What Is Adult Education?

Adult education is education for people over 18 who are not involved in a traditional college or university program. Students in adult education courses or programs typically have full-time jobs. They have work and other life experiences that enrich or, in some cases, hinder their learning, and they expect adult education to yield results immediately in their careers or other areas of their lives.

Adult Education for Remedial Purposes

Adult education programs for literacy or high school degree completion are offered by high schools and community colleges across the country. Community colleges may also prescribe remedial courses in math or English composition to prepare adult students for college-level work. Other examples of this type of adult education would include the following:

  • ESOL, ESL or ELL courses for immigrants and non-native English speakers
  • State-approved defensive driving courses

Adult Education for Vocational Improvement

Adult education in the U.S. can be dated to the establishment of the Cooperative Extension, set up to teach farmers and housewives skills and techniques for work. Currently, training and development courses in computers, trade skills and a host of other subjects help adults boost work performance or train for new careers. A few of these vocational courses and programs include the following:

  • Auto mechanic, electrician, plumber and other trade apprenticeships
  • Computer and network security
  • Software skills
  • Legal changes, such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) or OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) guidelines
  • Professional ethics and other continuing education courses, often required to retain licensure
  • Project management
  • Business specialties
  • Cosmetology

Adult Education for Self-Improvement or Leisure

Retirees and others with free time and interest take adult education courses in subjects that intrigue them. Foreign languages, art, cooking, gardening and many other interests are represented. Other sample subjects may include:

  • Philosophy
  • Aromatherapy
  • Orchid growing
  • History
  • Ballroom dancing
  • Cake decorating

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