Literature Teacher: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for literature teachers. Get the facts about what type of degree programs can prepare you for a career as a literature teacher at the high school or college level, as well as information on course topics, public school licensing requirements and earnings, to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Literacy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Literature Teacher?

Literature teachers provide instruction in the interpretation and analysis of literary works, such as novels, plays and poetry. They typically work in high schools, colleges and universities. They usually deliver course materials through a combination of reading assignments, lectures and small-group discussions. In addition to teaching responsibilities, high school teachers may also play other supervisory roles in a school, such as cafeteria monitoring. College and university professors are expected to publish research in the field and/or their own literary works. They may also serve as thesis or dissertation mentors for graduate students.

The following chart gives more information about this career.

Degree Required Bachelor's (for high school teachers)
Ph.D. (for postsecondary teachers)
Education Field of Study English, comparative literature
Licensure and Certification Commonly required for public high schools
Job Growth (2014-24) 6% (as fast as average) for all high school teachers; 10% (faster than average) for college-level literature teachers*
Median Salary (May 2015) $57,200 for high school teachers; $61,990 for college-level literature teachers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Type of Educational Program Will Prepare Me For a Career as a Literature Teacher?

If you want to teach literature at the university level, you'll need to complete a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree program in English or Comparative Literature. This means 6-8 years of intensive study, after you earn your bachelor's degree. It is possible to teach at a community college with only a master's degree, although you may face stiff competition from other job applicants who have earned doctoral degrees.

If you want to teach literature at the high school level, you often don't need a graduate degree. Most public school systems require only a bachelor's degree and a teaching certificate. Private high schools do not usually require certification, making a bachelor's degree the minimum educational requirement.

What Types Of Classes Will I Take?

Completing a degree in English or comparative literature requires a significant amount of reading and writing. You'll study the history and structure of the English language while also exploring critical theories of literature and poetry. You'll examine the roles played by culture, gender and politics in shaping literature.

You'll most likely choose a concentration for your studies, such as medieval literature or literary theory and cultural studies. If you're majoring in comparative literature, you'll have to master at least one language other than modern English.

What Do I Need In Addition To My Degree?

To teach literature at a public high school, you must be licensed. The licensure process varies by state but generally includes completion of a bachelor's degree program and a teacher training program. Most states require supervised student teaching experience. Another common requirement is completion of a proficiency exam, which tests competency levels in basic subjects and your area of expertise.

What Can I Expect To Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median salary for high school teachers was $57,200 as of 2015 (www.bls.gov). Your salary will depend on a number of factors, including location and size of school, your level of experience and the subject taught.

According to the BLS, the median salary for literature and English teachers at the college and university levels was $61,990 as of 2015. The BLS also reports that employment opportunities for university and college professors should increase by 10% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). Competition for open positions is expected to be fierce, due to the growing number of qualified applicants.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Individuals who are interested in teaching may also find jobs as elementary school teachers. Rather than covering great works of literature, these teachers help students build basic language, reading, comprehension and problem-solving skills in order to prepare them for future educational success. Like high school teachers, elementary school teachers need a bachelor's degree and a teaching license in order to work in public schools. For lovers of literature, it may also be possible to find a job as a writer or author. Depending on their area of interest, writers may publish books, write screenplays or contribute to newspapers, magazines, websites or online blogs.

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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