role in improving employee performance, productivity, and job satisfaction. They also keep abreast of industry trends and training methodologies to ensure the training programs are up-to-date and aligned with organizational goals.

Instructional Coordinator

Earning Potential: $40,000-$80,000+ annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in adult education, curriculum and instruction, or related field

An adult education instructional coordinator is responsible for planning and overseeing educational programs for adult learners. They develop and implement curriculum standards, instructional materials, and teaching strategies to meet the unique needs of adult students. Instructional coordinators collaborate with educators, trainers, and administrators to ensure that instruction is effective and aligned with educational goals. They assess and analyze student performance data, providing feedback and support to improve teaching methods. Instructional coordinators also play a key role in staff development, offering training and guidance to educators. Ultimately, they work to enhance the overall quality of adult education programs and promote successful learning outcomes for adult learners.

Online Master’s in Adult Education Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master’s in adult education degree program?

Most universities require that applicants for this degree hold a bachelor’s degree, although not necessarily in a field related to education. Supporting documentation — transcripts, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and resume — should be submitted. Speak with an admissions advisor for details.

How much does an online master’s in adult education degree cost?

A master’s degree in adult education can cost anywhere between $11,000 and $23,000, but universities often offer online degrees for less. Furthermore, students should expect to pay additional fees for books, software, and support services.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s in adult education degree?

A traditional on-campus degree takes two years to complete, but many universities offer an accelerated online program that can be completed in 12-18 months. Some schools offer full- and part-time options, but not all. The school’s website should provide information on this, but it’s always good to speak with an admissions advisor.

Is an online master’s in adult education worth it?

Earning an online master’s degree in adult education can be worth it for many individuals who wish to have a positive impact on the lives of others, but the value of the degree depends on several factors, including your career goals, personal circumstances, and the specific program you choose.

A master’s degree may be essential if you wish to advance in the field of adult education, taking on leadership roles or working in specialized areas such as instructional design or program management. A master’s degree also opens up higher-paying and more fulfilling opportunities. The average adult education teacher in the U.S. makes a median salary of $57,029, according to

Online programs make it easy for busy individuals to earn their degree. They can be a good option for working adults or those with family commitments. Earning your degree online indicates to potential employers that you have well-developed time management skills and the drive to succeed in any position you are given.

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