An online Master's in Adult Education is the first step that educators must take in order to be able to teach adults who are either earning their GED or moving into higher education through an online format. With more than 39 million Americans that have dropped out of high school and many more Americans deciding on continuing their education as adults, the need for specially trained adult educators has risen. And one of the best ways to earn a degree in this field is online.
Online degrees are more affordable and offer more flexibility than traditional degrees, making it a great choice for working professionals juggling a career, family life, and entertaining the idea of continuing their education. Courses are often delivered asynchronously and many more schools are enabling students to take their education with them on the go; several programs utilize mobile versions of their onboarding system. For professionals, it makes sense to seriously consider this format, which is why this ranking was created.
The research needed to create this ranking was found and collected via the National Center for Education Statistics. From an initial pool of 45 high-quality schools, 10 made the final cut. They are listed below in descending order based on the school's in-state graduate tuition rates.
Ranking Low-cost Adult Education Master's
10. University of South Florida
Online Master of Arts in Adult Education
The University of South Florida confers a Master's in Adult Education online degree that is designed for non-educators who do not hold a teaching license in the state of Florida. It was designed as a non-licensure online program and will not lead to teaching certification in any state. This is a 100 percent online program that delivers courses asynchronously and in a 16-week term. It can be completed in as little as two years with full-time study. The core and concentration curriculum focuses heavily on adult education theories and concepts, with additional focus placed on research. Students can expect to complete 36 credit hours of coursework, a thesis or a creative project, and a comprehensive exam; a practicum is available as an elective and is highly encouraged for most students. Sample courses include Foundations of Adult Education, Methods of Teaching Adults, and Curriculum Construction in Adult Education.
9. University of Arkansas
Online Master of Education in Adult and Lifelong Learning
Students at the University of Arkansas will have a chance to participate in a 100 percent online Master's in Adult Education. This is a non-thesis program that does not require a GRE or MAT for application purposes. This program can lead to adult education licensure, provided their state of residency allows for an out-of-state education to be considered. The curriculum focuses on research methods and core theories and concepts of adult education. This program is offered entirely online and does not require a thesis for graduation; students will instead be required to complete an applied project and a comprehensive exam. Additionally, students can complete an internship, which would provide ample work experience; it is optional but highly encouraged. Students will also be expected to complete 33 credit hours of coursework for this degree. Sample courses include Adult and Lifelong Learning, Technology and Innovation in Adult Learning, and Managing Change in Adult and Lifelong Learning.
8. Troy University
Online Master of Science in Adult Education – Instruction Technology
Troy University confers an adult education master's online degree that was designed for professionals who already work with adults in an educational setting, such as job training or advising roles. This degree comes with three concentrations: Curriculum and Instructional Design, Instructional Technology, and Leadership Studies. This 100 percent online program is delivered asynchronously and in an eight-week term format; therefore, it can be completed in as little as one year with full-time study. This is a non-licensure program; students interested in licensure should check with their state regulations in order to fulfill all of the requirements. Students will be expected to complete 36 credit hours of coursework, a research paper, a thesis or a capstone, and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Social Context of Adult Education, Adult Learning and Development, and Foundations of Adult Education.
7. University of Idaho
Online Master of Science in Adult Organizational Learning and Leadership
Students at the University of Idaho are treated to an online Master's in Adult Learning that focuses on organizational learning and leadership. This is a 100 percent online program that can also be taken in a hybrid format. Practicums and internships are not required for this degree but are offered as options for online students; these electives can be completed in a student's community. Students will also have the choice of taking on a thesis or non-thesis option, which will change the nature of their final project while in the program. The curriculum has a strong focus on leadership and adult education concepts as well as providing advanced courses in instructional design and curriculum. Students will be expected to complete 33 credit hours of coursework, a final project of their choice, and a comprehensive written exam; the program can be completed in as little as 18 months with full-time study. Sample courses include Adult and Transformational Learning, Instructional Design and Curriculum, and Future of Education and Work.
6. University of West Alabama
Online Master of Science in Adult Continuing Education
The University of West Alabama provides students with an online Master's in Adult Education that provides maximum flexibility for their needs. This degree is a non-licensure program and will not lead to teacher certification; it is best suited for students who are interested in working as adult instructors in professional settings. The program at UWA is 100 percent online, delivered asynchronously, and structured in an eight-week format. Students who choose to attend school full-time will find that they can complete all of the requirements needed for this degree in one year. Students will be expected to complete 33 credit hours of coursework, a capstone project, and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Techniques of Educational Research, Educational Statistics, and Advanced Educational Psychology.
5. University of Houston at Victoria
Online Master of Education in Adult and Higher Education – Adult Education Track
Students at the University of Houston at Victoria will find an online adult education master's degree that is built for professionals who work, or who want to work, in community or educational settings; please note that this degree is non-licensure and will not lead to teacher certification. Students will find a 100 percent online program that delivers courses asynchronously and synchronously in a ten-week format. Those who study full-time can complete all the requirements in 18 months; part-time students can expect to complete degree requirements in just over two years. Students will be expected to complete 36 credit hours of coursework, a research paper, an internship, and a comprehensive written exam; the internship can be completed in a student's community. Sample classes include Self-Directed learning, Diversity in Adult Education, and Educational Leadership in Organizations.
4. Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Online Master of Arts in Adult Learning and Development
The Northwestern State University of Louisiana offers a 100 percent online program that is perfect for professionals who have a background in working with adult learners. The curriculum is aligned with the guidelines set forth by the Commission of Professors of Adult Education and provides three concentrations: e-Learnings, Adult and Workforce Development, and Homeland Security. This degree alone will not lead to licensure or certification as a teacher but can be used in certain states to satisfy their board of education's requirements to sit for the exam; students are encouraged to research this possibility if it is a career goal. Students can expect to complete 33 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Instructional Curriculum and Design, Foundations of Adult Education, and Technology Advancements in the Classroom.
3. Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas
Online Master of Science in Educational Human Resource Development
Students at Texas A&M University have a unique alternative to the Master's in Adult Education. The Master of Science in Educational Human Resource Development was created to prepare adult educators who are interested in working in a variety of different educational settings. This is a 100 percent degree which delivers courses through synchronous means. Students will find that this degree does not lead to licensure and was not created to prepare professionals for teacher certification. The curriculum has a stated focus on adult education as a means to improve a learner's life through work and personal evolution. This degree requires 33 credit hours, a research paper, and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Evaluation Models in Human Resource Development, Program Development in Adult Education, and Adult Education, Globalization, and Social Justice.
2. East Carolina University
Greenville, North Carolina
Online Master of Arts in Education – Adult Education
East Carolina University offers a cheap adult education master's degree that was designed for professionals already working in adult education settings. This program is conferred entirely online with the help of asynchronous courses and an eight-week term schedule. Students should note that it is possible to take on a non-thesis option for this degree; however, a thesis is strongly encouraged for those who are pursuing doctoral education. An internship is also possible for this degree and while it is optional, it is recommended for students who do not have prior experience in the field. This degree requires 36 credit hours of coursework, a research project, a final project, and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Introduction to Adult and Community Education, Development of Adult Education Programs, and Instructional Strategies in Adult Education.
1. Texas A&M University at Kingsville
Online Master of Education in Adult Education
Students at Texas A&M University at Kingsville offers students an online Master's in Adult Education that will fulfill their goal of working in educational settings with adult learners. Please note that this degree does not lead to licensure and will not be accepted as a viable degree to sit for teacher licensure. This is a 100 percent online degree that delivers all courses online through both asynchronous and synchronous formats and on a traditional 16-week term schedule or accelerated eight-week schedule. Students who study part-time can complete this degree in just two years; full-time students can complete it in just one year. This degree requires 36 credit hours of coursework, a research practicum, and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Curriculum and Program Planning in Adult Education, Evaluation and Measurement in Adult Education, and Adult Learning and Development.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for an Online Master's in Adult Education Degree?
There is a large range of career options for professionals who graduate with an online Master's in Adult Education. From providing high school and adult learners with the adequate education for the GED to teaching in community colleges around the country, here are just some of the positions that these professionals can take on:
- GED Diploma Teacher
- Adult Education Instructor
- Adult Curriculum and Design Specialist
- Adult Literacy Teacher
- Community Education Instructor
- Training and Development Manager
- Postsecondary Instructor
- Adult Program Coordinator
- ESL Adult Educator
- Professional Training Consultant
These professionals can work in a variety of settings, including community and educational settings, but they can also work in the professional world. With so many industries requiring their workers to undergo continuing education, it is possible to find employment in both the private and public sectors. It's also important to note that many organizations also need bilingual and working professional educators, ensuring that their employees are taught by educators who understand the culture or profession. A professional need only choose a sector and begin applying to find employment.
How Much Can You Earn in this Field?
The salary range for adult education is $35,000 to $75,000. This range accounts for a professional's area of residency, career position, and whether or not a student has earned a teacher licensure in their state.
Professionals should keep in mind that a master's degree in the field has little effect on salaries. What makes a difference is if a student holds a teaching license in their state, as the highest-paid professionals are those who work in postsecondary educational settings. Students will also find that private sector positions, such as in a training program for a large corporation, can have a positive impact on their salary.
What are the Various Disciplines of Adult Education?
There are several disciplines within adult education, the main discipline being education. Others include the following:
- Curriculum Design
- Organizational Leadership
Many professionals who take on this degree may also find that they must contend with other disciplines; this is especially true for educators who work in professional training programs or in community settings. These may include diversity and inclusion, social justice, business, economics, human resources management, and many more.
Why isn't Teacher Licensure Offered for this Online Degree?
Teacher licensure is a professional distinction that, while can be offered through most master's in education programs, is difficult to find in this particular field. That's because, in America, teaching licensure requirements vary from state to state while also holding a requirement that a student earns their graduate degree in a traditional format. Additionally, many professionals who take on this degree have no intention of teaching in a classroom.
While the above is a simplistic view, when professionals go deeper, they can see why it is difficult to find an online Master's in Adult Education program that provides a clear pathway to licensure.
First, the requirements for teaching licensure in all states require practicum hours; the exact amount varies from state to state. This means that many of the students who apply for this program would be required to take on hundreds of hours of practicum experience, which is usually impossible at the graduate level. The states also require regional and specialized accreditation, which is not available for adult education programs at this time.
The second requirement is that in some cases, states prefer a student take a degree traditionally in their home state. This is because online graduate education programs are very easy to come by but may not satisfy the requirements for licensure in a student's home state. By requiring that graduate students that do not hold a teaching license to earn their degree in the state, the Board of Education can be assured that the student is getting a quality degree.
Finally, many professionals who enter into this program already work with adult learners. These professionals generally come from a variety of community and professional settings that have enabled them to begin the work of being an adult educator. That's why so many of them are not interested in earning teaching licensure; the only exception is those who wish to teach at the community college level, and they most often take on another degree.
It is possible to find programs, such as a few on this ranking, that do offer a clear pathway towards licensure. These programs have aligned themselves with the requirements of the school's home state in order to do so; therefore, these programs may only provide a pathway to students in that state.
Why Do Some Programs Encourage or Require Adult Education Internships ?
Internships and practicums, which are also known as work placements, are an important step in every educator's educational process. This is for several reasons, not least of all that working in real-world scenarios gives students the best chance to connect theories and concepts to an applied field.
Many programs, including several on this list, encourage or require work placements for professionals who do not have a work or educational background in teaching. These placements generally last for one term and are part-time, making it easier for online students to participate in the work experience without having to adjust their own work schedule.
A lot of emphasis should be put on the fact that most of these programs only encourage, but do not require, work placements. This is because placements can be a burden to students and may be a factor in their decision not to pursue higher education. Additionally, these programs are generally taken on by those who have previous experience working with adult learners, so a work placement may be redundant.
Students curious about work placements should contact a school they are interested in and ask about the internship requirements. This will give them a good idea of what they can expect should they choose to apply for the program.
Educators who specialize in adult education are part of a growing movement to continue education even after people leave traditional schooling. Through advancements in technology, it has become clear that online education will play a massive role in how people come to higher education. Now that professionals have an online Master's in Adult Education available to them, they can move into the field backed by an accredited degree.