How to Become an English Instructor: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become an English instructor. Research the education requirements, licensure information and experience you will need to start a career as an English instructor. View article »

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  • 0:04 Should I Become An…
  • 1:37 Choose The Level You…
  • 2:15 Earn A Bachelor's Degree
  • 3:03 Get Certified
  • 3:43 Complete A Master's Degree
  • 4:04 Pursue A Doctorate

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Video Transcript

Should I Become an English Instructor?

English instructors teach literature, writing and related studies to students in several different grade levels, ranging from elementary school and middle school to high school and college. Additionally, some English instructors teach English as a second language (ESL). There is often a good deal of job security for elementary, middle and secondary school English teachers, since they can usually earn tenure. However, these instructors are often held accountable for student success, which can be frustrating at times.

Postsecondary English teachers are usually employed on a part-time basis, which gives them less job security. However, tenure is available to select full-time instructors. Most English teachers of all levels are able to get summers off when school is not in session.

English teachers typically must earn at least a bachelor's degree in English or education, although advanced degrees will be necessary to teach higher levels of English. Public school English teachers must be licensed according to the requirements of the state that they wish to teach in. These requirements include accumulating supervised teaching experience and passing an exam.

The following table contains the core educational requirements for English instructors.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; advanced degrees recommended for advancement
Degree Field English
Licensure Teachers in public schools must be licensed by the state
Experience Most employers prefer candidates with some experience in the teaching field
Key Skills Communication skills, instructional skills, patience, flexibility, classroom management
Average Salary (2015) $55,860 (For all middle school teachers)
$57,200 (For all high school teachers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014), (August 2015)

Choose the Level You Want to Teach

English instructors may choose from a wide variety of academic levels in which to teach. Most will teach reading and language arts to children in elementary school or middle school. Others will choose to teach literature and composition to high school and college students. Working as an ESL instructor or an adult literacy instructor is also an option.

Success Tip:

  • Take advanced high school courses in English. It may be advantageous for high school students who wish to pursue a career teaching English to consider taking advanced placement or honors courses in English and language arts. High school honors courses in English typically require more intense academic discipline than ordinary English courses.

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Earn a Bachelor's Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, English instructors at all levels must earn at least a bachelor's degree in order to be qualified to teach. English instructors may eventually work in a wide variety of academic environments with varying requirements. In addition to an English degree, public and private schools may require English instructors to earn a teaching certificate with coursework in education. Those who want to teach English as a second language may choose to double major in English and a foreign language.

Success Tip:

  • Participate in student teaching. This will increase experience and the chance for success. Schools may offer student teaching opportunities during the final year of the program. This offers prospective instructors a chance to work with students and teach under the supervision of an experienced teacher.

Get Certified

All public school teachers are required to be certified by the state in which they practice, regardless of the subject matter or grade level. This process differs from state to state but typically includes completing a teacher preparation program and then passing a state certification exam. Most private schools do not require certification.

Success Tip:

  • Earn the National Board Certification. National Board Certification is an advanced credential that demonstrates mastery of teaching ability as assessed through a rigorous process of peer review. Candidates for National Board Certification must undergo a series of ten assessments administered by other teachers.

Complete a Master's Degree

Obtaining a master's degree may provide greater professional flexibility. While some high schools may prefer to hire applicants who have earned an advanced degree, community colleges require a master's degree at the very minimum for their entry-level instructors. Additionally, some tutorial services and ESL programs also require a master's degree.

Pursue a Doctorate

Professional English instructors who wish to teach at 4-year colleges and universities may be required to earn a doctorate in order to advance professionally. In addition to working as a professor, a doctorate may also open doors in many new directions, such as research and mentoring opportunities.

Becoming an English instructor at any grade level requires a bachelor's degree and National Board Certification.

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