How to Become an English Teacher in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become an English teacher. Learn about education and licensure requirements, salary and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Literacy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an English Teacher?

English teachers work from curriculum guidelines to prepare lesson plans and teach their students about English. They typically work with middle or high school students to develop their writing skills while also focusing on grammar and vocabulary development. Additionally, these teachers help students improve their literacy through the study of selected books and stories. English teachers at all levels assess the work of their students and monitor their progress. They may also meet with parents to discuss their child's work in the classroom.

Middle School Teachers High School Teachers
Degree Required Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Licensure Required in all states Required in all states
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% (for all middle school teachers)* 6% (for all high school teachers)*
Median Salary (2015) $55,860 (for all middle school teachers)* $57,200 (for all high school teachers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Go to College

According to the BLS, most states require middle and secondary school teachers, including English teachers, to obtain a bachelor's degree. There are two primary degree options to become an English teacher - a Bachelor of Science in Elementary or Secondary Education with an English concentration, or a Bachelor of Arts in English with an education concentration. A master's degree is required by some states and, in some instances, having a master's degree can help you to meet education requirements if you have a bachelor's degree in only English or literature. With any degree program, you'll study education basics and complete a teaching practicum inside a classroom.

Step 2: Get Licensure

The BLS states that to teach in any state you need state-approved teaching credentials. This only applies to teaching in a public school. Most states require you to complete a bachelor's degree and a student teaching internship before passing a written exam. Other states may require a master's degree or observation of you teaching students.

Step 3: Seek Additional Credentials

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) provides voluntary national teaching certifications (www.nbpts.org). There are two certification exams for English teachers; one is for early childhood education and the other is for adolescent education. Certification may allow you to prove your skills and knowledge in English.

Step 4: Join a Professional Organizations

By joining a professional organization, such as the National Council of Teachers of English, you can foster your professional growth (www.ncte.org). You'll be connected to other English teachers across the nation through online conversations and find leads to advanced educational opportunities. You'll also gain knowledge of popular trends, books and grants for English teachers.

Step 5: Consider Advancing Your Education

If you're interested in breaking into the college professor field, you'll need a doctorate degree in English or a related subject. If you're interested in becoming an English professor who teaches American literature courses, you may focus on a doctorate degree in American writers and literature. Ph.D. programs tend to focus on research, writing and teaching of literature.

You can begin your career as an assistant professor working your way towards a tenure-track associate professorship. To become a full-time professor with a university, you'll need to work your way up and earn tenure with that college. The BLS reported that, as of May 2015, the median annual salary for English professors was $61,990.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

In middle school and high school, teachers specialize in a specific subject. Art, music, physical education, Spanish, math and science teachers all perform tasks that are similar to the work an English teacher does. They must develop lesson plans to cover concepts related to their subject that are age-appropriate. They also evaluate student progress and may meet with parents. Like English teachers, they need a bachelor's degree and their teaching license.

Preschool teachers need an associate's degree and focus on preparing children ages three to five to enter kindergarten.

Instructional coordinators need a master's degree. They determine what material should be covered in each subject at each grade level. Instructional coordinators provide these guidelines to principals and teachers and also assess how effective the material is and modify it as needed.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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