Teacher, Adult Literacy or Remedial Education

Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers instruct adults in basic skills, such as reading, writing, and speaking English. They also help students earn their high school diploma.

Interest Area: 
Helping
Average Yearly Pay: 
$44520
Education Needed: 
Bachelor's Degree
Employment: 
Growing as Fast as the Average
Job Growth: 
15%
Job Prospects: 
Good

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Job Duties: 

Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers typically do the following:

  • Evaluate students’ strengths and weaknesses
  • Plan and teach lessons to help students gain the knowledge and skills needed to meet their goals, such as learning English or earning their high school diploma
  • Emphasize skills that will help students find jobs, such as learning English words and common phrases used in the workplace
  • Work with students individually to challenge them and overcome their weaknesses
  • Assess students for possible learning disabilities
  • Monitor students’ progress toward their goals
  • Help students develop study skills
  • Connect students to other resources in their community, such as mental health services or job placement services
  • Career Overview: 

    Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers instruct adults in basic skills, such as reading, writing, and speaking English. They also help students earn their high school diploma.

    Duties

    Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers typically do the following:

    • Evaluate students’ strengths and weaknesses
    • Plan and teach lessons to help students gain the knowledge and skills needed to meet their goals, such as learning English or earning their high school diploma
    • Emphasize skills that will help students find jobs, such as learning English words and common phrases used in the workplace
    • Work with students individually to challenge them and overcome their weaknesses
    • Assess students for possible learning disabilities
    • Monitor students’ progress toward their goals
    • Help students develop study skills
    • Connect students to other resources in their community, such as mental health services or job placement services

    Before students enter these education programs, their educational level and skills are assessed. Sometimes the teachers do this assessment, but in many cases another staff member does it. The teacher then uses information from the assessment and information about the student’s goals to develop an individualized educational program.

    Teachers must formally evaluate their students periodically to determine their progress and potential to go on to the next level. However, they informally evaluate their students’ progress continually.

    Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers often have students of various levels in their classes. As a result, teachers need to use teaching strategies and methods that meet all of their students’ needs. In addition, teachers focus on helping students develop skills they need in the workplace. For example, they may teach students how to read a contract or how to estimate the cost of materials needed to remodel a kitchen. Teachers may also prepare adult learners for further education. Teachers may work with students in classes or tutor them one-on-one.

    There are three basic types of education that adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers provide:

    Adult basic education classes teach students the basics of reading, writing, and math. Students often enter these classes at or below an eighth-grade level in these subjects. Students generally are 16 years or older and need to gain proficiency in these skills to improve their job situation.

    High school equivalency and adult secondary education classes prepare students to take the test to earn the equivalent of a high school diploma. Sometimes these classes help students finish the credits necessary for them to earn a high school diploma. Some programs are combined with career preparation programs so that students can earn a high school diploma and a career-related credential at the same time.

    Passing the a high school equivalency exam means passing five tests: reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies. In addition, adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers help their students improve their skills in communicating, critical thinking, and problem solving—skills they will need for further education and successful careers.

    English as a Second Language (ESL) classes teach students to read, write, and speak English. These classes are sometimes also called English for speakers of other languages (ESOL). People in these classes are immigrants to the United States and others whose native language is not English.

    ESL teachers often focus on helping their students with practical vocabulary for jobs and daily living. They also may focus on preparing their students to take the citizenship exam.

    In one class, an ESL teacher may have students from many different countries and cultures. Because the ESL teacher and the students may not share a common native language, ESL teachers must be creative in fostering communication in the classroom to achieve their education goals.

    Work Environment: 

    Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers held about 77,400 jobs in 2012.

    Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers are often employed by community colleges, community-based organizations, and public schools. Some work in prisons.

    The industries that employed the most adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers in 2012 were as follows:

    Junior colleges; state, local, and private 29%
    Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 28
    Other schools and instruction; state, local, and private 11
    Health care and social assistance 8
    Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 5

    Students in adult literacy and high school equivalency programs attend classes by choice. As a result, they are often highly motivated, which can make teaching them rewarding and satisfying.

    Work Schedules

    Classes are held at times when students are not at work, so many teachers work in the mornings and evenings. Many adult education teachers work part time.

    Education and Training: 

    Most adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Employers typically prefer workers who have some teaching experience, which they can get through teaching children or adults.

    Education

    Most states require adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Although a bachelor’s degree in any field is acceptable, some employers, such as community colleges, prefer to hire those with a master’s degree or graduate coursework in adult education or English as a second language (ESL).

    Master’s degrees in adult education prepare prospective teachers to use effective teaching strategies for adult learners, to work with students from various backgrounds, and to develop adult education programs. Some programs allow these prospective teachers to specialize in adult basic education, secondary education, or ESL.

    Some colleges and universities offer master’s degrees or graduate certificates in teaching adult education or English for speakers of other languages (ESOL). Programs help prospective teachers learn how to teach adults, work with learners from a variety of cultures, and learn how to teach adults with learning disabilities.

    Programs in English as a second language not only help these prospective teachers understand how adults learn languages, but also prepare them to teach communication skills. Prospective ESL teachers should take courses or training in linguistics and theories of how people learn second languages. Knowledge of a second language is not necessary to teach ESL, but it is helpful to understand what students are going through.

    Many adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers take professional development classes to ensure that they keep up with the latest research in teaching adults and improve their teaching skills.

    Other Experience

    Most employers require workers to have a few years of experience teaching. However, experience can be gained through teaching either children or adults.

    Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

    Some states require adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers to have a teaching certificate to work in government-run programs. Some states have certificates specifically for adult education. Other states require teachers to have a certificate in elementary or secondary education. To obtain a license, adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers typically need a bachelor’s degree and must have passed an approved teacher-training program. For more information, contact the state director of adult education. Contact information can be found from the U.S. Department of Education.

    Training

    In order to receive certification or licensure, teachers need to perform fieldwork, commonly referred to as student teaching. During student teaching, they work with a mentor teacher and get experience teaching students in a classroom setting. The amount of time required varies by state.

    Important Qualities

    Communication skills. Teachers must collaborate with other teachers and program administrators. In addition, they talk to students about their progress and goals, and must explain concepts in terms that students can understand.

    Cultural sensitivity. Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers must be able to work with students from a variety of cultural, educational, and economic backgrounds. They must be understanding and respectful of their students’ backgrounds and be familiar with their concerns.

    Patience. Working with students of different abilities and backgrounds can be difficult. Teachers must be patient when students struggle with material.                                   

    Resourcefulness. Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers need to be able to respond to difficult situations and think on their feet. For example, they need to be able to alter their teaching methods to meet the needs of each student they teach and find ways to keep students engaged in learning.

    Pay: 

    The median annual wage for adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers was $48,590 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,460, and the top 10 percent earned more than $82,490.

    Classes are held at times when students are not at work, so many teachers work in the mornings and evenings. Many adult education teachers work part time.

    Job Outlook: 

    Employment of adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth is expected as a result of continued immigration to the United States and demand for adult education programs.

    From 2012 to 2022, the number of Americans who need adult education is expected to continue to increase. Some adults leave high school before getting their high school diploma and seek their diploma or its equivalent through an adult education program.

    In addition, traditional schooling does not always give some adults the literacy or other skills they need to find employment. These students often seek to improve their skills in adult education programs later in life. Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers will be needed to instruct them and to run adult education programs.

    Some immigrants do not speak English and will want to improve their communications skills to find jobs in the United States. Adult literacy teachers who teach classes in English as a second language will be needed to help these students gain the required skills.                                   

    Job Prospects

    Many positions for this occupation are part time, and full-time positions are uncommon and difficult to find. As a result, prospects will be best for workers who are willing and able to take a part-time position.

    For More Information: 

    For more information about adult education in your state, visit

    U.S. Department of Education