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How to Become an Adult Literacy or GED Teacher

Most adult literacy and General Education Development (GED) teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certification.  Employers typically prefer workers who have some teaching experience, which they can get through teaching children or adults.


Most states require adult literacy and GED teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree in education, but some employers prefer to hire those with a master’s degree.

Master’s degrees in adult education prepare prospective teachers to use effective teaching strategies for adult learners, to work with students from various backgrounds, and to develop adult education programs. Some programs allow these prospective teachers to specialize in adult basic education, secondary education, or English as a second language (ESL).

Some colleges and universities offer master's degrees or graduate certificates in teaching adult education or English for speakers of other languages (ESOL). Programs help prospective teachers learn how to teach adults, work with learners from a variety of cultures, and how to teach adults with learning disabilities.

Programs in English as a second language not only help these prospective teachers understand how adults learn languages but also prepare them to teach communication skills. 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 is helpful to understand what students are going through.

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

Licenses and Certification

Many states require adult literacy and GED 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 get a license, adult literacy and GED teachers typically need a bachelor's degree and must have passed an approved teacher-training program.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Teachers must collaborate with other teachers and program administrators. In addition, they talk to students about their progress and goals.

Cultural sensitivity. Adult literacy and GED 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.

Instructional skills. Adult literacy and GED teachers need to be able to explain concepts in terms that students can understand. In addition, 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.

Patience. Working with students of different abilities and backgrounds can be difficult. Teachers must be with patient when students struggle with material.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition