How to Become an Adult Education Instructor


Becoming an adult education instructor typically requires expertise in a chosen field, which may consist of education and/or work experience. It is an excellent part-time pursuit for some working professionals or retired individuals, and an excellent full-time career for others.


If you want to work as an adult education instructor, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. Does the following describe you?


• You have expertise and passion in a chosen field

• You are self-confident and aren’t paralyzed with fear at the though of public speaking

• You have a keen interest in promoting life-long learning

• You are able to create an environment in which students feel comfortable learning and participating


Below we've outlined what you'll need to get started down this career path. We've also included helpful information for this occupation, such as job description, salary expectations, required skills, required education, a list of employer types, and much more!



Education You'll Need

The type and level of education required to become an adult education instructor can vary as widely as the industry's scope, and typically vary based on the following factors:


• Whether the class is of formal or informal structure

• Whether the class being taught is recreational, vocational or academic

• To what depth the subject matter is being covered


For example, the educational requirements for an instructor teaching an informal adult class about recreational cooking hosted by a local restaurant will vary substantially from those required of a university professor teaching a formal continuing education course on quantum mechanics.


Informal Education Instruction: Since there is no accrediting or certifying body for most non-formal adult education options, the knowledge you posses in your field of specialty (typically represented by a combination of education and work experience) will determine whether or not you are qualified. Potential employers in non-formal settings will often want to see proof of formal training and/or experience, which may be in the form of a resume, work portfolios and recommendations. 


Formal Education Instruction: To work in a formal adult education setting, such as instructing classes of a vocational or academic nature, you may need the same qualifications required of an instructor in a college or university setting specific to that area of study. However, depending on the nature of the class being taught, a bachelor’s degree combined with certification or a diploma in your area of specialty may be sufficient.


For example, those who teach English as a Second Language (ESL) in a college may be required to have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field (such as English, Education, or a similar field) combined with certification in teaching ESL from a recognized institution. 





What is an Adult Education Instructor?

An adult education instructor is an individual involved in the teaching, training, skills development and program development of any adult educational program. Adult education is a diverse field that can be divided into many sub-fields. It includes both formal and informal education programs, as well as programs that are self-enriching, recreational, vocational or academic in nature.


Adult education programs can range from cooking classes and wine-tasting classes offered by local restaurants, to corporate training programs for employees, to English as a Second Language (ESL) classes offered by an online or local college. Adult education programs may be administered and taught in a variety of settings, including:


• University or college campuses

• Community colleges

• Elementary and high schools

• Adult learning centres

• Municipal recreation programs

• Corporate training facilities and meeting rooms

• Community centres and places of worship

• Local businesses

• Online

• Someone’s home



Adult Education Instructor Job Description

Adult education instructors are responsible for teaching adult education classes in an area in which they are experts. The types of classes they instruct can in scope, and include classes for self-enrichment or recreation, as well as vocational, academic or professional development. These classes may also vary in duration, ranging from a one-time 2-hour course, to a year-long certification course.


In addition to instructing adult education classes, adult education instructors may be responsible for identifying, acquiring and preparing learning and course materials, and may also be responsible for curriculum development. Their exact job description typically depends on factors such as the size and type of their employer, and their level of expertise, their area of expertise, the duration of the course, and other factors. 



General Job Duties

The job duties for adult education instructors can vary, typically depending on the academic or professional level at which they instruct, and many other factors. In general however, those working in this field are responsible for performing the following duties:


• Provide educational instruction that produces student academic or vocational improvement in a specific field of study

• Create learning activities that are interactive and hands-on for different delivery modes both online and in the classroom

• Apply instructional strategies and select appropriate educational technologies that maximize the learning experience

• Create a safe, encouraging and challenging environment that promotes respect and values diversity

• Conduct student assessment and testing, educational or vocational goal setting, and options counseling to students

• Develop and submit learning documentation and progress forms, such as lesson plans and testing results

• Notify supervisors or school administrators of support services that students may require

• Complete and submit various forms such as materials requisition forms, timesheets and other required documents

• May perform public relations activities, such as flyer disbursement and presentations to employers and community groups



What Kind of Employers Are There?

Adult education instructors may be employed on a part-time, full-time or contractual basis. They may work from a ‘brick and mortar’ location, or they may instruct classes online, from the comfort of their own home. The following types of organizations employ adult education instructors:


Local Businesses: Any type of local business might offer instructional classes that relate to their product or service. For example, local restaurants may hire adult education instructors to instruct cooking classes, or home improvement stores may hire them to instruct home improvement classes.


Municipal Government Agencies: Municipal governments might teach classes relating to recreation and leisure, such as a class on how to paddle board, as well as classes relating to administrative initiatives, such as classes on responsible pet ownership.


Universities and Colleges: Institutions of higher education (including community colleges) often have a wide range of both self-enrichment and continuing education courses.


Community Centres: Community centers (such as seniors’ centres) often teach specialty recreation and self-enrichment courses for patrons of all ages, including various art and performing skills, as well as outdoor recreation activities.


Non-Profit Organizations: Charitable organizations often teach classes and host educational seminars based on topics related to their overall mission. For example, animal rescue societies often teach classes to the public regarding the perils of pet overpopulation, and responsible pet ownership.


Professional Associations: Many professional associations administer adult education programs, typically either for continuing education purposes, or certification purposes. For example, real estate associations (certifying bodies) administer and instruct classes that are mandatory for those wishing to become a licensed realtor, or maintain their license, in a specific area.


Elementary and High Schools: Many public schools have self-enrichment, recreational, vocational and academic classes for adults at night or on weekends., such as dance, music classes or English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.


Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities: Healthcare facilities and private healthcare practitioners often offer workshops on various health related topics, such as health and wellness, dental care, parenting, grieving and nutrition.


Health Clubs and Gyms: Most health clubs, recreational facilities and gyms offer classes in yoga, dance-based fitness, racquet sports, swimming and other health, fitness and sporting activities.





Characteristics Needed to Be Successful

In order to enjoy performing the duties of an adult education instructor, you need to have certain personality traits, including:


• A passion for area of expertise and students

• An interest in encouraging life-long learning

• Able to create an environment in which students feel comfortable learning and participating

• Able to work well in a multicultural environment and demonstrate respect for other values and cultures

• Self-confidence and the ability to speak publicly

• Enjoy coordinating information

• Enjoy supervising and evaluating student progress



Skills Needed

In order to be effective as an adult education instructor you need to posses a certain set of skills, including:


• Effective verbal communication (and the ability to physically demonstrate, when applicable)

• Experience and a diverse knowledge base in chosen area

• Excellent organizational skills; needed for preparing course materials and keeping track of student progress

• Able to prepare course materials that engage a wide variety of people

• Able to effectively manage a classroom

• Able to effectively use instructional technologies



Typical Salary Level

The salary level of adult education instructors can vary as much as the subjects and academic levels they teach. Salaries can range from unpaid volunteer work, to hundreds of dollars an hour, typically depending on the following factors:


• The region in which they work

• The size and type of their employer

• Whether the adult education class is formal or informal

• Their level of education, experience and expertise

• The academic level at which they teach

• The subject matter they teach

• How much time they spend teaching adult education courses during the year


There is no salary information available from reliable sources specifically for the career Adult Education Instructor. We can however, get a good idea of what they earn by looking at the salary levels of workers in closely related occupations.


Salary - Alberta: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the College and Other Vocational Instructors occupational group earn an average salary of $67,814 per year.


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers occupational group is $48,590 per year.



Work Environment

Working Hours: Adult education instructors may work a wide variety of different schedules; some may work normal, weekday working hours, while others may work in the evenings and weekends. Others still may switch between the two.


Their working hours can also vary in amount, as some may work as little as one hour per week, while others may work as much as full-time hours, as well as overtime hours. Some adult education instructors pursue this career for a full-time living, while others work part-time and may be retired individuals, or working professionals who hold full-time positions elsewhere.


Work Setting: The work setting of adult education instructors can vary greatly, and largely depends on the needs of the class, and the facilities available, as well as the size of the class being instructed (adult education classes may vary in size from one-on-one tutoring, to classes of more than 30 people). Adult education classes may be taught in a variety of environments, including:


• Academic environments, such as public schools, language centres and private institutes

• Community facilities, such as community centres, churches, temples and synagogues

• Job sites, such as factories, hospitals, restaurants, hotels and offices

• Outdoors (on the river, sports fields, community spaces)

• Online 



Adult Education Instruction Jobs

Our job board below has "Adult Education Instructor" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.





Similar Career Fields in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Adult Education Instructor, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Early Childhood Educator

ESL Teacher


High School Teacher




Interview with an Adult Educator

Do you want to hear what a career as an adult education instructor is like, from the perspective of someone working in the field? Read the interview we've conducted with Teresa, a music instructor in Edmonton, Alberta.



References for This Career Guide

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as an adult education instructor.


Occupations in Alberta:College, Technical or Vocational Instructor.” (March 9, 2016). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved October 18, 2019.

Continuing Studies:Adult and Continuing Education.” (n.d.). University of Victoria website. Retrieved October 18, 2019.

Occupational Outlook Handbook - Education, Training, and Library:Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers.” (September 4, 2019). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved October 18, 2019.



Relevant Scholarships for This Career

Scholarships in our database are sorted by field of study. Those that are listed for majors relevant to becoming an Adult Education Instructor can be found on our Human Ecology Scholarships and Education Scholarships pages.



Relevant Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for getting into this line of work. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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