Becoming an English Literature Teacher: Job Description & Salary

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What are the pros and cons of becoming an English literature teacher? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information at both the secondary school and college level to see if teaching English literature is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being an English Literature Teacher

Becoming a teacher of English literature can be rewarding as you share your passion for great literary works with students. Read on to see a list of pros and cons to determine if this is the right career for you.

Pros of a Career as an English Literature Teacher
The ability to collaborate with colleagues*
Flexible work schedules*
The ability to become role models to students*
Tenure positions at both the college and secondary school level provide a degree of job security*

Cons of a Career as an English Literature Teachers
Steep competition for tenure-track position at the college level*
Disciplining inattentive and disobedient students (mostly at the secondary school level)*
Public school teachers often have to 'teach to the test' rather than develop their own curriculum*
Some schools have limited budgets constraining resources available to teachers*

Sources: *The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Important Career Info

Job Duties

English literature teachers at both the high school and college level run classroom lectures, grade assignments and provide additional academic support when needed. Some high school teachers are able to branch outside the classroom and act as coaches in sports or artistic programs. At the college level, many English literature teachers find significant demands beyond the classroom conducting extensive research for publication, lecturing to community organizations or editing scholarly journals.

English literature teachers at both the high school and college level must have effective communication skills to connect with students and clearly execute the desired lesson plan. Teachers must also have strong time management skills to balance all the academic demands that must be met in a timely manner.

Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), teachers at the college level earned a higher average salary than those who taught in secondary schools. As of May 2014, the BLS reported that postsecondary teachers earned an average salary of $68,390 while secondary school teachers averaged $59,330.

Additionally, many academic institutions offer unique perks to their faculty, such as housing allowances and free or reduced tuition to family members. Keep in mind, however, that most teachers at the college level hold a doctoral degree, which on average takes an additional six years after completing a 4-year undergraduate degree.

Career Prospects

English literature teachers have the potential to find a position anywhere there is a high school, college or university. At the college-level, it takes about seven years for a teacher to become tenured with those not receiving tenure often moving to another academic institution.

The BLS predicted that job growth for postsecondary literature teachers would increase by 12% between 2012 and 2022, which is about as fast as the national average, to accommodate a growing student population and replace retirees.

English literature teachers at the secondary school level can find job openings at both public and private schools. Teachers can supplement their income by teaching summer school classes or coaching an athletic team.

Education Prerequisites

At the secondary school level, English literature teachers need to have a bachelor's degree in the field as well as obtain licensure, the requirements of which vary by state. At the college level, most English literature teachers hold a Ph.D. though some only hold a master's degree. Admission to the top graduate and doctoral programs can be highly competitive, so strong grades and entrance exam scores are critical.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Secondary schools, colleges and universities post faculty employment opportunities through their website, as well as professional employment job boards. Job titles do not always ask for English literature teachers specifically and may only use English or literature in the job title.

Additionally at the college level, some postings are looking for teachers who specialize in a particular literary genre, such as early Renaissance poetry. Though not a complete snapshot of all teaching positions, below are some examples of job openings during March 2012:

  • A university in Connecticut is looking for an assistant professor that specializes in British children's literature and general British literature in post-1890. Applicants must have a Ph.D. in English or comparable field or complete their doctorate before August 2012.
  • A community college in California is looking for a part-time English lecturer. Applicants must have a master's degree in English, literature, linguistics or comparative literature or other related field.
  • A secondary charter public school in Massachusetts is looking for a high school English teacher to teach classes and create effective curriculum. Applicants must hold a college degree with a focus in English literature.
  • A private secondary school in Massachusetts is looking for a full-time English teacher who is also willing to coach athletic activities at the school. Eligible applicants may have either an undergraduate or graduate degree with a concentration in English, literature or writing.

Top Skills for English Literature Teachers

Teachers at either the secondary or postsecondary level can utilize programs in continuing education to stay on top of the latest trends in teaching and developments in their field. Some teachers take on mentoring roles to help develop more novice faculty, thus making them stand out from an administrative perspective. Teachers can also work as tutors in extracurricular literacy programs to broaden their impact on students. Fluency in languages other than English can also help candidates stand out.

Teachers can also take advantage of memberships at local and national professional organizations, such as the National Council of Teachers of English, to demonstrate their commitment to their subject. Additionally, English literature teachers should be well read and consistently articulate both in and out of the classroom. At the secondary school level, teachers who meet eligibility requirements can apply for National Board Certification administered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to further highlight their professional abilities to prospective employers.

Alternative Career Paths

If the becoming a teacher of English literature is not the right fit for you, there are other careers that incorporate a passion for literature and a desire to educate others. For example, if you enjoy working as an educator but do not want classroom responsibilities, consider a career as a librarian. Librarians enjoy working in schools, businesses or public libraries conducting research and fulfilling the information needs of their patrons. Most librarians hold a master's degree in library science but do not require licensure unless working in a public school system or public library; however, this requirement varies by state. According to the BLS, the average salary for librarians was $57,020 as of May 2011.

As another option, if you enjoy the world of literature and publishing but not in a role that requires daily interaction with the public, consider a career as an author or writer. These positions often require a college degree, though not necessarily a doctorate or master's degree. Numerous writers and authors work for online publications or magazines with many classified as freelance contractors. Breaking into the field can be highly competitive, but those who become successful writers and authors can enjoy a flexible work schedule. According to the BLS, the annual average salary for writers and authors was $68,060 in May 2011.

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Kaplan University

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

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The George Washington University

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

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Colorado Christian University

  • Elementary Education, B.A. without Licensure
  • Early Childhood Education, B.A. without Licensure

What is your highest level of education completed?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
  • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
  • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching

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Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

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CDI College

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

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Argosy University

  • Teaching and Learning (EdD)
  • Higher and Postsecondary Education (EdD)
  • Teaching & Learning: Integrated Concentration (MAEd)

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