Become a High School English Teacher: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Sep 28, 2019

Learn how to become a high school English teacher. Research the job description and education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career as a high school English teacher.

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  • 0:01 Becoming a High School…
  • 1:40 Step 1: Teacher Training
  • 2:33 Step 2: Licensure and…
  • 3:21 Step 3: Get a Teaching…
  • 3:47 Step 4: Complete a…
  • 4:04 Step 5: Advance Your Career

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Becoming an English Teacher

High school English teachers use their training in literature, reading, and writing to ensure that their students meet state educational standards. Teachers plan and deliver lessons, evaluate student work, and assess students' progress. Depending on the school setting, teachers might also be responsible for students in hallways and other common areas.

Teaching can be a tiring, stressful, and demanding profession that often includes dealing with unmotivated or otherwise challenging students. On the other hand, observing student accomplishments can be very rewarding. Key skills that teachers will need include patience, instructional skills, and communication skills.

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's in some states
Degree Field English; others with passage of a subject test
Experience Student teaching required
Licensure and/or Certification State teaching license/certification required
Key Skills Patience; instructional and communication skills
Salary $60,320 (2018 median for all secondary school teachers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

High School English Teacher Requirements

Requirements to become a high school English teacher vary by state, but in public schools, they are typically required to earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited degree program, complete teacher training courses, and pass teacher certification exams. Some states grant provisional certification to applicants who meet these requirements, but stipulate that candidates must earn a master's degree before they can become fully certified.

Some states require that teachers have an English degree, while others will accept applicants with any degree as long as they can pass an English test. During a teacher training program, students will be required to complete a student teaching internship. States also require English teachers to be licensed and certified.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2018, all secondary school teachers, including high school English teachers, earned a median wage of $60,320 a year.

How to Become an English Teacher

Step 1: Teacher Training

The first step in the process of becoming a high school English teacher is completing an undergraduate degree. Although an English degree or coursework may be required in some states, other states allow applicants to teach any subject for which they can pass the required exam. Those who plan to become high school English teachers will also need to complete a teacher training program while in school. These programs usually include courses in classroom management and teaching strategies, as well as a student teaching experience in a real classroom. For those who have already completed a bachelor's degree without a teacher training component, stand-alone teacher preparation programs are available.

  • Work as a substitute teacher while you're in college. Substitute teaching is a good opportunity for future teachers to gain experience in the classroom and apply what they've learned in their teaching courses.

Step 2: Licensure and Certification

Most states require teacher certification candidates to pass exams demonstrating their professional skills and subject matter knowledge. For example, those planning to teach high school English should expect to take a test on teaching techniques and professional responsibilities, as well as an assessment of their knowledge of language arts and reading. Test topics may include reading process skills, literature, media literacy, and oral communication.

  • Use your state's official preparation resources. Most state education departments provide a guide to the test content, and practice questions may be available as well. These resources can help test-takers remedy any knowledge deficiencies before sitting for the exam.

Step 3: Get a Teaching Certificate

To become a high school English teacher, state certification is required. Aspiring teachers typically need to document that they've completed a bachelor's degree and a teacher preparation program. Submission of passing state exam results is usually necessary as well. Since teachers are responsible for keeping children safe and acting as role models in the community, most states also require teachers to pass some sort of criminal background check in order to obtain certification.

Step 4: Complete a Master's Degree

Some states issue a provisional teaching certificate to individuals who've earned a bachelor's degree and met the other requirements to become an English teacher at the high school level. In these states, holders of provisional certificates must earn a master's degree and meet other requirements in order to obtain a permanent certificate.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

High school English teachers can find opportunities for career advancement by taking administrative workshops and training to become a dean or principal of a school. For those who want to continue working in the classroom, there are options to become the head of their department, a teacher mentor, or an instructional resource. There are also new teacher leadership programs developing roles for teachers as teacherpreneurs who spend time working both in and out of the classroom. Another option for increasing salary is pursuing graduate studies to become a college literature professor.

High school English teachers need to complete at least a bachelor's degree and a teacher training program before they can become licensed and certified. In some cases, a master's degree may also be necessary.

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