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English Literature Teacher: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become an English literature teacher. Learn about education requirements, licensure, salary and job outlook to see if this is the right career for you.

What Is An English Literature Teacher?

English literature teachers teach students how to analyze prose, poetry and drama and to recognize the various styles and techniques used by different writers. They may also cover the historical context of literary works, as well as expository writing techniques for literary analysis. Usually, English literature teachers work in middle and high schools and postsecondary institutions. Those who work in middle and high schools may focus specifically on preparation for the language arts portions of state standardized tests and/or college entrance exams like the SAT or ACT; some high school teachers also offer preparation courses for the AP English exams. English literature professors at colleges and universities often mentor graduate students with whom they share interests in the field. They also work to advance the field of English by publishing their own literature-related research or literary works.

The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about this career.

Middle School English Teacher High School English Teacher College English Professor
Degree required Bachelor's degree; master's degree may be required in some states Bachelor's degree; master's degree may be required in some states Master's degree for jobs at 2-year colleges, doctoral degree for colleges and universities
Field of Study English literature, elementary education English with coursework in education and child psychology English literature
Licensure License required to teach in public schools License require to teach in public schools not required
Training Student teaching required for state license Student teaching required for state licenseTeaching experience as a graduate assistant helpful
Median Salary (2018) $58,600* $60,320*$66,590*
Job Growth (2018-2028)3%* 4%* 11%*

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does an English Literature Teacher Do?

As an English literature teacher - sometimes simply referred to as an English teacher - you'll teach students how to analyze and interpret English language novels, poetry, short stories, plays and essays. Although you can teach English literature at the elementary level, middle and secondary schools may allow you to work solely as an English teacher. You could also find work as an English teacher at the postsecondary level.

What Education Do I Need?

If you're interested in becoming an English teacher at the elementary, middle or secondary level, you might consider enrolling in a bachelor's degree program in English or English literature. A few subjects that you can expect to cover in a bachelor's program include English literature, American literature, African American literature, Shakespeare, nonfiction, global outlooks and contemporary novels.

You'll also need to complete a teacher training program, which may be offered as part of your degree program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a teaching license is required for all instructors in public schools (www.bls.gov). Licensure requirements vary from state to state, but in most cases, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree, complete a teacher training program and take a licensure exam.

You'll usually need to earn a doctoral degree in order to teach English at the postsecondary level. English doctoral programs are often research-oriented; many programs also expect you to teach some undergraduate courses. A written dissertation is typically required in order to graduate.

What Is the Job Market Like?

The BLS notes that the number of jobs available for secondary school teachers was projected to grow by four percent from 2018-2028 (www.bls.gov). This number was about the same as the average job growth rate across all industries. The number of employed postsecondary English teachers was expected to rise by 11% during the same time frame, as reported by the BLS.

What Kind of Salary Can I Expect?

In May 2018, the BLS stated that the median annual wage for secondary school teachers was $60,320, with the upper 10% of these teachers making $97,500 or more and the lowest ten percent making $39,740 or less per year. However, the salary that you can expect varies widely by state. For example, the annual mean wage of secondary school teachers in Arkansas was $51,780 in May 2018, while the annual mean wage for secondary teachers in New York was $85,300.

The BLS notes that the median annual wage for postsecondary English teachers was $66,590 in 2018, with the upper 10% of these teachers making $135,020 or more per year and the lowest ten percent making $37,180 or less. Similar to secondary school teachers, salaries for postsecondary teachers differ from state to state; the annual mean wage for postsecondary teachers in West Virginia was $53,790 versus $114,110 in California.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Lovers of literature may also want to pursue a job as a librarian, either at a public library or a school library. Librarians usually need a master's degree. Another education-related job is a career as a school principal or director. These professionals play supervisory roles in schools, managing staff and directing the curriculum to promote student success. In order to work as a principal, it is necessary to earn a master's degree in educational leadership or a related subject, and they need to be licensed in order to work in public schools.