Adult education classes are often held at high schools; if this is the case at your school, take the opportunity to discuss career questions with teachers before or after a class. You may also get the opportunity to observe one of these classes. Some of your high school teachers may be teaching adult or vocational education courses in the evenings; talk to them about the difference between teaching high school and teaching in an adult education program. Registering for a continuing education or vocational education course is another way of discovering the skills and disciplines needed to succeed in this field; if you have an interest in a particular subject not taught at your school, seek out classes at community colleges.
Your school may have a peer tutoring program that would introduce you to the requirements of teaching. You could also volunteer to assist in special educational activities at a nursing home, church, synagogue, mosque, or community center.
Adult and vocational education courses take place in a variety of settings, such as high schools, universities, religious institutions, and businesses. The responsibilities of an adult or vocational education teacher are similar to those of a schoolteacher and include planning and conducting lectures, supervising the use of equipment, grading homework, evaluating students, writing and preparing reports, and counseling students.
Adult education is divided into two main areas: basic education and continuing education. Basic education includes reading, writing, and mathematics courses and is designed for adult students who have not finished high school. Many of these students are taking basic education courses to earn the equivalent of a high school diploma (the general equivalency diploma, or GED). Some high school graduates who received poor grades in high school also enroll in basic education classes before attending a four-year college. Recent immigrants may take basic education classes to learn to read, write, and do arithmetic in the language of their new country.
Unlike basic education, continuing education for adults is aimed at students who have finished high school or college and are taking courses for personal enrichment. Class topics might include creative writing, art appreciation, photography, history, and a host of other subjects. Often businesses will enroll employees in continuing education courses as part of job training to help them develop computer skills, learn to write grant proposals, or become convincing public speakers. Sometimes, businesses will hire an adult education teacher to come into the business to train employees on-site. These continuing education teachers are called training representatives.
Vocational education teachers prepare students for specific careers that do not require college degrees, such as cosmetologist, chef, or welder. They demonstrate techniques and then advise the students as they attempt these techniques. They also lecture and direct discussion groups. Instruction by a vocational education teacher may lead to the student's certification, so teachers may follow a specific course plan approved by an accrediting association. They may also be involved in directing a student to an internship or local job opportunities.
Whether teaching in a basic education or continuing education classroom, adult and vocational education teachers work with small groups of students. In addition to giving lectures, they assign textbooks and homework assignments. They prepare and administer exams and grade essays and presentations. Adult and vocational education teachers also meet with students individually to discuss class progress and grades. Some courses are conducted online or as part of a long-distance education program (traditionally known as correspondence courses).