How to Become an English Teacher

how to become an english teacher

Want to become an English teacher but need help figuring out where to start? You’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll go over how to become a certified English teacher, salaries, and the skills needed to become successful English teachers. We’ll also discuss job descriptions and how long it takes to become an English teacher.

Teaching English can be a rewarding and reliable career. Teachers across all subjects are in high demand right now, so if you’ve been considering a career as an English teacher, now is the perfect time!

What is an English teacher?

English teachers provide instruction on various topics and skills related to literature, writing, and language arts.  English teachers foster critical thinking skills, encourage an appreciation of literature, and help students gain an understanding of the diverse world around them.

Types of English teachers

Teachers focusing specifically on English or Language Arts usually work at the upper elementary, middle, or high school levels. Middle and high school English teachers sometimes teach multiple courses or grade levels. Some high school English teachers teach advanced placement or dual credit English classes. English teachers can work in public, private, charter, or specialized schools such as liberal arts academies.

What does an English teacher do?

English teachers plan and teach lessons that help students develop critical thinking and comprehension skills and a strong foundation in literature, literary techniques, and many other important concepts. The courses and topics taught by English teachers will vary by grade level but often include literary analysis, literary elements, writing structure, and the works of well-known authors.

An English teacher job description typically requires that you use state or school standards to plan and teach lessons, use appropriate assessment strategies to evaluate student progress and follow state and federal educational policies such as IDEA.

How to Become an English Teacher

The process of becoming an English teacher is similar across most states. It typically requires earning a bachelor’s degree, completing a teacher preparation program, and taking the required certification exams.

Earn a bachelor’s degree, preferably in English or Education.

A bachelor’s degree is the first step in becoming a certified English teacher. English teachers often major in English or related fields, such as Writing. Others choose to major in Education with a minor in English. The courses in an English degree often cover literature from specific periods and individual authors, as well as topics such as literary analysis.

Complete an educator preparation program.

An educator preparation program is designed to give you field experience in the classroom (often called student teaching). It also includes courses that will help prepare you for a career as an educator. Many colleges have educator preparation programs that can be completed while you work towards your degree, so check with an academic advisor if you’re still in college. You must complete an alternative certification educator preparation program if you already have a bachelor’s degree. Planning to teach in Texas? 240 Certification has an affordable, state-approved alternative certification program that can be completed in 12-18 months!!

Pass your state’s required certification exams.

To become a certified English teacher, you’ll need to take at least two certification exams: one for general teaching practices and one specific to English. In some states, you may also need to take additional tests that cover topics such as Essential Academic Skills or Foundations of Reading.

Different states use different certification exams. Many states use Praxis or NES exams. Other states like California and Florida use exams like the CSET or FTCE. Don’t make the mistake of assuming these exams will be easy! Teacher certification exams can be surprisingly difficult, even for those with a degree in English or Education. Still, study guides and practice tests can help you become familiar with the exam format, content, and style of questions. 240 Tutoring has study guides, free practice tests, and exam overviews for several English exams, including:

CSET English Subtest I and Subtest II

FTCE Middle Grades English 5-9 (014)

FTCE English 6-12 (013)

GACE Middle Grades Language Arts (011)

GACE Middle Grades Reading (012)

ILTS Middle Grades 5-8 Language Arts (201)

NES English Language Arts (301)

Praxis English Language Arts: Content Knowledge (5038)

Praxis English Language Arts: Content & Analysis (5039)

And many more!

After passing your certification tests, you’ll need to apply for certification in your state. This usually involves a fee, paperwork, and a background check. For additional information on certification applications, check your state’s Department of Education website.

Apply for an English teaching position.

Once you have completed your teacher preparation program and passed your certification exams, it’s time to apply for jobs! One of the best places to look for up-to-date job openings is on school districts’ employment websites, but you can also find teaching jobs on sites such as Indeed, SchoolSpring, or ZipRecruiter.

In some states or school districts, you can apply for jobs and start teaching while you work towards your certification. (Note: you’ll still need a bachelor’s degree in these cases.) in these cases, you will be hired under a probationary contract for a specific time to pass your certification exam.

Tip: Try working as a substitute teacher while you work towards your degree or certification. School administrators are often more likely to hire someone when they’re already familiar with their work as a substitute.  

Helpful Skills for English Teachers

The most successful and effective English teachers possess many of the following skills and traits:

  • Communication Skills – Teachers of any subject must communicate effectively with students, administrators, parents, and fellow teachers.
  • Innovation – Successful teachers always look for new ways to make their lessons more engaging and effective. English teachers must plan lessons that interest students and are relevant to their lives.
  • Strong Writing and Speaking Skills – Students learn effective writing and speaking skills based on teacher modeling, so their English teachers must be strong in these areas and knowledgeable about other English-related topics.
  • Organization – English teachers see many students daily. At the middle and high school levels, you will have several different class periods and may even teach two or three different courses. Organization skills are key for lesson planning and keeping student progress records.
  • Collaboration – English teachers collaborate with other teachers in their department to plan lessons and monitor student progress. Some English teachers may even collaborate with teachers of other subjects to plan interdisciplinary units or projects.

Common career paths for English Teachers

Many English teachers work as classroom teachers for most of their careers, although they may move to grade levels. Other English teachers go on to become department leads or curriculum writers. Curriculum writers can work within a school district or for outside curriculum companies.

Some English teachers may move into administrator roles such as counselors, assistant principals, or principals. This typically requires a Master’s degree and additional certifications. Others may even choose to teach English at the college level, which requires a master’s degree or even a Ph.D.

English teacher salary and job outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that the median annual salary for teachers across all subject levels is $61,350 at the elementary level and $61,820 at the high school level. However, this varies by different states and areas within each state. For example, teachers in New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania metropolitan areas can make nearly $95,000 annually. In contrast, teachers in nonmetropolitan areas of South Dakota have an average salary closer to $40,000.

The job outlook for English teachers is promising. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts that from 2021 to 2031, elementary and high school teacher positions (including English teacher positions) will increase by 4% and 5%, respectively.

English teacher FAQs

How long does it take to become an English teacher?

This will vary based on different situations:

  • If you are just starting college, you must earn a bachelor’s degree, complete an educator preparation program, and take certification exams. From the start of college to passing your certification exams, this path usually takes 4 – 6 years, depending on how quickly you earn your bachelor’s degree. Colleges often offer an educator preparation program that can be completed while you complete your degree.
  • If you already hold a bachelor’s degree and work in another field, you must complete an alternative certification program and pass your certification exams. Most alternative certification programs take between six months to two years to complete.

Planning to teach in Texas? 240 Certification has an affordable, high-quality alternative certification program that can be completed in 12-18 months!

  • If you are already teaching another subject and want to start teaching English, you will likely need to register and take additional certification exams. This can be done quickly if you are adequately prepared for the exam. Remember that passing the required exam(s) will qualify you as a certified English teacher, but some schools may prefer candidates with an English background or degree.

What is the salary range for English teachers?

The salary range for teachers across all subjects varies significantly based on your location and years of experience. Teacher salaries can range from $33,000 to over $100,000. While that’s quite a range, school districts often publish their teacher pay scales on their website, making it easy to see whether a job will meet your income requirements. Generally speaking, you can expect a higher salary in states with a higher cost of living or in larger metropolitan areas.

Years of teaching experience often factor into your salary, so your salary should increase yearly. If you’ve taught in the past, this will count toward your years of experience.

Can I teach English without an English degree?

Yes! It’s not uncommon for English teachers to have degrees in other areas. While an English degree will help prepare for your career and certification exam, it is not a requirement in most school districts. English teachers may have degrees in Education or other English-related fields such as Writing, Literature, or Linguistics. Other English teachers, particularly those who make a career change into education, may have degrees in different fields. The most important thing is that you have a bachelor’s degree and an English teaching certification.

Are there benefits to earning a master’s degree?

In some cases, having a master’s degree may be beneficial. Some schools may prefer teachers with master’s degrees, and most districts have a slightly higher salary for teachers with master’s degrees.

You may also want to consider a master’s degree if you would like to move into other educational roles during your career. If this is the case, you may feel a master’s degree in an area outside of English, such as a Masters’s in Curriculum and Instruction or a Master’s in Education Administration.

Before you decide on a master’s degree, be sure to weigh the cost vs benefits. For many teachers, a master’s degree may not be worth the additional cost and years of school. While it’s true that salaries are higher for those with master’s degrees, it is usually only a small difference. If you plan on being a classroom teacher for several years instead of moving into a new role, it may be best to hold off on a master’s degree.

What certification do I need to become an English teacher?

The certification requirements for English teachers vary by state but usually include a general teaching certification plus an English certification. Your English exam may vary based on the grade level you plan to teach. For example, in Florida, you must take the FTCE General Knowledge, FTCE Professional Education, and either the FTCE Middle Grades English 5-9 or FTCE English 6-12.  In some states, you may also need to take the Foundations of Reading exam if you plan to teach at the elementary or middle school level.

Your college or alternative certification program will direct you to the specific exams you must take. You can also check our free test series resources for articles on common teacher exams and free practice tests for many English certification exams.

What other certifications can I get to advance my career?

Some schools or districts ask that their teachers have certifications in additional areas, such as Special Education or English to Speakers of Other Languages.

If you are interested in a role as a school administrator later in your career, you’ll likely need to earn a Master’s degree and take additional exams, such as the Florida Educational Leadership Examination.

Interested in teaching a different subject? Check out these additional articles:
How to Become an Art Teacher
How to Become a History Teacher
How to Become a Physical Education Teacher
How to Become a Math Teacher
How to Become a Science Teacher
How to Become a Music Teacher
How to Become an Elementary Education Teacher
How to Become a Substitute Teacher