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 equivalent diploma.

Duties

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

  • Plan and teach lessons to help students gain the knowledge and skills needed to earn their high school equivalent diploma
  • Adapt teaching methods based on students’ strengths and weaknesses
  • Emphasize skills that will help students find jobs, such as learning English words and common phrases used in the workplace
  • Assess students for learning disabilities
  • Monitor students’ progress
  • Help students develop study skills
  • Connect students to other resources in their community, such as job placement services

Students’ educational level and skills are assessed before they enter these programs. Teachers may conduct the assessments; however, sometimes another staff member assesses students. Based on the results of the assessment and the student’s goals, teachers develop an education plan.

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

Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers often have students of various education levels in their classes. As a result, these teachers need to use different strategies to meet the needs of all of their students. They may work with students in classes or teach them one-on-one.

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

Adult basic education (ABE) classes teach students the basics of reading, writing, and math. The students generally are age 16 or older and need to gain proficiency in these skills to improve their job situation. Teachers prepare students for further education and help them to develop skills that they will need in the workplace. For example, they may teach students how to write a resume.

English as a Second Language (ESL), also called English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), classes teach students to read, write, and speak English. Students in these classes are immigrants to the United States or those whose native language is not English. ESL teachers may have students from many different countries and cultures in their classroom. Because the ESL teacher and the students may not share a common native language, ESL teachers must be creative with their communication in the classroom.

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.

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

The high school equivalency exam is composed of four subjects: language arts, math, science, and social studies. In addition to teaching these subjects, teachers also help their students improve their skills in communicating, critical thinking, and problem solving—skills they will need in preparing for further education and successful careers.

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Work Environment

Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers held about 67,200 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 36%
Junior colleges; state, local, and private 25
Other schools and instruction; state, local, and private 8
Self-employed workers 7
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 may make teaching them rewarding and satisfying.

Work Schedules

Teachers often work in the mornings and evenings, because classes are held at times when students are not at work. They typically work part time.

Education and Training

Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers who work in public schools must have at least a bachelor’s degree and a license or certification.

Education

Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers in public schools must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Some community colleges may prefer to hire those with a master’s degree or graduate coursework in adult education or English as a Second Language (ESL).

Programs in adult education prepare prospective teachers to use effective strategies for adult learners, work with students from a variety of cultures and backgrounds, and teach adults with learning disabilities. Some programs allow these prospective teachers to specialize in adult basic education, secondary education, or ESL.

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 can be helpful.

Teacher education programs instruct prospective teachers in how to present information to students and how to work with students of varying abilities and backgrounds. Programs typically include an opportunity for student-teachers to work with a mentor and get experience in a classroom. For information about teacher preparation programs in your state, visit Teach.org.

Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers may take professional development classes to improve their teaching skills and ensure that they keep up with research about teaching adults.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers who work in public schools must have a teaching certificate. 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 complete a student-teaching program. For more information, contact the director of adult education for your state. Contact information is available from the U.S. Department of Education.

Personality and Interests

Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers typically have an interest in the Creating, Helping and Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Creating or Helping or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as an adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teacher, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers should also possess the following specific 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 $54,350 in May 2019. 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 $32,580, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $93,760.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private $61,630
Junior colleges; state, local, and private 52,500
Other schools and instruction; state, local, and private 48,770
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private                                 47,580

Teachers often work in the mornings and evenings, because classes are held at times when students are not at work. They typically work part time.

Job Outlook

Employment of adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers is projected to decline 10 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Enrollment in adult education and ESL programs has declined in recent years. At the same time, high school graduation rates have increased, reducing the number of adults seeking to obtain high school equivalent diplomas. As these trends continue, the demand for adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers may decline.

Changes in government funding for adult education and ESL programs may impact the demand for adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers.

Job Prospects

Many adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teacher positions are part time. As a result, prospects will be best for workers who are willing and able to take a part-time position. In addition, those with experience teaching will have better opportunities than those without experience.

For More Information

For more information about adult education in your state, visit

U.S. Department of Education

For more information about teaching and becoming a teacher, visit

Teach.org

 

FAQ

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The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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