Be an English Literature Teacher: Education and Career Roadmap

Apr 27, 2020

Learn how to become an English literature teacher. Find information about job duties and education and licensing requirements, which can help you start a career as an English literature teacher.

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English Literature Teachers

An English literature teacher assists students in the examination, analysis and discussion of literary works, such as novels, short stories, essays and poems. Typically working in middle schools or high schools, literature teachers often have duties outside the classroom, such as monitoring students in common areas and meeting with parents as needed.

Career Information

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's required in some states
Degree Field English, English education
Experience Student teaching internship required
Certification Certification required for public school teachers
Key Skills Patience; instructional and communication skills
Median Salary (2019) $59,660 (for middle school teachers)
$61,660 (for secondary school teachers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ONET Online

An English literature teacher needs a bachelor's degree in English, English Education or a closely related major to teach at the middle and secondary school levels. Prospective teachers must also complete a teacher education program that includes student teaching experiences. After completing a degree program and passing all necessary exams, aspiring teachers receive state certification necessary for teaching in public schools. In some states, middle and high school teachers in public schools may also need a master's degree.

To succeed in the classroom, an English literature teacher needs good communication and instructional skills and patience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for middle and high school teachers, in general, are expected to experience a slow to average growth of 3% and 4% respectively between 2018 and 2028. In May 2019, middle school teachers earned a median annual salary of $59,660. During the same month and year, high school teachers earned a median annual salary of $61,660. Let's take a closer look at the educational requirements for an English literature teacher.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

As we said earlier, an English literature teacher needs a bachelor's degree in English or a related major to teach at the middle or secondary level. At some schools, students can enroll in an undergraduate English program with a concentration in teacher education.

Bachelor's degree programs in English emphasize the cultural, historical and social relevance of literature and commonly include intensive writing and rhetoric courses. Teacher education classes cover topics in child and adolescent development, language acquisition and development, literacy, group supervision and lesson preparation. While enrolled in a teacher education program, a prospective English literature teacher must complete a student teaching internship at a local school.

Here's a success tip:

  • Work as a substitute teacher. Some states allow aspiring teachers to work as substitutes while still in school. Those interested in subbing should check with their state's board of education. Special permits or licenses may be available. Working as a substitute gives teachers the opportunity to learn from seasoned professionals, develop experience in the classroom and improve the skills essential to success as a teacher, including effective communication and classroom administration.

Step 2: Get Certified

After completing a bachelor's degree program, teacher education coursework and a student teaching experience, aspiring instructors qualify for state certification. A passing score on state administered exams is also required, although exam types vary by state. Requirements to stay licensed may also differ by state but often include continuing education coursework.

Step 3: Earn a Master's Degree

Some positions or states may require a prospective English literature teacher to have a master's degree. Certified teachers may also enroll in a master's degree program to further their careers. Some master's programs are designed for those who've received a bachelor's degree in English literature but aren't certified, or for educators certified in different subjects, but who'd like an English literature certification. Graduate English programs include courses in literature, literary theory, linguistics, rhetoric and composition, and many require completion of a master's thesis or research project.

Let's review: you'll need a bachelor's degree in English or a related field and maybe even a master's degree to work as an English literature teacher. At the middle or high school level you can earn a median annual salary of $59,660 and $61,660 respectively and expect a slow to average growth in jobs through 2028.

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