Possible pathways to a career in adult education program management?
April 9, 2014 7:14 PM   Subscribe

I am interested in eventually managing an adult education program, through something like a college or community-based organization. What are some pathways for getting there?

Given that this is my interest, I'm interested to know what degree programs, internships, teaching experience, program experience, etc. would put me on a path towards being an "Adult Education Specialist," "ABE/GED Program Manager," adult literacy "Program Director," etc. I'm interested in long-term, career positions--not just an AmeriCorps job, which seems to be common.

If it is any help, I've been accepted into the UNC-CH MSW program, and am weighing whether this would assist me on my journey. I also have a couple of years of past professional experience working with an adult literacy program, both as program assistant and then as program coordinator. I have intermediate Spanish skills. I'm still in my 20s.
posted by soundproof to Work & Money (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I run an adult basic education program at a community college.

In my experience, some things that make progressing in this field easier:

1. Working in non-profits or smaller CBOs earlier in your career-at a lot of those type of places, less experienced people can get more responsibility because there isn't much staff and/or salaries aren't super awesome.

2. Taking LTE, contract, project or grant-funded positions if you can financially (and psychologically) deal with the potential of ending up out of work when a project ends. Non-permanent jobs often allow people to climb MUCH faster and do WAY cooler work.

3. Making sure you have or get significant experience with the population you want to serve. It will just make everything so much easier.

4. Getting some teaching/training experience, even if it is being a TA in graduate school.

5. Getting good at writing grants.

I think an MSW is a pretty decent credential for this type of career-I'd certainly pick it over the degree I have (Masters in Education Policy) if I was doing it all over again. There is usually a lot of overlap between training in a human services type capacity and adult basic education, and having strong connections and knowledge in the human services area is usually pretty desirable in the academic world.

In my particular situation (and with most of my peers that do similar work) previous jobs and connections did way more for my career than any degree ever could have. If you are on the fence about committing to school, I think there is a lot of cool work to be done without an advanced degree.

I love this type of work, and it's certainly an area that needs more good people. I'd be happy to answer more questions over MeFi mail if you would like.
posted by mjcon at 10:23 PM on April 9, 2014

I work for a fairly large literacy program (largest provider in a small-sized metropolitan area) as a program coordinator. In my organization, program coordinator is a mid-levelish position, above volunteers and AmeriCorps members. My progression was volunteer >> AmeriCorps member >> ESL teacher at another agency >> paid staff.

I don't have an advanced degree--I got to where I am by experience and connections from my time in AmeriCorps, and some good luck. So, I guess I'm saying don't discount AmeriCorps positions. They can often be a foot in the door to paid positions (of course doing AmeriCorps has a lot of awesome benefits besides helping your career, but that's a different topic).

As far as advanced degrees, a lot of staff at my organization seem to have unrelated masters degrees. I don't think a masters is truly required for even the higher-up positions (although probably preferred).
posted by Don Gately at 7:41 AM on April 10, 2014

Forgot to mention, at our organization at least half the staff has done some form of national service (AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, etc). I would assume other agencies value that kind of experience as well.
posted by Don Gately at 8:02 AM on April 10, 2014

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