How to Become an English Teacher
English teachers are trained to equip students with a broad foundation of linguistic knowledge. With the ability to choose between elementary, middle school, high school, and postsecondary (college) institutions, you can build the career experience of your choice with a little bit of planning. Regardless of the path you choose, as an English teacher, you’ll touch the lives of many students and may foster a love of English they’ll carry forever.
On this page, you will learn what an English teacher does, their salary, the steps to becoming one, the different levels you could teach at, and the degrees that could lead to a career as an educator of English.
What Does an English Teacher Do?
Regardless of the age of their students, English teachers primarily teach grammar, literature, vocabulary, reading, and writing techniques. Your goal as a teacher will be to help students improve and refine their written and oral communication skills in various capacities.
Career Outlook and Salary for English Teachers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), elementary school teachers earn a median salary of $57,980, and the field is expected to grow at a rate of 3% through 2028. High School teachers earn a median salary of $60,320 per year, and can expect to see a 4% growth in the field over the next decade. Finally, postsecondary professors have a median salary of $78,470, and their field is growing at a much faster rate than the average profession with an 11% increase in jobs through 2026.
Steps to Becoming an English Teacher
To become an English teacher, you first must complete the educational requirements and obtain your teaching license in the state in which you plan to work. These requirements are put in place to ensure students receive the best education possible and you are well prepared for a career in teaching.
Earn Your Degree
It should come as no surprise that before you can teach students, you must first complete your own schooling. While exact requirements vary by state, municipality, and type of school (public or private), states usually require English teachers to have a bachelor’s degree in English along with completion of a teaching education program. If you’re interested in teaching at the college level, you’ll likely need a Ph.D. in English. Some institutions, like community colleges, may only require a master’s degree.
Practice in the Field
Teaching education programs typically require student teaching experience, also called practicums or internships. Student teaching experiences are usually built into the curriculum. While student teaching requirements differ by program, you can expect to interact directly with students while being guided and supervised by an experienced instructor. Depending on your program, you may spend anywhere from several hours each semester to 15 hours per week student teaching. In doing so, you’ll put into practice the teaching knowledge you’ve obtained during your degree program.
Obtain Your Teaching License
All states require public school teachers from elementary through high school to be licensed or certified in the specific grade level they teach—although some private schools may not require licensure (BLS, 2019). Often, a state’s teaching license is only valid for the state in which you’ll be teaching, though there are exceptions. Visit Teach.org to determine which licensure or certification is required for your state.
English Teaching Jobs and Job Descriptions
A degree in English Education opens the door to the sort of job you want, whether teaching English at the elementary, middle, high school (secondary), or college (postsecondary) levels.
- Elementary: Depending on grade level, these younger students will have little prior education in grammar, literature, and writing, so you’ll help them build these skills from the ground up. Expect to help students spell unfamiliar words, teach them to read with understanding and fluency, help them comprehend oral and written texts, and teach them how to use words and phrases properly.
- Middle: Students in middle school have generally learned to read, but at this point will focus on comprehension of texts and media. At this point in their education students may increase their vocabulary, expand on logical interpretations, and broaden their horizons.
- High School/Secondary: High school students have a much more solid understanding of English compared to elementary students. For these older students, you will help them improve their speaking abilities, teach them to interpret literary works, and help them expand their vocabulary.
- College/Postsecondary: At this education level, your job as an English educator is to help your adult students refine their writing, speaking, and grammar. You might also facilitate group discussion, develop a syllabus and lesson plan, and meet with students one-on-one to ensure they’re getting the most out of your course.
Degree Programs for English Education
The required degree for your career depends largely on the education level you plan to teach. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum education required to teach elementary, middle, and high school, but a master’s degree and often a doctorate degree is required to teach at the postsecondary level.
- Bachelor’s: Aspiring English teachers have the option to enroll in a general education program, rather than focus in an individual subject. For example, you might major in elementary education and obtain your B.S.E. (Bachelor of Science in Education). In an elementary education degree program, you will likely take courses about classroom management strategies, instructional techniques, diversity and inclusion in the classroom, and other courses that relate to teaching a specific subject. Typically, in your final year in the program you will complete the student teaching requirements. In general, it takes four years to complete a bachelor’s degree. For those wanting to become high school English teachers, a minor in English or similar subject is a natural decision, although some universities do offer a major in teaching secondary English. Make sure to check with your university to see what is offered.
- Master’s: Future teachers often choose to get their master’s degree in order to make themselves more desirable for a teaching position or to move up to a more senior or administrative position. A bachelor’s degree is required to enroll in a master’s program. Depending on the university and the degree programs offered, you could pursue a master’s in teaching, education, or English. A master’s degree, which generally can be completed in two years, could also be used as a steppingstone to obtain a doctorate degree. Common courses in a master’s program are literature, rhetoric, critical theory, linguistics, creative writing, and technical writing.
- Doctorate: A doctorate degree is the highest education degree offered and opens the doors to being able to teach at the university (postsecondary) level. A doctorate program usually takes four years to complete. There are two different doctorate degrees related to teaching: a Ph.D. in education and an Ed.D. degree. Ph.D. programs require students to create a research dissertation, while Ed.D. programs have students evaluate and address a problem in the school system. Regardless of which you decide to pursue, your doctorate degree will prepare you for teaching university students English. Sometimes a master’s degree is required to enroll in a doctorate, but it depends on the university. Check with your desired university to confirm.
- Online Programs: Getting your English education degree entirely online may seem daunting, but it’s a great option for those juggling busy personal lives or working full-time. Online programs offer an unmatched amount of flexibility. In online courses, you typically have assignments due regularly that you’re able to submit whenever you’ve completed them. Common assignments include discussion board posts, essays, and online quizzes or tests. The scope of online programs is equivalent to those offered by brick-and-mortar institutions, and the numerous advantages online programs offer make it a more desirable option for many students. Be sure to check the Teach.org certification and licensure requirements in your state to ensure an online degree program is right for you.
Resources for Current and Future English Teachers
- National Council of Teachers of English
- Modern Language Association
- National Education Association
- The Daring English Teacher
SEARCH YOUR STATE
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia