Careers in Lifelong Learning and Adult Education

What you can do with our degrees.

Graduate degrees in Lifelong Learning and Adult Education are among the most practical - and adaptable - in all of higher education.  


The M.Ed. and D.Ed. are both practitioner degrees, preparing graduates to apply their expertise effectively in a variety of specialized settings. 

The Ph.D. is a research degree, and prepares graduates to advance the theoretical foundations, empirical knowledge, and strategic role of adult education not only in the context of higher education, but in relation to national and international goals of building civil society and realizing human potentials.

Students have the opportunity to work with faculty on organized research and outreach endeavors, which sometimes involve living outside the U.S. for several weeks at a time. Students may also co-author books, book chapters, journal articles, conference papers and presentations with faculty.

Examples of opportunities to assist faculty with research include:Students sitting class

  • Initiatives of the adult and family literacy institutes at Penn State
  • Engaging in community capacity building projects in West Philadelphia and Grenada
  • Engaging in consciousness-raising projects with prisoners in central Pennsylvania
  • Planning regional and national adult education conferences
  • Assisting in teaching adult education courses online and in residence

Many graduates of our program become tenured faculty or administrators at one of numerous universities in North America with strong departments of adult and continuing education. Many others graduates choose work as educational planners, policy-makers, and consultants in such varied contexts as private business, government and public agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), non-profit organizations, churches and religious organizations, international organizations in many countries (South Korea, Zimbabwe, Barbados, Turkey, Malaysia, Taiwan, China and Oman to name a few), and community-based groups or initiatives. Specialized areas of practice within the field of adult education include:

  • adult basic education
  • community education & organizing
  • adult & family literacyTwo students in class
  • professional and continuing education
  • distance education
  • human resource development
  • workplace learning
  • informal education
  • educational outreach
  • post-secondary education
  • religious education
  • social advocacy & action