How to Become an English Teacher

A child who reads will be an adult who thinks. Unknown

An English teacher uses their training in literature, writing and reading to ensure their students are learning state educational standards. They plan and deliver lessons as well as evaluate student work and progress. Educators often feel rewarded when seeing their students' accomplishments.

Qualities of an English Teacher

Prospective English teachers must possess a solid understanding of pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure. They should be able to assess and evaluate student progress effectively. In addition, English teachers should be able to use various instructional strategies to meet the needs of all students.

Prospective English teachers should have excellent communication skills so they can engage their class effectively and communicate well with parents, colleagues and school administrators.

English Teacher Job Growth

Growth is expected for English teaching jobs as many students from foreign countries are coming to the United States. There is also a need for English educators nationwide to teach English as a second language. Overall, projected growth for teachers from 2019 to 2029 is 4%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

How do you Become an English Teacher?

Education Requirements for English Teachers

Requirements vary by state; however, English teachers are typically required to earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited program and complete a teacher training program.

The first step in how to become an English teacher is to complete your undergraduate degree. Prospective English teachers should obtain a minimum of a bachelor's degree, preferably in English. They will also need to complete a teacher-training program that specializes in English language arts. The teacher preparation program will include courses in classroom management, teaching strategies, assessment and differentiated instruction. Candidates will also participate in student teaching experiences in real classrooms. For those who may have a bachelor's degree without a teacher training component, individual programs are available.

To teach upper level programs like post secondary and some high school courses, prospective English teachers may need to obtain a master's degree.

Many certified English teachers earn a degree in Secondary Education or Education with an emphasis/endorsement in English.

Tests to Pass for Becoming an English Teacher

The next step in becoming an English teacher is for the candidate to pass the state-required teacher certification exams. The exams will demonstrate a candidate's professional skills and subject matter knowledge. Test topics may include:

  • Literature
  • Media literacy
  • Oral communication
  • Reading process skills

State certification is required to become an English teacher, and prospective teachers will need to show that they have completed their bachelor's degree and teacher preparation program.

Alternative Certification for English Teachers

Some states may grant provisional certification to applicants who do not meet these requirements, but require that those candidates work on completing an alternative preparation program or earn a master's degree before they can become fully certified.

Find Information About Becoming a Teacher In Your State

Each state has different requirements for becoming a certified teacher. To find out specific requirements, click on your state.

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English Teacher by Degree Level

The tables and charts below break down the education level obtained as averaged across the U.S.

Degree LevelPercent (%)
Less Than High School Diploma0.2%
High School Diploma0.1%
Some College2.6%
Associate Degree2.3%
Bachelors Degree16.0%
Masters Degree35.6%
Doctorate Degree43.3%

Data taken from BLS Educational attainment for workers 25 years and older by detailed occupation, 2010-11 (

Who Will My Students Be?

English teachers can be expected to work with students from a broad range of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. The age range of your students will depend on whether you teach English at the middle school, high school or post-secondary level. However, most English teachers instruct middle school or high school.

What Does an English Teacher Do?

The responsibilities of an English teacher vary greatly depending on the grade that is being taught.

Depending on the exact class that is taught, English teachers can teach creative writing, which focuses on narratives, prose and poetry. English teachers may also teach students how to write essays, argumentative pieces, news articles or reports. Oral and written communication skills are tasks that English teachers help develop, as is problem solving skills, critical thinking and reasoning.

Quite often, English teachers are required to teach remedial classes involving grammar and writing skills. English teachers may also work on teaching students how to speak, read and write English as a second language. This position offers a great opportunity for diversity.

English teachers are responsible for planning lessons that meet their school's curriculum standards as well as the needs of the students in the class. Delivering coherent lectures, modifying assignments for individual students and grading assignments are some of the typical responsibilities of an English teacher.

English Teacher Jobs & Job Description

Teaching language arts to students at the elementary level and beyond requires a host of:

  • Critical analysis skills
  • Working knowledge of literary themes as they relate to history and current events
  • Ability to analyze and teach the mechanics of spoke, written and aural expression and comprehension.

The job does vary in scope and depth between English taught at the elementary and secondary levels. Keep reading for a typical job description.

Elementary English Teacher

Focused on foundational learning, elementary school English teachers are often tasked with introducing students to a number of language strands including speaking, reading, listening and writing. Once mastered, older elementary students are taught the rudiments of literary analysis. Teachers will:

  • Identify reasons for listening - i.e. to gain information, to interact socially, to follow direction
  • Demonstrate how to listen effectively
  • Evaluate student's listening strategies, model more sophisticated strategies as students skills progress
  • Teach students to check for understanding by retelling a story or text
  • Teach students to ask meaningful questions about the story
  • Help students discern explicit and implicit information from the story and non-verbal markers - i.e. vocal intonation and facial expression of the reader
  • Identify whether a text is fact or fiction
  • Teach students how to communicate information in a clear manner
  • Teach students to identify text and literary features
  • Teach children to read with both fluency and comprehension
  • Teach children to interpret media texts and discern messages within
  • Lead students to explain why different audiences might respond differently to a text
  • Help students produce a variety of texts and media texts
  • Assist students in demonstrating an understanding of complex oral texts
  • Help students learn to develop and explain their interpretation of a text's function and ideas by finding evidence in the text
  • Teach students how to analyze oral and written texts to evaluate how effectively they communicate ideas
  • Explain to students the value of a literary point of view
  • Help students identify a wide variety of presentation strategies
  • Teach students how to tailor their speaking behavior to the purpose and audience
  • Teach students how and when to use appropriate words, phrases and terminology
  • Help students create and best use a variety of appropriate visual aids
  • Teach students how to draft and revise their writing
  • Teach students the mechanics of editing, proofreading and publishing strategies
  • Elevate students' knowledge of language conventions in order to correct errors
  • Work with students to identify the topic, purpose, and audience of a text
  • Help students generate ideas about a potential topic, and then select the most viable idea for production
  • Help students learn to identify and order themes, main ideas, and supporting details and group them effectively and cohesively
  • Help students choose vivid and figurative language to add reader interest
  • Help students incorporate sentence variety in type and structure
  • Help students strategize to spell unfamiliar words

High School / Secondary English Teachers

Secondary school English teachers are responsible for refining students' developing literary analysis and expression and directing them toward a study and appreciation of literature, writing and media. With that goal in mind, secondary English teachers:

  • Help students identify the purpose of different oral texts
  • Help students develop several different active listening strategies for both in and out of the classroom
  • Assist students in learning and using several different comprehension strategies for use before, during, and after hearing an oral text
  • Help students identify important information and supporting points in a text
  • Help students make connections between texts and the broader world
  • Help students identify perspectives and biases in texts
  • Help students refine their oral speaking skills, using language suitable for the intended purpose and audience
  • Help students use appropriate words, phrases and terminology as well as style during an oral presentation
  • Help students refine non-verbal cues throughout the text
  • Help students understand connections between text and personal knowledge and insights
  • Educate students about different characteristics of text formats and how they can communicate ideas
  • Teach students to evaluate texts using evidence from within the text coupled with their own reasoning
  • Help students identify different text features and how they communicate the author's meaning
  • Evaluate students' understanding of most words in different reading contexts
  • Teach students to decode texts in order to assign meaning to unfamiliar words
  • Use strategies to help students expand their vocabulary
  • Lead students to describe the contributions of poets and authors
  • Lead students to explore a variety of creative and technical careers with English as a focus
  • Demonstrate creativity and economy, while focusing on the writing process; seek additional sources of funding and materials where appropriate
  • Be an active listener
  • Endorse the mission and vision of the school district and school
  • Be respectful of the dynamic of a student's school in their home community
  • Set academic goals for students to achieve
  • Undergo planned and ad hoc professional development
  • Communicate proactively and professionally with students and parents about grading, progress, and other issues
  • Support the school's culture and practices through extracurricular and co-curricular activities provide direction where applicable and empower students to become leaders
  • Praise students in a professional manner for their academic development and achievements
  • Collaborate with students and their parents to achieve best outcomes
  • Conduct all work activities in a professional manner

Where Can Certified English Teachers Teach?

English teachers usually teach in public, private or charter middle schools and high schools.

Public Schools

Public schools are free for all students. By law, these schools are required to admit any student who lives in the district, as long as enrollment permits. With that said, public schools generally have a diverse student population with students of various ethnic backgrounds.

Teachers in public schools must follow the curriculum that has been established by the local school district. Teachers must also administer the state standardized tests in order to measure school performance and student learning. The overall results of these tests may affect government funding. Prospective English teachers should apply to the district they wish to gain employment in.

Private Schools

Private schools are independent of the government as they do not receive federal funding. Unlike public schools, tuition is required for a student to attend a private school. Private schools are run by their own school boards or organizations. For that reason, private schools are able to create their own standards for students and teachers.

Although many private school teachers are not required to hold state certification, many schools insist they do. In addition, some private schools have religious affiliations and educate students based on their specific beliefs. For specific requirements in regards to teaching English at a private school check, with the school you wish to teach in.

Charter School

Charter schools require no tuition, and are run more independently than public schools. Charter schools have more flexibility in regards to their operations because they are held at a higher accountability for performance.

Each school has established a "charter" that acts as the school's contract. The charter states the school's mission, vision, and performance goals. The petition also details the school's curricular program as well as the methods of assessment. Charter schools are usually smaller, more selective, and may have additional requirements for their English teachers.

English Teacher Organizations & Associations

NCTE - National Council of Teachers of English: NCTE supports teachers and their students in classrooms, on college campuses and in online learning environments in order to improve the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels of education.

TESOL International Association: This membership organization is dedicated to advancing excellence in English language teaching.

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What is the Salary of an English Teacher?

Across the nation, English teachers at the middle-school level earn a median salary of $59,660 annually and high-school teachers earn a median salary of $61,660, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the entry level, teachers make $39,990 and in the top 10th percentile, teachers can make $99,660 per year.

On average, public school teachers can make up to $10,000 more per year than private school teachers. Generally, more experienced teachers can earn up to $10,000 than their initial salary, and English teachers with a master's degree in English or in education can earn up to $5,000 more per year.

Click on the link to learn more about a teacher's salary.

(Salary data for elementary, middle-school and high-school teachers reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2019. Figures represent state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Information accessed March 2021.)

Salary (2022) and Job Outlook (2012 to 2020) by State

According to the published BLS data from 2022, the national average salary for English Language and Literature Teachers (College Professor) is $83,130, with an estimated 57,680 being employed nationwide. Also, the job outlook growth projection from 2012 to 2020 is expected to increase by 12.2%.

StateEmployedAvg Salary
New Hampshire250$87,290
New Jersey2,360$109,020
New Mexico310$90,210
New York6,750$107,580
North Carolina2,140$66,030
North Dakota120$64,540
Rhode Island300$101,630
South Carolina890$65,620
South Dakota160$59,690
Washington, DC300$93,110
West Virginia340$61,270

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics ( for English Language and Literature Teachers (College Professor) (SOC Code: 25-1123)

Salary (2022) By Largest Metropolitan Areas

AreaEmployedAvg Salary

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics ( for English Language and Literature Teachers (College Professor) (SOC Code: 25-1123)