Adult and Higher Education

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What must I do to apply?
2. What are the requirements for the master's degree program?
3. If I already have a master’s degree, how can I decide which program to take?
4. May I take some adult education courses before I apply or am admitted to the program?
5. What is the typical work load for a graduate course in adult education?
6. Can I take my time and go slowly?
7. When will I be assigned an advisor?
8. Can I select where I do my internship or directed study?
9. What are some job opportunities for graduates of adult education programs?
10. What credentials are needed to be a Director of Adult Education in the State of Maine?

1. What must I do to apply?

All the usual rules for application to graduate school at USM apply. You need to file an online application, submit undergraduate transcripts, get three letters of recommendation, and write a personal essay. In place of the standard essay required on the graduate application, a special essay is required for this program.  Please check the web site or the USM graduate catalog for information on the topics to be addressed.  In addition, we conduct a personal interview with all candidates.  While we prefer this interview to be in person, students applying from a distance can arrange for a telephone interview.

2. What are the requirements for the master's degree program?

The Master of Science in Adult and Higher Education requires 36 credit hours of coursework.  These credits include basic core courses (theory), middle-core courses (skills), electives and field-based courses.  With a faculty advisor, students choose their courses and can select a focus for their program.  While there is no thesis requirement for the master’s degree program, a capstone seminar enables students to plan and write a publishable paper in an area of significant interest.  At the end of the program, students write an integrative, portfolio-based essay.

3. If I already have a master’s degree, how can I decide which program to take?

If you are an experienced educator with a master’s degree, the 30 credit hour post-master’s certificate of study in adult learning may be for you. This program gives accomplished students the opportunity to further hone their learning in the field of adult education and encourages field-based projects. If you hold a master’s degree but lack experience as an educator, the master’s degree in adult education is more likely the program designed for you.

4. May I take some adult education courses before I apply or am admitted to the program?

Yes, many students explore the adult and higher education programs by taking a few courses first.  We recommend that students begin either with HRD 600 (History and Philosophy of Adult Education) or HRD 631 (The Adult Learner).  Either of these courses will provide suitable orientation to the field of adult education and online learning in this program.

Note:  After earning 6 credits of graduate work, students must apply foracceptance into a degree program.  While their application is being considered, a student may take up to an additional 6 credits. Students who have credits they wish to transfer toward a degree in adult and higher education should apply for acceptance into a program before taking additional graduate work.  As part of the application process, possible transfer credits will be evaluated.

5. What is the typical work load for a graduate course in adult education?


In most three credit courses students are asked to read three or four books and several articles (articles and book chapters are usually available at no charge from USM’s library electronic reserve or the Internet). Most courses require writing which may include essays, autobiographically-based reflections, journals, or research-based papers. While every week is different, graduate students can expect to spend 5-7 hours each week working in their graduate course (e.g., reading, writing, online discussions, in some cases undertaking a field study, etc.)

6. Can I take my time and go slowly?

Yes - in fact, most of our students do. The average person takes one course at a time or at the most two (if on financial aid students need to take six credits per semester). The typical length of study in this M.S. program is three to four years.  Courses are offered every fall, spring, and summer sessions.  It is possible to go faster and complete the program in two to three years but this pace is not always advisable. Once accepted into a program, a student has five years to complete a the degree.

7When will I be assigned an advisor?

Students who have applied and been formally accepted into a degree program are assigned an academic advisor. If you have questions before being accepted into a program, contact the adult education program coordinator.

8. Can I select where I do my internship or directed study?

Yes, students are expected to research and find appropriate sites for their directed study or 300 hour internship. One or the other is required in order to graduate.  Proposals require final faculty approval. These field-based experiences are individualized such that no two are ever alike. Choosing whether to do a directed study (HRD 698) or internship (HRD 687) is an important conversation to have with one’s faculty advisor. 

9. What are some job opportunities for graduates of adult education programs?

Graduates of the M.S. in Adult and Higher Education and C.A.S. in Adult Learning work in a broad and diverse range of positions. Within the field of higher education, graduates hold positions as professors, directors, academic advisors, deans, and other managers. In the non-profit sector, graduates serve as executive directors, assistant directors, program directors and educational specialists. In the corporate sector, graduates work as managers of corporate training, HR managers, trainers, assistant vice-presidents and workplace educators. Within the area of public education, graduates are directors, teachers and staff developers. In the area of community education, graduates hold positions as program coordinators, educators, counselors and community educators. Finally, in the governmental arena, graduates serve as directors, department heads and educators for state departments in Maine including labor, environmental protection and the police academy.

10. What credentials are needed to be a Director of Adult Education in the State of Maine?

To work as a Director of Adult Education for a public school system in the State of Maine, you must be certified. The master’s degree in adult education can lead to this certification if the required courses are selected as part of the degree program. A number of the courses that are required for state certification may be taken at USM but are offered by programs other than Adult and Higher Education. These include EDU 620 (Reading Development and Instruction), EDU 678 (School Law), EDU 683 (School Finance), and others. Courses taken toward certification outside of AHE can count as electives in this program.        

It’s important to note that each student is ultimately responsible forworking directly with the Department of Education in Augusta regarding the current certification requirements. After researching these requirements, students are strongly encouraged to work with their academic advisor to select courses that will lead to the desired certification and fulfill the requirements for the master’s degree.