Becoming an English Teacher: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of an English teacher career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to find out if becoming an English teacher is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of an English Teacher Career

English teachers instruct students in writing and grammar, as well as in analyzing literature. Whether you're considering work at the elementary, secondary or postsecondary school level, you can benefit from understanding the positive and negative aspects of the job.

Pros of an English Teacher Career
Opportunity to influence and help children*
Typically have the summer months off work*
Tenured school teachers have very good job security*
English as a second language (ESL) teachers should be in particular demand*

Cons of an English Teacher Career
Need a bachelor's or master's degree and licensure to apply for most jobs*
Lesson planning and grading may be required on nights and evenings*
Material covered in classes may become repetitive*
Low projected outlook for certain types of teachers (6% increase expected for high school teachers from 2012-2022)*
Jobs are often dependent on government budgets*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

English teachers can work at elementary, middle and high schools, as well as postsecondary institutions and private organizations. They can teach students how to read and write English, use appropriate grammar and interpret literature. They must identify students' strengths and weaknesses, provide encouragement, enforce school rules and, depending on the age group, communicate with parents.

Many elementary and secondary education teachers also assist with extracurricular activities or coach sports. At all levels, English teachers must prepare for their daily lessons and grade assignments. This work often takes place outside of normal school hours.

Many teachers work a ten-month year and have two months off during the summer. Others teach summer classes or participate in seasonal school programs. Some English teachers can instruct adults or individuals who are non-native English speakers.

Salary Info and Job Prospects

Salaries for English teachers vary depending on the level that they teach. The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2013 that the average annual salary for elementary school teachers was about $57,000 (www.bls.gov). Middle school teachers earned an average of close to $58,000, and high school teachers made about $59,000 per year. English postsecondary instructors earned a higher average salary of about $68,000.

Elementary and middle school teachers, as well as postsecondary educators, had a projected job growth rate of 12% from 2012-2022, according to the BLS. This was about as fast as average for all careers. Adult literacy teachers had a slightly lower projected growth rate of 9%, while high school teachers had a slower-than-average projected growth of only 6% from 2012-2022.

What Are the Requirements?

Elementary, middle and high school English teachers must have at least a bachelor's degree. English teachers may major in English and participate in a teacher education program. However, some choose to major in elementary or secondary education. The coursework for an English major with a concentration in teaching includes British and world literature, teaching methods and writing. Students are generally also required to complete supervised classroom instruction through student teaching.

Public school teachers must also be licensed. Requirements vary from state to state but generally include a test and a background check, in addition to educational requirements. Some states require teachers to earn a master's degree. English teachers employed by private schools are not required to meet state licensure requirements, but these teachers commonly choose similar educational paths.

Postsecondary English instructors at 4-year institutions are generally required to have a Ph.D., while those teaching at community or technical colleges might find jobs with a master's degree. Many get experience working as graduate teaching assistants or performing research in their field.

Job Postings from Real Employers

In addition to education and licensing requirements, English teachers must be articulate, energetic, patient and have a knack for explaining a concept in many ways. Take a look at the following job postings from April 2012 to see what other characteristics employers are looking for.

  • In Memphis, TN, an English composition and speech instructor is needed at a career college. Candidates must have a master's degree with at least 18 credit hours in the field of English. Teaching experience is not required, but applicants should be able to plan curriculum.
  • A part-time high school English and language arts teacher is needed in Tucson, AZ. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree, have at least three years of experience, meet state requirements and be willing to work with parents, learn curriculum, keep office hours and provide individualized instruction.
  • In Indianapolis, IN, a secondary school English teacher is needed at a charter school that combines online learning with classroom instruction. Candidates must communicate with parents and administrators, tutor struggling students and participate in state testing. They must possess multi-cultural skills, a high level of flexibility and be able to work in a fast-paced environment.
  • In Chicago, IL, a language arts teacher is needed to instruct high school classes at a science-focused charter school. Applicants must be technologically literate, have experience teaching reading and be interested in closing the academic gap between students.

How to Make Your Strengths Stand out

Develop Related Skills

Depending on your location, being able to speak another language can set you apart in the field. To make full use of your bilingual abilities, you may consider seeking a bilingual endorsement through your state. Requirements vary, but they generally require a demonstration of written and oral comprehension and an exam in the designated language.

While teachers must be student-focused, communication with other faculty members, parents and members of the community is also necessary. By developing a website or discussion forum, you can show employers that you are technologically savvy and inclusive of all members of your educational community.

Alternative Career Paths

Teacher Assistant

If you want to help students in the classroom but don't think that postsecondary education is for you, you might consider working as a teacher assistant. The average annual salary is lower than that of teachers, but only a high school diploma or 2-year degree is required for work. The BLS reported that teacher assistants earned a mean salary of about $25,000 as of May 2011. Teacher assistants provide additional attention and tutoring to students, enforce classroom rules and help with administrative tasks under the instruction of a teacher. Job growth for this field was expected to meet the national average at 15% from 2010-2020.

Librarian

If your passion for English is centered around literature, you may want to work as a librarian. Unfortunately, the BLS reported that this career had a low projected growth rate of only 7% from 2010-2020. However, the pay is higher than some teaching positions. The BLS reported that librarians earned an average annual salary of about $57,000 as of May 2011. As a librarian, you can help students and patrons locate materials for research, studying and leisure, maintain computerized library databases and plan events. A master's degree in library science is often required for this position.

School Principal

If you're set on becoming an English teacher, but want to eventually advance into a leadership role, then you might want to think about becoming a principal. As a school principal, you'll manage staff and school operations to make sure that rules are enforced and goals are met. To enter this career, you usually need a master's degree in education administration and past experience teaching. The BLS projected that positions would increase by 10% between 2010 and 2020, which was about average. In May 2011, the average salary for elementary and high school administrators was approximately $90,000.

Popular Schools

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    1. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
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    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
      • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
      • Master: Higher Education - College Teaching/Learning
      • Master: Higher Education - Online College Teaching
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Early Childhood Administration
      • Undergraduate in Early Childhood
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    3. Northcentral University

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    Doctorate
      • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Ed.D. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Ed.D. - General Education
      • EdD - Learning Analytics in Higher Education
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    4. Penn Foster High School

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    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
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    5. Concordia University Portland

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    Master's
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Reading
      • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
      • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: English Language Development
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Mathematics
      • M.S. - Career and Technical Education (CTE)
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    6. Colorado State University Global

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      • MS - Teaching and Learning
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    7. CDI College

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      • Certificate in Early Childhood Education
      • Diploma in Early Childhood Education JEE.13 (Techniques D'ducation L'enfance - JEE.13)
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Featured Schools

The George Washington University

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
  • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
  • BS in Early Childhood Administration
  • Undergraduate in Early Childhood

Which subject are you interested in?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
  • Ed.D. - Curriculum and Teaching
  • Ed.D. - General Education

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

Concordia University Portland

  • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Reading
  • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
  • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Teaching and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

CDI College

  • Certificate in Early Childhood Education
  • Diploma in Early Childhood Education JEE.13 (Techniques D'ducation L'enfance - JEE.13)

What year did you graduate high school?