Adult Education Academy

Group 9

Comparative Group 9: Occupational Structures & Professionalization of Adult Education: Recent Developments & Future Challenges

Occupational Structures ∙ professionalization ∙ career paths

In comparative research on adult education, the question who is working as adult educator remains surely one crucial aspect. In comparing different national cultures and traditions, structures and practices of adult education, we are able to examine the professionalization of adult education and the current occupational structures within the heterogeneous field. Who works in adult education? Which different fields of work, occupational profiles and divisions of labour have developed (teaching, management, conceptualizing, …)? What kind of knowledge and skills are considered necessary for adult educators, which qualifications and which career paths (academic professionalization, further education, study programmes etc.) are available in different countries?

The comparison will theoretically be framed by more recent discussions in the sociology of professions and their adoption in adult education.

The outcomes of the comparative group will enable the students to analyse the occupational structures and professionalization of adult education in their home countries and to compare them with others in Europe and beyond. This is not only the basis for discussing pros and cons of national structures but also to further develop them. Last but not least this will also allow students to reflect on their own professionalization process and trajectories as well as to actively participate in shaping the future professionalization of adult education.

Comparative research question

1. Which similarities and differences can be found concerning the institutional, organizational and occupational structures in adult education?

2. How has professionalization of adult education developed by now and what are current issues and challenges?

3. Which are typical career paths of adult educators?

Context of comparison

The main context of comparison will be nations, but interdependencies with laws and regulations (mainly on regional and national, but perhaps also on supranational level) will have to be taken into account as well as differences between certain institutional areas or organizational contexts of adult education within the national context.

Categories of comparison

  •  Occupational structures: Which different occupational groups work in adult education and do they take specific positions or roles?
  •  History and current state of professionalization: How have occupational structures in adult education and the qualification and training of adult educators developed over the past decades, what are more recent developments and current challenges?
  •  Institutionalized Career Paths: Which (different) ways of becoming an adult educator exist?

Good practices

  • Good practices could be analysed in the form of specific study / training programmes for adult educators, but also in form of specific regulations on professional work in adult education. Students and esp. practitioners can reflect on how they experienced career paths and transitions in their own careers.


Evetts, J. (2006): Short Note: The Sociology of Professional Groups. In: Current Sociology 54(1), pp.133-143. DOI: 10.1177/0011392106057161.

Nuissl, E. (2009): Profession and Professional Work in Adult Education in Europe. Studi sulla Formazione 12(1/2), pp. 127-132. DOI: 10.13128/Studi_Formaz-8591.

Lattke, S. / Nuissl, E. (2008): Qualifying adult learning professionals in Europe. Bielefeld: wbv.





Dr. Jörg Schwarz, Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, Germany

Emphasising the connections between social structures, organizations and professional work in Adult Education, Jörg Schwarz has worked on professional fields and relational professionalism in adult education, on the socialisation process of adult educators, on professionalization of entrepreneurship counselling and on young researcher’s career trajectories. More recently, he focusses on the (re-)production of time regimes in professional work.


Jessica Kleinschmidt, Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, Germany

Jessica Kleinschmidt is a PhD student at the professorship for continuing education and life-long learning at Helmut Schmidt University/University of the Federal Armed Forces Hamburg. Her expertise lies in occupational continuing education and learning in adulthood from a practical perspective. Her research interests include the transitions of executives within companies.