Earning a Doctorate in Adult Education Online

Browse our ranking of the top online doctorate in adult education programs in the country, and learn how to take your next steps to a better career in adult education today.

Should I Pursue a Doctorate in Adult Education Online?

Students completing adult education doctoral programs online explore adult learning and factors that impact education. Graduates often apply this knowledge to work with English as a second language (ESL) learners. Graduates can help non-native speakers develop English literacy, prepare adults for high school equivalency examinations, and teach students at the college level. Doctoral degrees also qualify professionals for administrative positions at postsecondary institutions.

Graduates can also teach at trade and vocational schools. However, these positions may require additional skills. For example, a welding teacher should excel at welding. Less traditional career paths include positions as technical writers who create adult education pamphlets, articles, and books. Graduates can also become study guide writers and work with standardized test resources.

Professionals in this field help adult learners develop skills for professional success, whether through basic skills or vocational trades. Adult educators should boast patience and strong communication skills.

Employment Outlook for Doctorate in Adult Education Graduates

Earning an online adult education doctoral degree prepares graduates for careers in a variety of settings, such as colleges, vocational schools, and technical programs. Students learn about adult behavior and development, and they explore teaching, assessment, and motivational techniques for guiding adults. Each career path includes its own responsibilities, salary potential, and growth expectations.

Doctorate in Adult Education Careers

Students in online adult education doctoral degree programs should enjoy helping others learn new concepts. Graduates can help non-native speakers develop English literacy, train adults to succeed in a particular field, and prepare learners to earn high school equivalency diplomas.

These educators may teach multiple subjects. For example, high school equivalency diploma teachers teach common examination subjects, such as math and English. However, postsecondary educators teach courses in their specific discipline. Graduates pursuing any career in the field should understand adult development and behavior in order to determine applicable teaching methods.

Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers

Annual Median Salary: $53,630
Job Growth Outlook: -5%

These educators help adults prepare for careers and high school equivalency exams. These professionals teach math, science, and English concepts, and they develop lesson plans and help learners improve study habits. These positions typically require a bachelor's degree. However, a doctorate in the field can help job seekers stand out.

Career and Technical Education Teachers

Annual Median Salary: $56,750
Job Growth Outlook: 4%

These teachers help students enhance their skills in a particular area, such as mechanics, welding, or hair styling. Candidates must design course outlines and ensure classroom safety while students become familiar with trade tools. Additional responsibilities include reviewing assignments. Although career and technical education teachers can work in K-12 classrooms, earning a doctorate in adult education online prepares candidates to teach career and technical skills to adults.

Postsecondary Teachers

Annual Median Salary: $78,470
Job Growth Outlook: 15%

Postsecondary educators create course outlines and teach classes at colleges and universities. These educators may also publish research, help students choose courses, provide feedback on assignments, and suggest departmental curriculum changes. Institutions typically require postsecondary educators to hold a doctorate. Professionals with an online adult education doctorate may teach several education courses each term.

Vocational Education Teachers, Postsecondary

Annual Median Salary: $53,120
Job Growth Outlook: N/A

Vocational education teachers help students learn skills by providing training and creating lesson plans. These educators may work at trade schools, colleges, and government organizations. Students earning an online adult education doctorate receive training in education methods and techniques that they can apply to these positions.

What Can I Expect From an Online Doctorate in Adult Education Program?

The exact components of online adult education doctoral programs vary among schools. Programs offer different concentrations, which can alter course requirements. Additionally, programs may require different application materials, credits, and capstone experiences, such as dissertations and fieldwork. Although curricula vary, the classes below are common to many doctoral programs in the field.

Curriculum for an Online Doctoral Degree in Adult Education

Introduction to Adult Education

This course covers the history of adult education, along with current issues and future considerations in the field. Learners explore methodologies for teaching adults and examine relevant programs, laws, and policies. Students may also learn how to motivate adult students in educational settings, preparing for careers as postsecondary and vocational teachers.

The Adult Learner

This class helps students understand adult behavior in relation to education by exploring theories, teaching strategies, and learning models for adult education. Coursework may encourage self-reflection and investigate the influence of life experiences on education. This class prepares students to work as career and technical education teachers.

Adult Literacy

Students examine methods for teaching adults to read and write as adult literacy teaching educators. This course may focus on teaching learners who are at least 16 years old and often explores the influence of family and culture on learning, particularly for ESL students.

Program Planning for Adults

Learners explore the significance of planning in adult education, and they examine evaluation methods, models, and teaching techniques. This course also reviews educational policies and may focus on helping students develop tools to work in colleges or vocational schools. Graduates can apply this knowledge to develop course outlines as adult, postsecondary, and vocational teachers.

Learning Theories

Students explore theories that relate to education and development for adults by considering cultural, cognitive, and sociological factors. This class may apply these concepts to the education of small or large groups. Students prepare to evaluate and encourage adult learners, and graduates can apply these skills to careers in postsecondary, vocational, and general adult education.

Certifications and Licenses a Doctorate in Adult Education Prepares For

  • Teaching Certification: Some positions, such as career and education technical teaching roles, may require a state-issued teaching certification for employment with public or government organizations. Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers may also need this certification. Steps for earning this credential vary by state but typically include earning a bachelor's degree, completing field experience, and passing an examination.
  • ESL Certification: Adult literacy educators may assist non-native speakers who are learning to read and write English. Educators at vocational, technical, and postsecondary institutions may also help students gain English proficiency. Individuals in these positions often benefit from ESL certification. Requirements for this certification vary by state but often include gaining experience and passing an examination.

Professional Organizations & Resources

Professional organizations host meetings and conferences that can help members explore new concepts in adult education and network with others in the field. These professional connections may provide information on career possibilities and lead to recommendation letters. Organizations may also offer training programs and workshops, which can fulfill continuing education requirements for teaching licenses and certifications. Members often receive access to field journals, discounts, and job listings.

  • American Association for Adult and Continuing Education: AAACE offers field journals, including Adult Education Quarterly and Adult Learning. The association also hosts an annual conference and provides information about open positions. Members can benefit from discounted insurance rates through companies such as GEICO.

  • International Council for Adult Education: Founded in 1972, ICAE provides advocacy resources and webinars on international adult education topics. The council also connects readers to field publications, such as Voices Rising.

  • Coalition on Adult Basic Education: COABE delivers several conferences, including a yearly virtual meeting. Candidates can view webinars and submit articles for publication in the COABE Journal. The group also offers teaching resources.

  • The Adult Higher Education Alliance: AHEA delivers a yearly conference for adult education professionals. The alliance also hosts the Adult Education Interview Series and connects site viewers to external organizations, such as the National Library of Education.

  • Council for Adult and Experiential Learning: Members can attend CAEL's conference, which includes live speakers and awards. The council provides resources on topics such as policy and career development, along with training workshops and the career and education advising certification.

  • The LINCS System: LINCS connects site viewers to resources on program management and teaching. The organization provides an adult education collection that covers topics such as ESL literacy and distance education.

  • Adult Learning Resource Center: The ALRC offers professional development options for adult educators. The center hosts the Every Student Succeeds Act Conference each year, along with events that focus on ESL learning.

  • GED Testing Service: Adult education teachers often help students prepare for high school equivalency exams, such as the GED. This resource provides test information, classes, and practice tests that can shape lesson plans.

  • Texas Association for Literacy and Adult Education: TALAE hosts events and connects site viewers with professional development opportunities, such as the North Consortium Regional Professional Development Event. The association also offers student and educator awards. Professionals outside of Texas can find similar organizations in their states.

  • Adult Education Quarterly: This journal explores field concepts, such as the impact of technology on adult education. Site viewers can browse reviews of field-related books, and candidates can submit articles for publication.