English Teacher Career Guide

An English teacher instructs students about the correct usage of the English language. English teachers encourage learning the English language in a fun and engaging environment. They may teach native speakers of English as well as non-native English speaking students. This guide provides further information on what English teachers do, how to become an English teacher, and English teacher salary and outlook.

English Teacher Job Description

The job of an English teacher requires a deep understanding of sentence structure, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and literature. It encompasses teaching creative composition such as prose, poetry, short stories, and narratives as well as technical writing skills which include news articles, reports, journals, and essays. A teacher of English should develop a student’s oral and written communication skills, including critical thinking, oral and written comprehension, and problem solving skills. English teachers are responsible for planning lessons that fit into a school’s approved curriculum and support student learning to state standards.

English Teacher Requirements and Common Tasks

When hiring an English teacher at the elementary level, schools typically require a bachelor’s degree in English. Some secondary schools and most colleges require post-baccalaureate degrees in English, like a master’s degree or Ph.D. Prospective teachers who intend to teach K-12 classes with non-native English speaking students may find it beneficial to earn a graduate certificate or degree in teaching English as a second language.

The English teacher’s role in schools is to effectively teach the correct usage of the English language in speaking and writing and to help students develop creative composition skills in reading and literature classes. The teacher should be attuned to the learning progress of students, especially to non-native English speakers, and be able to use alternative teaching strategies when necessary. In addition to classroom management tasks, English teachers interact with other faculty during staff meetings and professional development activities. Many teachers of English also participate in student tutoring, and may advise extracurricular student clubs.

How to Become an English Teacher

A student seeking initial certification via a bachelor’s degree program must typically complete two years of general education courses. After those two years, the student must apply for admission to the university’s education program. From that point, the majority of classes that a student will take will be English and literature classes as well as classes in pedagogy designed to instruct the candidate how to teach English successfully. Additional courses (usually two or three) can be taken in order to receive middle school endorsement for English or Language Arts. The student will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English and be entitled to receive certification for teaching high school English.

Some students decide to teach after they have already completed their bachelor’s degree in English or a related field. In this case, the university will look at a student’s educational background and help determine which classes are necessary to earn teaching certification. If the student has a bachelor’s degree in English and is only seeking certification, he or she may have the option to only take the necessary education courses required for certification. Many universities offer Masters in Education programs designed for prospective teachers who do not have the background in the subject they would like to teach or for those seeking an advanced degree. A concentration in English is typically taken along with the mandated education courses. After successful completion of all requirements, the student will be awarded entitlement for certification.

Regardless of which road is taken, the student must also pass a series of state tests to analyze their ability to be a successful teacher. At least one semester of student teaching is required in most states, and some universities require one to three more semesters of observations in a classroom. Once all requirements are met and entitlements are sent to the state, the graduate may apply for certification thorough the state with the desired endorsements in English subjects.

English Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for middle school teachers in all subjects is $53,430 per year.1 Projections indicate that job growth for middle school teachers will reach 12% between 2012 and 2022, or about as fast as average.1 Teachers at the secondary level earn an average annual salary of $55,050, and can expect a 6% job growth rate from 2012 to 2022.2 Postsecondary teachers of English earn an average annual salary of $68,970, and have job growth prospects of 19% from 2012 to 2022.3

While most K-12 teachers hold a bachelor’s degree, about 12% hold a master’s degree or other post-baccalaureate certificate.4 Holding a higher level degree in English, literature, or a related subject may help prospective English teachers become more competitive in the job market. As the majority of post-secondary teachers of English hold a master’s or doctoral degree, pursuing an advanced degree can also open up further job opportunities.

Helpful Skills and Experience

Most degree and certificate programs that lead to state teacher certification include student teaching experience, which can be of great help to beginning teachers honing their classroom management skills. Experience tutoring can also help prospective teachers of English prepare to lead classes. Patience, flexibility, and creativity in designing instructional activities are sought after skills for schools looking to hire English teachers.

Additional Resources

The National Council of Teachers of English exists to advance the teaching and learning of English and language arts at all levels of the education system. Members receive discounts on instructional materials, subscriptions to education-focused journals, and professional development opportunities.

English Education Teaching Degrees and Programs

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Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming an English Teacher

Question: What certification is required to become an English teacher?

Answer: Teachers in public schools must typically hold state certification and subject area endorsements in English language and literature. Many states offer alternative pathways to certification for career switchers or those who hold a bachelor’s degree that did not include coursework in teaching. Your state Board of Education or college program can provide further details on certification requirements specific to your state.

Question: What career opportunities are available for English teachers?

Answer: In addition to teaching in US schools, English teachers are in high demand overseas. There are many programs that connect recent English graduates with school districts abroad for beginning teaching experience. English teachers may also find job opportunities in the private sector tutoring and coaching English language learners for multi-national corporations.

Question: What certifications can English teachers earn to advance their careers?

Answer: In addition to bachelor’s and advanced degrees, English teachers can earn certificates in teaching English as a second or foreign language. In many states, this qualifies teachers for an ESL subject endorsement on the teaching license. Other common certificates include advanced training in teaching business English, communication, and creative writing.

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics – Middle School Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics – High School Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm
3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics – Postsecondary Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm
4. O*NET Online – Secondary School Teachers: http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-2031.00