Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers

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What Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers Do[About this section] [To Top]

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 of Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers

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 possible learning disabilities
  • Monitor students' progress
  • 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. These assessments are typically performed by another staff member; however, in some programs the teacher may conduct the assessments. Based on the results of the assessment and the student's goals, teachers develop a personalized education program.

Teachers must formally evaluate their students periodically to determine their progress and potential to go on to the next level of classes. However, they 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, teachers need to use different teaching strategies and methods that meet all of their students' needs. They may work with students in classes or teach them one-on-one.

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 read a contract or how to estimate the cost of materials needed to remodel a kitchen.

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 who enter these classes usually do not have a high school diploma. They 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 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.

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 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.

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.

Work Environment for Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers[About this section] [To Top]

Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers hold about 68,200 jobs. The largest employers of adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers are as follows:

Junior colleges; state, local, and private 29%
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 26
Other schools and instruction; state, local, and private 10
Self-employed workers 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.

Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teacher Work Schedules

Classes are held at times when students are not at work, so many teachers work in the mornings and evenings. Many adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers work part time.

How to Become an Adult Literacy or High School Equivalency Diploma Teacher[About this section] [To Top]

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Most adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers must have at least a bachelor's degree. Employers typically prefer those who have a license or certification.

Education for Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers

Most states require adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers to have at least a bachelor's degree. Some community colleges prefer to hire those with a master's degree or graduate coursework in adult education or English as a Second Language (ESL). Some colleges and universities offer master's degrees or graduate certificates in teaching adult education or ESL.

Programs in adult education prepare prospective teachers to develop adult education programs, to use effective teaching strategies for adult learners, to work with students from a variety of cultures and backgrounds, and to 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 teach prospective ESL school teachers how to present information to students and how to work with students of varying abilities and backgrounds. Programs typically include a student-teaching program, in which they work with a mentor teacher and get experience teaching students in a classroom setting. For information about teacher preparation programs in your state, visit Teach.org.

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

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers

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 complete a student-teaching program. For more information, contact the director of adult education for your state. Contact information can be found from the U.S. Department of Education.

Important Qualities for Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers

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

Cultural sensitivity. 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 to understand the material.

Resourcefulness. Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers must respond appropriately 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.

Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teacher Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers is $50,650. 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 $29,420, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $84,740.

The median annual wages for adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private $57,630
Junior colleges; state, local, and private 51,650
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 49,640
Other schools and instruction; state, local, and private 45,450

Classes are held at times when students are not at work, so many teachers work in the mornings and evenings. Many adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers work part time.

Job Outlook for Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers is projected to decline 6 percent over the next ten years.

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 looking 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 for Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers

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 prospects.

Employment projections data for Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Adult basic and secondary education and literacy teachers and instructors 68,200 64,300 -6 -3,800


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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