English Teacher Career Guide
An English teacher instructs students on English language and literature. 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 students’ 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 supporting 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 elementary education. To teach at the secondary level, a bachelor’s degree in secondary education or in English with an education minor is a common requirement. Most colleges require post-baccalaureate degrees in English, like a master’s degree or PhD. Prospective teachers who intend to teach K-12 classes with non-native English speaking students may find it beneficial to earn a 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 can be taken in order to receive additional endorsements. The graduate will then be prepared to pursue certification.
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 alternative 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 master’s in education degree programs designed for prospective teachers. A concentration in English is typically taken along with education courses.
Regardless of which road is taken, the student must also pass a series of state tests to earn teacher certification. At least one semester of student teaching is required in most states, and some universities require one to three semesters of observations in a classroom.
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 $55,860 per year.1 Projections indicate that job growth for middle school teachers will be 6% between 2014 and 2024, or about as fast as average.1 Teachers at the secondary level earn an average annual salary of $57,200 and can expect a 6% job growth rate from 2014 to 2024.2 Postsecondary teachers of English earn an average annual salary of $72,470 and have job growth prospects of 13% from 2014 to 2024.3
While most K-12 teachers hold a bachelor’s degree, about 12% hold a master’s degree or other postgraduate degree or 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.
English and Language Arts Teacher Career Interviews
- Megan Favre, Texas Language Arts Teacher
- Colby Sharp, Michigan Language Arts Teacher
- John Ritchie, President, Kansas Association of Teachers of English
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. Patience, flexibility, and creativity in designing instructional activities are sought-after skills for schools looking to hire English teachers.
- National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)– The NCTE 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
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. You can also check out our traditional certification and alternative certification guides.
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 Occupational Outlook Handbook, Middle School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm
3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Postsecondary Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm
4. O*NET Online, Secondary School Teachers: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-2031.00