Students whose passion and interests lie in helping adults learn may want to consider earning an online master’s in adult education learning. This master’s degree program usually involves the study of theory, methods, and instructional design. It equips them with the competencies essential to succeeding as adult educators.
Combined with actual teaching or training program experience, this master’s program can expand their career options in the field of adult education, allowing them to take up positions in a variety of work settings, including educational human resource development. Some of the job positions they may pursue include adult basic education professionals, instructional designers, workplace training specialists, and health education specialists.
Fortunately, many colleges and universities in the country offer a master’s in adult education, allowing prospective students and working professionals to enhance their professional portfolios and boost their earning potential in an often rewarding and meaningful field. If you are interested in pursuing a career that lets you administer adult education programs, then this advanced degree is just for you.
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Learning is a lifelong process, and just as much as children, adult learners continue to pick up new knowledge in a variety of settings & contexts. As such, there is a constant need for professionals who are skilled in the special requirements for facilitating learning among adults. This invariably requires advanced education, and those planning to launch into this endeavor or seek advancement have to choose the best educational preparation they can get.
We’ve got you covered! Check out our list of 10 graduate schools that offer the best online master’s in adult education, selected based on the following characteristics:
- Offers their graduate programs in an online or hybrid format, letting working professionals gain more flexibility to integrate their coursework with their careers with the least amount of disruption,
- Feature curricula that give thorough coverage of both theoretical and practical aspects of adult learning, and provide training on crucial skills, strategies, approaches, and technologies,
- Developed and taught by expert faculty who have extensive expertise in a variety of adult and/or higher education settings,
- Taught by experts in the Adult Education/Learning discipline and profession,
- Features competitive tuition rates as well as a range of financial aid options,
- Hold the appropriate accreditation credentials.
Read our Methodology page for more information on our online graduate program ranking process.
Best Online Master’s in Adult Education Learning
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado
Catering the needs of working professionals, Colorado State University is serving 33,455 students in 2022. To date, it is offering 187 majors across various disciplines. It tied with San Diego State University for having the highest federal graduation rate in the Mountain West Conference.
- Colorado State University’s Master of Education in Adult Education and Training program helps interested students learn how to build educational programs, engaging adult learners with the use of various learning formats.
- Students can expect to gain practical learning that will help them think strategically about methods of instruction, instructional design, learning technologies, program assessment, learning transfer, and adult learning theory.
- This online master’s in adult education program is offered through the School of Education in the College of Health and Human Sciences.
Standout Features of Colorado State University’s Online Master of Education in Adult Education and Training Program:
To earn the program, students are required to complete a total of 30 credits. Some of the courses in the rigorous program curriculum include Processes and Methods, Introduction to Adult Education and Training, Adult Teaching and Learning, and Multicultural and Special Populations, among others.
Did You Know?
In the past 10 years, Colorado State University has poured its resources into its students, doubling institutionally funded financial aid options. In fact, 60% of CSY students have received a form of financial aid, be it a grant or scholarship.
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Louisiana State University is dedicated to transforming lives through learning, research, and community engagement. Currently, the university caters to more than 35,000 students. It is known for its diverse and quality academic programs. In fact, LSU is one of eight universities in the United States that houses a medical school, dental school, veterinary school, law school, and an MBA program.
- The online Master of Education – Curriculum & Instruction at LSU, is designed for those who want to pursue careers in adult education, leadership in higher education sectors, or workforce development training.
- Graduate students are equipped with knowledge and skills integral to enhancing the learning capabilities of adults in various educational programs and workforce development.
- The program requires students to create an extensive e-portfolio that houses the work they have completed throughout the degree.
Standout Features of Louisiana State University’s Online Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction Program with an Adult Education Concentration:
This Master’s in Adult Education program is Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation-accredited. It is also TEACH Grant eligible, which means qualified applicants can meet the requirements for the TEACH grant.
Did You Know?
Louisiana State University aims to be a leading research-extensive university. The LSU Baton Rouge campuses alone received $285 million in grants and contracts in 2022 alone. Students will be able to work with highly acclaimed professors and gain access to unique opportunities and resources to help them achieve lifelong success.
New York, New York
Considered one of the world’s most important centers for research, Columbia University provides a distinguished learning environment for both undergraduate and graduate students across a variety of scholarly and professional fields. It is one of the many universities in the country that offer online programs designed for working adults.
- Columbia University offers the Master of Arts in Adult Learning & Leadership program teaching students about designing, implementing, and facilitating learning and development.
- The program has an emphasis on leadership for transformative learning, helping participants to use effective strategies for learning and design and deliver adult learning programs and interventions.
- Students who wish to earn the degree program must complete a total of 36 graduate credits, with core courses including Facilitating Adult Learning, Online Teaching and Learning, Leadership and Self Development, and Learning Communities, among others.
Standout Features of Columbia University’s Online Master of Arts in Adult Learning and Leadership Program:
In this program, students are allowed to choose between two specializations: Coaching and Leadership. They will need to complete a capstone project. This culminating project is a project-based application to practice.
Did You Know?
With its distinguished history in the discovery of knowledge, Columbia University promotes the highest standards of scholarship, learning, and safety. To date, it boasts 400 new inventions every year. It also includes in its claim to fame the honor of including 86 Nobel Laureates among its decorated alumni.
Ball State University
Empowering students to pursue fulfilling careers, Ball State University engages adult education graduates in educational, creative, and research endeavors. Since its foundation in 1899, the university has remained committed to providing quality higher education, expanding its reach beyond Indiana through its numerous distance learning programs.
- Ball State University offers the MA in Adult and Community Education degree program designed for practitioners who are interested in doing projects.
- The project-based learning allows them to connect theories and methodologies with real-world experiences.
- Students are taught and trained to deliver adult education programs to a diverse group of learners with different needs, backgrounds, learning styles, and professional goals.
- The program provides students with opportunities to conduct or participate in key learning experiences such as research studies, submitting journal articles, and presenting at conferences.
Standout Features of Ball State University’s Online Master of Arts in Adult and Community Education Program:
Students who wish to partake in a double major will only need to take one additional 3-credit course. This will allow them to major in both adult and community education and executive development for public service.
Did You Know?
Ball State University is known for providing an immersive, hands-on learning environment through the guidance and support of outstanding faculty. Students who cannot afford their higher education have plenty of opportunities for financial aid support. In fact, 4 out of 5 students at Ball State University qualify for financial aid.
Eastern Washington University
An ideal place for learning, Eastern Washington University has been fully committed to quality education since its establishment in 1882. The university makes its home within the homelands of the Spokane People and similar tribes. It is known for featuring a high-quality curriculum that aims to develop the intellectual, personal, cultural, and practical aspects of the lives of students.
- The online master of education offered at Eastern Washington University has a concentration in adult education.
- This online program prepares students to teach adult learners in various environments, allowing them to develop the rudiments and assessment and classroom management.
- Grounded in evidence-based research, this adult education online program equips students with knowledge and skills to grow their teaching expertise in teaching adults and helping them address useful strategies and techniques in the process.
- Students are expected to demonstrate their knowledge of a variety of post-secondary institutions, including its structure, functions, and operational systems.
Standout Features of Eastern Washington University’s Online Master of Education – Adult Education Program:
This online master in adult education program offers affordable, pay-by-the-course tuition rates, regardless of the student’s residence. There is no distinction between in-state or out-of-state tuition.
Did You Know?
Eastern Washington University is dedicated to providing high-impact educational practices. This allowed them to be named one of the country’s Colleges of Distinction. The recognition demonstrates its commitment to offering a unique learning environment and opportunities. Some of its colleges that hold the distinction include Nursing, Engineering, Education, and Business.
Pennsylvania State University
University Park, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) is a public, land-grant, research university. Its main campus is in University Park, and 23 other campuses are spread throughout the state. It was first established in 1855, eventually being elevated to university status in 1953. It received the “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity” classification and has a total population of almost 90,000 students across all its campuses.
- Pennsylvania State University, through its World Campus & College of Education, offers the online Master of Education in Lifelong Learning and Adult Education. It is designed to prepare students to become teachers, trainers, or leaders in adult education.
- The program contains 30 credit hours in total and provides students with practical methods that lead to effective adult education practice and engagement.
- Aside from the general master of Education track, students can choose to add more focus to their degree by choosing one of two formal options: Adult Basic Education & Literacy, or Global Online & Distance Education.
- Students can also choose to earn Post-baccalaureate Certificates in either Adult Basic Education, Distance Education, or Family Literacy.
Standout Features of Pennsylvania State University’s online Master of Education in Lifelong Learning & Adult Education:
Penn State’s M.Ed. in Lifelong Learning and Adult Education is nationally recognized for its quality. Penn State also offers full support to its online students with the World Campus Career Services which gives students connections and information that they can use to launch new careers or advance in existing ones.
Did You Know?
Pennsylvania State University is one of the Public Ivies, a loose grouping of universities generally perceived to provide a level of education equal to that of the Ivy League. Penn State earned this distinction in 2001.
New Brunswick, New Jersey
Rutgers University is a public, land-grant, research university in the city of New Brunswick, New Jersey. It was established in 1766 as Queen’s College and is one of the 9 Colonial Colleges that were chartered before the United States gained independence from the British. It currently has four campuses throughout New Jersey, which together host a population of almost 69,000 students. Its New Brunswick campus is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”.
- Rutgers University offers a Master of Education in Adult and Continuing Education, designed to help students understand the conceptual and practical adult learning process, and prepare them to nurture the best and most appropriate learning environments for adult learners.
- The program is offered both 100% online and in a hybrid format and contains a total of 30 credit hours. The program typically takes 2 years to complete.
- The program also features 4 specializations that students can choose from, leading to them earning a certificate concurrent with their master’s degree. These specialization areas are Adult ESL & Literacy Education, Educational Technology, Higher Education Teaching, and Human Resources Development.
Standout Features of Rutgers University’s Master of Education in Adult and Continuing Education Program:
The program curriculum exposes students to the most current research in the field and practical knowledge, as well as the historical, theoretical, and philosophical underpinnings of adult education. The program curriculum is also designed to develop students’ skills in leadership, research methods, and learning design & assessment.
Did You Know?
Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Education offers a wide range of degree programs for all learning environments, from early childhood to adult education. Other master’s degrees on offer include the Ed.M. in Educational Administration and Supervision, and the Ed.M. in Education, Culture, and Society.
University of Denver
Master of Arts in Instructional Design & Technology, Concentration in Adult Learning and Inclusive Design
The University of Denver is a private research university located in the city of Denver. It was first established in 1864 and was originally located in downtown Denver, making the move to its current campus in the late 1870s. Founded by Methodists but currently operating as a nonsectarian institution, the University of Denver comprises 11 schools and colleges, with a population of over 13,700 students. It is one of the classified “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”.
- The University of Denver offers an online Master of Arts in Instructional Design & Technology, with a Concentration in Adult Learning and Inclusive Design. This program is aimed at preparing students to develop innovative instructional design solutions that ensure effective engagement with adult learners.
- The program is offered entirely online and contains a total of 48 credit hours (12 courses). The program can be completed in as little as 18 months.
- The program’s curriculum features hands-on practice in andragogy (adult learning) and emphasizes learner-centered design. The program also develops skills in research and develops an inclusive mindset in students.
Standout Features of the University of Denver’s online Master of Arts in Instructional Design & Technology, Concentration in Adult Learning and Inclusive Design Program:
This program is ideal preparation for a wide range of instructional design settings, whether in higher education, corporate, or government settings. The program is designed to prepare students to harness the latest best practices in developing instructional strategies, as well as conducting appropriate assessment and intervention methods.
Did You Know?
The University of Denver also offers a Master of Science in Strategic Human Resources with a Concentration in Learning and Development. This program, while touching on similar needs and strategies for adult learners, is more focused on application in organizational settings, and helping achieve employee learning goals that lead to organizational success.
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina State University is a public, land-grant, research university in Raleigh, North Carolina, a part of the University of North Carolina System. It was established in 1887 as a College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts (A&M) and eventually became a university in 1965. At present, NC State is made up of 12 schools and colleges and is the largest university in North and South Carolina with over 37,800 students. It is also classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”.
- North Carolina State University offers a Master’s Degree in Adult, Workforce, and Continuing Professional Education. This program serves to prepare students to nurture and support a variety of adult learning environments, whether self-directed or formal learning, from individuals to groups and organizations.
- The program is available either as a Master of Education or Master of Science program and is offered online or as a hybrid graduate degree. The Master of Education contains 36 credit hours minimum, while the Master of Science contains 39.
- Completing the program with a Master of Education requires either a capstone portfolio or an internship, while the Master of Science option requires students to complete a thesis.
- The M.Ed. program includes courses in adult learner characteristics, motivations, teaching & learning, demographics, policy, and learning assessment. The MS program, meanwhile, offers students the opportunity for advanced study in specific adult and continuing education programs and institutional settings.
Standout Features of North Carolina State University’s online Master’s in Adult and Continuing Professional Education Program:
With its choice of two structures (MS or M.Ed.), this program gives students more flexibility in the choice of applicable final output they may want or need, whether they see it necessary to develop a thesis or complete an internship. Either structure/design also has its own unique focus that would better fit individual students’ research interests or professional development goals.
Did You Know?
North Carolina State University forms part of what is popularly known as the Research Triangle. This is a large metropolitan area in North Carolina that is anchored on three cities that contain three major research universities: NC State in Raleigh, University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, and Duke University in Durham.
Oregon State University
Oregon State University (OSU) is located in the city of Corvallis, Oregon. It was established in 1856 as Corvallis Academy, originally a primary and preparatory community school. It was designated as the state’s land-grant recipient in 1868 and eventually became the Oregon State University in 1961. With 12 colleges and schools, OSU is the largest university in the state in terms of enrollment, with over 37,000 students. It is also classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”.
- Oregon State University’s Master of Education (Ed.M.) in Adult and Higher Education produces graduates who can effectively lead and support meaningful learning across a variety of contexts.
- The OSU Ed.M. in Adult and Higher Education is a cohort-based program, with new cohorts starting every fall term. This online program takes two years.
- The program is heavily focused on instructional design and technology and is designed to develop student’s skills and knowledge in designing, implementing, and assessing educational programs in a variety of formats.
Standout Features of Oregon State University’s Master of Education in Adult and Higher Education Program:
Oregon State University prides itself on its extensive expertise in the fields of Instructional Design and Technology, which this Ed.M. program focuses on. The program also heavily emphasizes developing equitable learning environments, which it embeds throughout the entirety of its curriculum. The program’s cohort design also exposes students to a highly collaborative learning environment, with students typically coming from different professional backgrounds.
Did You Know?
Students interested in exploring the program’s content who may not have decided to commit to the Master’s Degree fully can instead choose to start with OSU’s Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design, which is also offered online.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does adult learning differ from childhood learning?
The learning process for both settings differs in many ways, however, one key aspect is that childhood learning (pedagogy) takes place during a human person’s formative stage and is largely centered on teachers, role models, and guides, while adult learning (andragogy) tends to be more self-directed, makes use of prior experience and knowledge of the adult learner, and tends to focus on specific bits of knowledge that have practical value and relevance to their personal and professional lives.
What are the common admission requirements for the online Master’s in Adult Education degree?
Most Master’s in Adult Education programs require interested students to hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution. Sometimes, they may be asked to meet the minimum GPA requirement, usually 3.0. Some universities may not require GRE scores.
Other application materials needed for the admission process include a statement of purpose, updated resume, letters of recommendation, and official transcripts.
- A Master’s in Adult Education is focused on the specific needs and contexts that surround the learning process of adults and is designed to prepare students to become adult educators who can create and nurture the ideal adult learning environment.
- Master’s in Adult Education courses typically cover the current state of the art in the adult education field regarding theories of learning and practical approaches and also cover concepts in instructional design, program planning/program development, learning technologies & approaches, and instructional materials.
- A Master’s in Adult Education program is applicable to a wide range of settings that involve teaching adults, whether in higher education institutions such as universities and community colleges, within organizations (corporations, governments, or nonprofit organizations), or in individual, self-directed settings and distance learning.