Becoming an English Teacher

Are you a stickler for correct grammar and punctuation? Are you a bookworm? Do you know how to express yourself well in writing, or do you dabble in writing your own creative fiction? If you combine all of these qualities with a love of kids and a desire to share what you know, you have all the makings of an English teacher.

The path to becoming a teacher of English in public schools requires two basic conditions:

  • Education. You need a four-year bachelor’s degree at the very minimum, and some states insist on a master’s degree, which you usually must earn within a certain period of time after obtaining your bachelor’s. Most students aspiring to teach English earn either a bachelor of arts in English with a focus in education or a bachelor of science in education with an English specialization. As with all teacher training degree programs, you will take basic education courses that instruct you in classroom management and theories and techniques of teaching, along with the usual liberal arts and humanities classes. You will also go through classroom observation and complete a student teaching internship under the supervision of a mentor teacher.
  • Licensure. You may not require a teaching license if you end up teaching in private schools because they can set their own standards, but all public school teachers must apply for one. Each state’s individual requirements for licensure or certification can be different, but you usually must earn a bachelor’s degree with a specific amount of credits in basic subjects and have gone through student teaching. Before receiving your license, you will also be tested in your basic teaching competency through an assessment exam. Some states use the standardized PRAXIS exams, while other states have their own tests.

After becoming an English teacher, your day-to-day duties will vary depending on the grade level you are teaching. If you have chosen to work with elementary students, you will be introducing them to the basics of reading and writing. In the junior high or middle school grades, you will concentrate on grammar and vocabulary and help your students learn how to express themselves clearly in writing. With high school students, you will prepare them to enter college or the workforce by perfecting their writing skills and guiding them to an appreciation of the great masterpieces of literature.

At all grade levels, you will also perform the basic tasks that are required to manage any classroom such as:

  • Selecting suitable educational materials and activities
  • Planning grade-level appropriate lessons
  • Delivering instructional lectures
  • Devising homework, essays, and other projects
  • Grading assignments and tests
  • Writing up report cards
  • Identifying and assisting students who need extra help

While your salary as an English teacher depends greatly on the school district in which you teach, most beginning teachers can expect to earn about $40,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median yearly salary is about $50,000. Many English instructors choose to earn extra money by teaching supplementary courses in creative writing or journalism or by conducting an extracurricular activity. You can increase your earning potential and possibly move into an administrative role by earning a master’s degree, if you don’t already have one, or by obtaining national certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.