How Do I Become an English Professor?

Research what it takes to become an English professor. Find out about education requirements, training, salary projections and job outlook to determine if this is the right career path for you. Schools offering Literacy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an English Professor?

An English professor usually has both academic teaching and research/writing responsibilities. As an English professor, you could teach undergraduate and graduate students about literary works, historical periods, literary movements, authors, poets and all aspects of the English language. You may deliver course materials through lectures or small-group seminars, and you may evaluate students through writing assignments, oral presentations, discussion participation and exams. For graduate students, you may serve as a research or thesis mentor. In addition to your mentoring and teaching duties, you are also expected to contribute to the field of English, either by publishing high-level academic research or your own literary works.

The following chart outlines the education requirements, salary expectations and job outlook for a career as an English professor.

Degree Required Ph.D.
Education Field of Study English, literature or similar field
Training Required Teaching assistantship
Job Growth (2014-2024) 10%*
Median Salary (2015) $61,990*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Degree Options for English Professors

Most schools require English professors to hold a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy). The first degree you'll need is a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in English, which is a 4-year degree program that will teach you about writing, literary criticism and English literature, poetry and drama. If you can't find a school that will let you enroll in a Ph.D. program with only a bachelor's degree, you could enroll in a Master of Arts (M.A.) in English, followed by a Ph.D. program.

You could tailor your Ph.D. program to suit your research interests; this could be in a literary period, genre, critical viewpoint or other research area. You'll take traditional courses and comprehensive examinations and engage in rigorous research studies. In order to be awarded a Ph.D., you'll have to write a doctoral dissertation, which you'll develop with the help of a faculty member. A dissertation is a major research undertaking that demonstrates mastery of your chosen research area. Ph.D. programs can be highly competitive and often require up to six years of study.

Get a Graduate Teaching Assistantship

Most graduate schools offer teaching assistantships, where you could have the opportunity to assist professors with their daily teaching duties. At first, you would perform duties such as locating study materials and grading papers. As you progress through the Ph.D. program and demonstrate your teaching abilities, you'll eventually be given more responsibilities, including writing your own curriculum and teaching classes without supervision.

Search for Jobs

Becoming an English professor is a process that involves moving your way up from instructor to tenured professor, which can take up to seven years. You can begin by searching college and university websites for job openings or websites that advertise jobs for people who hold Ph.D.s. A professionally prepared resume should show your education, research interests and activities, teaching experience and any affiliation you have with professional organizations. You may want to take advantage of networking opportunities at colleges and universities, seminars, symposiums and conferences. Networking could help you meet professors and school administrators, who could assist you with your job search.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in teaching English, you can also consider jobs at the high school and middle school levels. Although a Ph.D. is not required for these jobs, a bachelor's degree and a teaching license are necessary for work in a public school. You may also want to think about a job as a professional writer or editor. Depending on your area of interest within the field of English, you may write novels, screenplays or poetry, or you may contribute to regular publications like newspapers, magazines and internet blogs. No formal education is technically required for work as a writer, but educational experience can help writers improve their skills and achieve professional success in this competitive field.

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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