Adults who do not have a high school diploma often face insurmountable obstacles. Some have difficulties reading and writing, and most have problems finding jobs. The General Education Development program assists people in earning a high school equivalency certificate, which helps them get ahead in life. The GED program provides courses to help students prepare for the GED exams. Teaching GED classes requires dedication, patience and special skills. GED instructors working in public schools need a college degree, and some states require special GED teacher certification. If you dream of a career helping other people, a GED instructor position might be the job for you.
General Education Development Certificate
Adults who did not finish high school can earn a GED certificate, which serves as a high school equivalency diploma. The GED Testing Service, a joint venture of education company Pearson and the nonprofit organization American Council on Education, runs the GED program.
The GED program began more than 75 years ago, and it has helped more than 20 million people achieve certification. According to the GED Testing Service, 97 percent of U.S. and Canadian colleges and universities accept a GED certificate for admission. In the same manner, schools in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal and the United Arab Emirates accept the credential. Nearly half of GED recipients enroll in college after receiving their certificate. A GED certificate satisfies high school graduation requirements for most employers.
GED Exam Subjects and the Process
The GED exam consists of four tests that cover language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. Students can take the tests separately on different dates. Each test costs $75, and you must complete it within a specified time limit. Students must pass all subjects to earn a certificate. However, if you don’t pass one component of the test the first time, you are allowed to take it again.
The mathematics exam tests students in:
- Basic math
- Basic algebra
- Functions and graphs
Language testing includes:
- Reading comprehension
- Identifying and forming arguments
Social studies topics include:
- Reading comprehension
- Historical analysis
- Applying graphs and numbers in social studies
The science exam tests students in:
- Reading comprehension
- Applying graphs and numbers in science
- Understanding and designing science experiments
The GED Testing Service offers test preparation courses in communities, career centers, adult education institutions and correctional facilities throughout the United States. In association with educational services company Kaplan, the GED Testing Service also offers online test preparation programs. Students can choose live online instruction and recorded on-demand courses.
GED Teacher Duties and Responsibilities
GED instructors teach basic education topics such as language, mathematics, science and social studies to adult students who have not earned a high school diploma. Their goal is to prepare students to take and pass the GED exam.
GED teachers must have the ability to assess each student’s learning abilities. They must work with students individually to help them develop the study skills needed to succeed. This can involve introducing students to resources such as local libraries or learning websites.
Instructors must continuously monitor each student’s progress and adapt their teaching methods to address learning weaknesses. At times, GED teachers must adjust their lesson plans or teaching techniques to better serve students who speak English as a second language or for students with physical handicaps or learning disabilities.
Typically, students receive a skills and levels assessment before entering the classroom, oftentimes administered by someone other than the teacher, such as an admissions counselor. Periodically, GED instructors must perform additional formal or informal assessments to develop individualized student education plans. GED teachers must prepare lesson plans before each class. Oftentimes, they must adjust their teaching strategy to accommodate the needs of each student, which can require working individually with some pupils.
Some GED instructors teach blended programs that prepare students for the GED exam while teaching the employment and social skills needed to land a job. Teachers in blended programs must strike a balance when preparing lesson plans to provide the most well-rounded education.
Educational Requirements for Teachers
All GED instructors who work in public schools must have a bachelor’s degree or higher, typically in education or teaching, and a state certificate or license to teach. Most major colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degree programs in teaching. For example, Walden University’s bachelor of science program in elementary education requires teaching students to complete 35 courses and 181 credits, which includes coursework in:
- Written and oral communication
- Arts and humanities
- Demonstration teaching
- Mathematics and natural science
- Social studies
- Child development
- Health promotion
- American government
Walden’s upper-level courses help aspiring teachers learn how to use technology in the classroom, assess a student’s abilities, work with exceptional learners and address literacy problems. The program provides teachers with a foundation for teaching subjects such as social studies, art, science and mathematics.
Adult Education Coursework for GED Instructors
Community colleges often require GED teachers to have at least a master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language or adult education.
Adult students often have unique needs that primary and secondary students do not possess. Many GED students failed to earn a high school diploma due to an underlying issue, which can create challenges for instructors. Adult education coursework prepares GED instructors to work with students who may have learning disabilities, foreign-born students or those who are returning to school after many years. Likewise, ESL training can help a GED instructor meet the linguistic challenges of working with foreign-born students.
College teacher education programs prepare instructors to work with students with different learning ability levels in areas such as literacy and comprehension. Many adult education teaching programs help hone a teacher’s mentoring skills, which they need when working one on one with GED students.
GED Teacher Certification and Licensing
Few states require special GED instructor certification. Most states accept GED teachers who hold a standard certification or a primary or secondary teaching license. For example, in Delaware, teachers can provide GED exam prep if they have standard certification and hold a valid Delaware teaching license.
Teacher licensing or certification varies by state. Indiana has separate procedures for teachers who received in-state and out-of-state teaching education. Teaching students who graduate from an Indiana university must receive a recommendation from their college or university after graduating from a teaching program.
Instructors who want to teach in Indiana after completing an out-of-state teaching program can apply for reciprocal licensing if they already have a license to teach in another state. Indiana licenses teachers according to subject matter areas, including:
- English learners
- Exceptional needs
- Communication disorders
- Elementary generalist
- Early childhood generalist
- Fine arts and high ability
Applicants must pass a test in each subject matter area they wish to teach. Indiana also requires license applicants to have passed CPR and suicide-prevention certification courses. Most states also require fingerprinting and passage of a background check during the license application process.
Some states require teachers to have an adult education certificate or an adult education endorsement to instruct GED students. For instance, Connecticut requires GED instructors to obtain an External Diploma Program and Noncredit Mandated Programs (#107) endorsement to teach GED courses. Teachers who already have valid Connecticut teaching licenses can earn the endorsement if they:
- Have a bachelor’s degree.
- Have completed at least 36 hours of coursework in special education, which must include instruction in dealing with the development and growth of handicapped, gifted and exceptional children. The coursework must focus on methods of working with and identifying special-needs students and preparing special education lesson plans.
Essential Qualities of GED Instructors
To teach GED courses to adults, instructors must have certain personal qualities to succeed in the classroom and help their students achieve their goals:
- Since many GED teachers work with immigrants or students from disadvantaged economic backgrounds, they must know how to treat each student with appropriate cultural sensitivity.
- GED students have different levels of knowledge and learning abilities. Teaching adult learners requires great patience.
- To teach a GED course, an instructor must have the flexibility to adjust lesson plans and teaching methods to accommodate the learning abilities of each student.
- GED teachers must have good communications skills and know how to converse with people who speak English as another language.
Teacher Classroom Materials
The American Council on Education’s GED Testing Service provides instructors with a wealth of free classroom materials, which are available in English and Spanish. Some materials can help teachers with lesson planning or in preparing sample tests.
Downloadable, computer-based tutorials help students become familiar with the types of questions they can expect on the exam. Instructors can download practice tests and study guides, which cover social studies, mathematical reasoning, language and science topics.
GED Testing Service supports instructors with resources that help them succeed. The Educator Handbook provides teaching strategies and information about test content.
Instructors can use High Impact Indicator and Performance Level Descriptors tools to assess and improve their students’ testing skills. The organization provides how-to guides to prepare students for the exam and an assessment guide, which helps teachers evaluate how students might score in each exam content area.
GED Testing Service also hosts an annual conference, during which instructors can network and get teaching tips from their peers.
Full-Course and Short-Course GED Teachers
High schools, adult learning centers, prisons and community colleges often offer full-course GED programs. Full-course programs take eight to 12 weeks to complete and cover a condensed version of a high school education, including the study of mathematics, social studies, science, writing and reading comprehension.
Full-course GED teachers work with students in small groups or individually. Students in full-course classes can learn more, but teachers must spend more time outside of class to prepare study plans and assess student work.
Short-course GED programs typically take two to six weeks to complete. Teachers concentrate on presenting bare-bones content to prepare students for the GED exam. Typically, short-course instructors administer many practice tests to assess students’ abilities to pass the real exam.
Test-prep companies offer online and classroom short-course GED programs. Instructors who teach online set aside time to communicate with students through video chat. Some GED teachers find short-course programs more stressful than full-course programs, because they must cover more material in a shorter time period.
GED Teacher Salaries
In 2018, full-time GED instructors earned a median annual salary of nearly $54,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median wage represents the center of the GED teacher pay scale. Instructors at the bottom of the pay scale made about $32,000, while top earners took home nearly $90,000.
GED instructor salaries vary widely by city and state. According to BLS estimates, cities that paid the highest average annual GED instructor salaries in 2018 include:
- McAllen, Texas ‒ $98,770
- San Francisco, California ‒ $91,640
- Los Angeles, California ‒ $81,290
- Riverside, California ‒ $81,110
- San Diego, California ‒ $79,990
Cities that paid the lowest GED teacher salaries in 2018 include:
- Sioux Falls, South Dakota ‒ $30,880
- Goldsboro, North Carolina ‒ $40,150
- Muskegon, Michigan ‒ $45,130
- Pensacola, Florida ‒ $45,430
GED Teacher Job Outlook
According to the BLS, jobs for GED teachers should decline by 5 percent through 2026. The decline is rooted in an increase in high school graduation rates. Reduced government funding for GED education also has impacted the demand for instructors.