Master’s in Adult Education

Note: This page provides details on getting your Master's in Adult Education, for doctoral degree information please see our Ph.D. in Adult Education page.

Adult education is not a field that is often discussed when people are reviewing teaching options. However, education is often a lifelong pursuit which means that adult educators are needed just as much as teachers of children.

Adult education has been a formalized form of education for many years, but popularity of the field is growing as more and more individuals seek training outside of basic education. Classes can range from basic skills classes for individuals over 18 to specialized corporate trainings for CEOs.

An adult education degree can help you further your career as one who prepares, plans, and administers a wide range of training to adults in postsecondary, corporate, K-12, or community settings.

Choosing an Online Master's in Adult Education Program

When picking a college or university, whether that be online or on-campus, it is important to know the school you will attend is nationally recognized and reputable. In order to help you assess your prospects, here are some questions you might want to ask:

Is the Program Accredited?

What is accreditation? In short, accreditation is like quality assurance through peer review. When a school or program is accredited, it has proven that it meets the standards established by an organization representing that academic field. For more information on accreditation, please visit:

How Long Has the Program Been Offered?

It is always reassuring to know that a program has proven success year after year. However, do keep in mind that online or distance learning is a relatively new phenomenon. Before signing on to an online Master's Degree in Adult Education program, find out how long the program has been offered. If it has not been around long enough to attain accreditation, consider it a clear red flag.

What Technologies Will Be Used to Facilitate Online Learning?

Every school uses a different technology to facilitate learning, such as Moodle. Such online learning platforms include discussion boards and multimedia lectures. These virtual classrooms can be accessed online and usually do not require software installation. Some online learning environments are better than others, so it might be a good idea to review their system before signing on.

What Resources Will I Have Access To?

Many schools will often give students access to online databases and research centers. This is very handy, as you will be required to conduct a lot of research over the course of your Master's Degree in Adult Education program. Schools will also offer student services such as technology assistance, mentorship programs, and advising. It's always helpful to find out what resources will be available for you before signing on.

What Skills and Topics Are Covered?

Good schools, whether online or on-campus, will have an organized plan of what students should have learned and be able to do upon completion of the program. This is often referred to as student learning outcomes. These are statements that describe skills, knowledge, and ideas that students should have after successfully completing program requirements.

Do You Have Job Placement Information for Students Who Recently Graduated from the Program?

It's very helpful to know what graduates from a similar program have been able to do after acquiring their online Master's Degree in Adult Education. If given the opportunity to connect with alumni, find out how their online degree helped them reach career goals. Ask for advice regarding online learning and what to do after completion. Stay connected as networking is a great way to land a job after graduation.

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Is an Online Degree Right for You?

Online learning is a great option for students who are on the run and need to maintain a flexible schedule. Those who are independent learners and self-motivators may find success in online programs. However, distance learning may not be suitable for everyone. When exploring online programs, consider the following factors.

Flexible Schedule

As more students choose online programs, it seems one of the biggest appeals is the flexible schedule. In many cases, online students are returning students who have taken some time away from school. During their time away, they may have accumulated more work and family responsibilities. These responsibilities limit one's time and ability to attend traditional classes on a college campus. Distance learning does not require students to dramatically alter their daily schedule. Students can complete their school work whenever it fits into their schedules - that can be on a lunch break at work or late in the evening after putting the kids to bed.

Program Curriculum

Online classes should be comparable in rigor to traditional ones, if not more demanding. In a strong program, you will find:

  • Hard deadlines and accountability milestones that keep students on track - such as presentations or reading reflections.
  • Communal message boards and practicums to help you network and build career contacts.
  • Final cumulative thesis, project, or portfolio.

Faculty and Staff

The quality of teachers is extremely important for the success of a program. This is especially important in an online setting, where students cannot rely on face-to-face interactions. It's a good idea to read faculty profiles. It's a good sign if you notice some also teach on campus programs.

  • Are they full-time, tenured, part-time?
  • Are any of the teachers working on their own research? Have they published any of their studies or articles? Are they collaborating with campus partners?
  • What experiences do they have in the field they are teaching? You want teachers who have had real life experiences and who know the field inside and out.

It's usually not a good sign when programs have an overabundance of under-qualified adjuncts on their faculty.

Tuition and Costs

In general, online programs are cheaper than their traditional counterparts. A good idea would be to look at all the costs associated with earning a degree, both online and on campus. Once students are aware of the comparison, they can decide whether online learning is the best route for them. Here are some things to consider about distance learning:

  • Since students of online programs can study from home, they avoid costs associated with room and board as well as transportation.
  • Students can maintain a source of income.
  • You may not have to pay out-of-state fees.
  • Online schools tend to have less overhead, making them more affordable.

Fast Completion

A common upside we here about earning an online degree is the rate at which it can be completed. In many cases, students can earn a degree faster in an online setting than they would have been able to at a traditional college campus. With an accelerated online degree program, keep in mind that the courses may be more rigorous. Always review the requirements and make sure an online school is accredited before signing on.

Master's Program Course Topics

Many colleges and universities continue to expand their offerings for students working toward a master's degree in adult education. With the flexibility of part-time, online, or full-time study, these master's programs are held to the rigorous educational standards that the teaching profession demands. Programs do vary from school to school, as does each graduate student's scope of research interest, but studies will include:

  • Foundational theory regarding adult education as a distinct field of study, and as a framework through which to examine further pedagogical concepts and practices
  • How to foster collaborative and learner-directed inquiry as it applies to adult education
  • A comparative component discussing how adults learn as compared to younger students
  • The ESL adult learner and differentiating between language acquisition and instruction
  • How to create effective programming and assessment for adult learners with special learning requirements and diagnoses
  • Success criteria for developing and implementing effective curricula for adult learners, focusing around learner engagement
  • Success criteria for developing and implementing effective assessment and evaluative methods for adult learners
  • Addressing issues, existing practices and best practices in the adult learning environment
  • Facilitating meaningful communication between adult learner and adult educator
  • How to incorporate useful pedagogical strategies as an adult learner and graduate student as learned throughout the graduate program
  • Developing techniques of research and inquiry; using said techniques to create knowledge and further research in the field of adult education
  • Enable graduate students to apply emerging evaluative skills to areas of current research and scholarship
  • Engage in analysis of complex issues and formulate a strategy to empower the adult learner based on existing principles and techniques
  • Develop and support a sustained and original written argument or thesis
  • Criteria on applying research to a graduate student's practical and original practice in the classroom
  • Deployment of professional initiative, as well as responsibility and accountability in professional practice
  • Hone decision-making rubrics as they apply to complex situations
  • Reinforce the need for self-governance and continuing professional development
  • Underscore ethics in study and practice; students will appreciate research conduct
  • How to apply knowledge gained to particular situations, students and issues
  • Communicate ideas, problems and solutions regarding research and practice in a compelling, concise and accurate manner
  • Become increasingly aware of limits of self-knowledge as it applies to both theory and practice in the classroom

What Can I Do with a Master's in Adult Education?

A Master's Degree in Adult Education opens the doors to many career opportunities. Below are some common paths graduates take.


Many Adult Education graduates go into a career of teaching adults in a classroom setting at colleges, universities, vocational schools, community colleges, and other educational establishments. Find out more on how to become a college professor.


Those with a Master's Degree in Adult Education may also seek work as an administrator in order to help manage faculty, staff, and school curriculum.

Adult Counselor

Adult Education graduates also tend to enter the field of Adult Counseling. Adult counselors work with clients at a variety of levels including crisis management, family counseling, and financial counseling.

Workplace Education

Adult Education graduates also become involved in education departments in settings such as healthcare organizations, human resources departments, training departments in business, and education departments in organizations for religion.

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Professional Organizations

In order to stay up-to-date and connected within your field, it may be a good idea to learn about affiliated organizations, such as the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE). The AAACE is dedicated to the belief that lifelong learning impacts human fulfillment and positive social change. Such organizations organize conferences, webinars, and expos to help their members network and continuously grow professionally.