How to Become an English Teacher

Literacy, or the ability to read and write, is one of the foundations of civilized society. The ability to communicate and connect meaningfully with others through the written and spoken word is essential to personal achievement and the advancement of society. English teachers are the gateways to literacy.

English Education Job Description

English instruction is sometimes called Language Arts. English or Language Arts teachers are responsible for instructing students in all the skill sets - from spelling and grammar to comprehension and literary analysis - necessary to becoming sophisticated readers and writers. They instruct students in the structure of the language itself as well as its various written and spoken expressions.

English teachers use a wide variety of texts including essays, poems, novels, short stories and plays to foster an appreciation for literature. They also use literature to teach students how to analyze texts, as well as to develop students' own writing and speaking ability.

At the elementary level, English or Language Arts is usually one of several core subjects taught by the same classroom teacher. Instruction at this level focuses on learning to read and the mechanics of the language, such as capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. At the middle and high school level, classes often become specialized by genre such as American literature, world literature, and creative writing. Instruction emphasizes the study of literature to teach higher-level critical thinking and composition skills.

Featured Online Programs:

Online programs may not be available in all states

English Education Requirements

English teachers must have a bachelor's degree and a state certification to teach. Exact requirements vary from state-to-state, but prospective teachers must complete a student teaching internship and pass a competency test such as Praxis to be licensed. English teachers typically earn an education degree with a concentration in English or Language Arts. Another option is to earn a degree in English and complete an alternative teacher-licensing program. While not required, professional certification from an organization such as the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), communicates a high degree of professionalism and commitment to the field. The NBPTS offers certificates in English Language Arts at the middle and high school levels.

English Education Career Outlook

According to 2016-17 research by the American Association for Employment in Education, the supply of English teachers is balanced with demand in most areas of the country. A secondary teacher can expect to earn a starting salary of nearly $50,516 according to the NACE National Salary Survey Summer 2017. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual teacher salary was $59,170 in 2017.


English Education Trends

Technology is profoundly changing literacy education and practices according to recent studies of English teachers, teens, and their parents by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the Pew Institute and the American Life Project. According to poll respondents, the most important literacy skills in the 21st century will be the ability to judge the veracity of sources, analyze a variety of print and online texts, and apply information in creative ways.

Online English Education Degree Programs

An online degree in English education breaks free of the traditional campus-based mold in favor of a convenient and flexible, Web-based learning environment. Online degrees are appropriate for aspiring English teachers seeking initial certification or for experienced teachers looking to update their knowledge and skills.

In addition to English and secondary teaching methods, expect to take extensive core subject classes such as American, English and World literature studies and writing classes. Many online master's degrees in English education can be completed in two years; certification-only programs may be faster.

High-quality online English education programs typically are accredited by organizations such as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education or the National Council of Teachers of English. You'll also want a chance to practice your newly acquired skills, so make sure the program you choose includes a student teaching practicum.

Online English Education Degrees to Consider:

Drexel University in Philadelphia offers an online Master of Science in teaching, learning and curriculum with a concentration in English. This program is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and is designed for career changers who already have a bachelor's degree in another field. Graduates are eligible to apply for Pennsylvania teaching certification in English.

The University of Illinois online teacher certification program prepares candidates to teach English in grades 6-12 in the state of Illinois. The program requires only minimal visits to campus. It is designed for candidates seeking initial teacher certification only.

A great option is to choose an online program such as the one with Saint Joseph's University. The accelerated teacher certification program offers a master's degree in secondary education with a concentration in English, or individuals can choose to earn English teacher certification without a master's degree. Graduates earn Pennsylvania teacher certification and reciprocity is available in 33 states.

Useful Resources

Dr. Beverly Ann Chin is a faculty member and Director of the English teaching program at the University of Montana. Her experience spans more than 35 years in English, language arts, education, editing and consulting, among other roles. She is is the former President of the National Council of Teachers of English. In the video below, she discusses teaching English and the requirements for the position.