More than 92 million adults participated in adult education in 2001, according to the U.S. Department of Education. What is more, the number of adults going back to school has increased by six percent from 1995 to 2001.
Why are more adults returning to the classroom? One big reason more adults are going back to school is to adjust to shifts in the labor market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the manufacturing sector has been declining sharply in recent years. Average annual employment in manufacturing dropped from 17 million in 2000 to slightly over 14 million in 2004. Meanwhile, employment in service-based sectors, such as leisure and hospitality, education, and health services, have grown at high rates since 1995.
Education is Key to Earning Higher Wages
Adult education can also provide a means to increase a worker's earning potential. Those with high school diplomas or GEDs earned about 25 percent more than high school dropouts in 2002. Additionally, median weekly earnings of men with bachelor's degrees were about $1,100 while those with just associate's degrees earned less than $800 during the same period. Likewise, women with college degrees earned about a third more than women with only high school diplomas.
People are also changing jobs more than in years' previous. According to the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans change jobs an average of 10 times during their working life. While the number of career changes people make is difficult to measure, the rise in the number of adults going back to school may be an indicator of increasing numbers of career changes.
Going Back to School is Easier
Education is also becoming more accessible and convenient to adult students. More and more colleges and universities are offering classes and professional seminars on nights and weekends to accommodate adult students who work. Increasing numbers of universities are offering popular courses online. The Internet has brought the classroom into the home, providing the opportunity for working people with families to obtain new skills and credentials without having to commute to a college campus.
In short, it appears that millions of adult Americans may be going back to school to learn skills that are in greater demand and which may also lead to greater job security and a more rewarding career.
U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, Industry at a Glance - http://www.bls.gov/iag/iaghome.htm
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wages by Educational Attainment and Sex - http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2003/oct/wk3/art04.htm
National Center for Education Statistics, Adult Education 2000-01 - http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2004050