Writing Teacher Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

About this article
A writing teacher's annual salary can range from $53,000 to $68,000 depending on the type of school where you teach. Read about job duties and career prospects to decide if teaching writing is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Writing Teacher Career

Writing teachers can instruct on a variety of age levels and teach many styles of writing. Consider the pros and cons of a teaching career to make an informed decision.

Pros of a Career as a Writing Teacher
Salary is above the national average, with the average teacher salary ranging from $53,000-$68,000 as of May 2014.*
The number of post-secondary teaching positions is expected to grow 19% from 2012-2022*
Teachers usually get spring, summer and winter breaks, as well as some national holidays off*
The education required for writing teachers also prepares you for a number of other professions**
Teaching can be a personally rewarding career when you become emotionally invested in your students' progress and you see them improve*

Cons of a Career as a Writing Teacher
Teachers often work nights and weekends to plan lessons, grade papers, coach or sponsor student activities that meet before or after school, etc.*
A master's degree or Ph.D. may be necessary to teach at certain levels, meaning your education may be expensive and take a number of years to complete*
Teaching can be mentally and emotionally draining when you're working with students who have behavioral issues*
Continued education may be required in order to maintain your teaching credential, the cost of which is often your responsibility*
Poor school funding means you may have to buy classroom materials with your own money***

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **St. John Fisher College, ***American Federation of Teachers.

Career Information

Job Description

Regardless of what type of writing is being taught or the age of the students, all writing teachers have a number of responsibilities in common. As a professional in this field, you create curricula and plan lessons according to school calendars. You also craft lesson plans for each class, grade student work and create worksheets, homework assignments and tests. When grading homework, you may assess the correct use of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and narrative voice. You also determine whether or not the student fulfilled the assignment objectives.

Aside from classroom responsibilities, you have staff, department and committee meetings to attend before or after school. Meetings with parents and students are often part of the job as well. Some writing teachers also sponsor extracurricular activities, such as creative writing clubs, school newspapers, poetry clubs or tutoring centers.

Specializations

There are a few different styles of writing you can teach. All require at least a bachelor's degree; many require degrees beyond that as well. While the conventions and guidelines for each style may differ, job duties generally remain the same.

Business/Professional and Technical Writing

This writing style is commonly seen in the business world and technical fields, like healthcare, science, engineering and education. The guidelines for this style are fairly rigid, and each field has its own rules. You may teach subjects such as writing instruction sets, creating case studies and composing job application essays.

Creative Writing

Within the creative writing specialization are three sub-styles: fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction. The rules for these styles are less strict than those for the technical/professional style. Guidelines still exist for each sub-style and help with readability and the development of each writer's individual voice. Creative writing classes often involve reading and discussing literature samples that embody the sub-style. You may teach topics such as symbolism, dialogue and theme.

General Writing

General writing concentrates on the foundations of written language. You can teach grammar and punctuation rules, different formats (writing a personal letter vs. writing a business letter) and the proper use of vocabulary.

Types of Students

Writing is taught at all levels of education, but classes that are devoted in part or entirely to writing do not typically exist in elementary schools. Starting in middle school, however, writing is taught with more emphasis, and schools have a need for skilled writing teachers. Consider the type of students you want to work with to determine which teaching credential and degree to pursue.

Middle School

At this level, writing is part of the language arts curriculum. While you might focus on writing at certain times throughout the year, you're also responsible for teaching vocabulary, spelling, parts of speech, reading comprehension and different types of literature. Middle schools may allow teachers to create and sponsor after-school programs, which allow you to teach writing exclusively and to work closely with students who share your interest in the subject.

High School

Courses that focus exclusively on writing often exist at this level, like creative writing. They are typically offered as electives; students taking them usually have an interest in writing and may have some natural talent as well.

Postsecondary Institutions

Colleges offer numerous types of writing courses for all the different types of writing - business, technical, poetry and fiction, among others. Some courses are required as general education classes for certain majors, meaning that not all students necessarily enjoy writing or have an aptitude for it. Others are core classes that directly relate to a particular major, so it's more likely that students are interested in writing.

Remedial Adult Classes

Students in these classes may have some high school education experience, or they may have never attended school beyond eighth grade. They may be pursuing their GEDs so they can get better jobs or pursue college degrees. These classes focus on the basic foundations of writing, like grammar and punctuation.

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Classes

These classes, typically taught at public schools, community colleges or through community-based organizations, are for non-native English speakers seeking to improve their written English skills. These classes focus on building students' English vocabularies and teaching the foundational principles of writing - grammar, punctuation, etc. - with a focus on the skills students need to live in the United States and obtain gainful employment.

Salary and Job Growth Statistics

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not publish data that is specific to writing teachers. The information in this section pertains to teachers overall in each level of education.

Salary and Job Outlook

Of all the different types of teachers researched by the BLS that might teach writing, adult education teachers earned the least, an average of around $53,000 as of May 2014. Middle school teachers came next, with an estimated average salary of about $57,600. High school teachers didn't make much more than that - only an average of around $59,000. Post-secondary teachers fared better, with an average salary in May 2014 of over $68,000.

When it comes to predicted job growth, the post-secondary field is expected to see the most - 19% from 2012-2022. About as fast as average growth from 2012-2022 is expected for middle school teaching positions at 12% and the adult literacy and education field is expected to see about 9% growth. The number of employed high school teachers is predicted to see slower than average growth, 6% from 2012-2022, which is below the national average for all occupations.

Requirements

Education

Regardless of what type of writing you want to teach or the age of student you wish to work with, you need to obtain a bachelor's degree at the very least. Many universities and colleges offer teacher preparation programs that allow you to focus on either middle school or high school. You would then select an English, TESOL, linguistics or language arts concentration. If your program allows it, you can select a minor or second concentration in writing.

After successfully completing your program, you have to obtain a teaching license through your state. All states require a background check and fingerprinting for teacher candidates, as well as a certification exam in your content area (English, language arts, etc). Other requirements may exist for certification; be sure to check with your state's Department of Education or with your teacher preparation program's administrator for details.

In order to teach at the community college level, you need a master's degree; a Ph.D. is necessary for most university-level teaching positions. Generally, 4-year colleges don't require professors to be licensed. However, some states may require community college teachers to become licensed, so check with your state's Department of Education if you wish to teach at a 2-year college.

To teach adult learners or non-native English-speaking students, you need a bachelor's degree and a teaching credential. Some states require certification specifically in these fields. In addition, employers may prefer adult learner or TESOL teachers who hold master's degrees.

Career Skills

In order to teach writing, you need more than a college education and a love of the craft. Strong communication and instructional skills are a must, as is the ability to think outside the box when you encounter a student whose learning style doesn't mesh with your teaching style. You also need patience, since writing skills don't come naturally to everybody. Other essential skills include time management and a keen eye for detail. Classroom supervision and discipline strategies are important as well.

What Are Employers Looking For?

Below are examples of real job postings from April 2012. Note that they were selected only because they specify the need for a writing teacher; they don't offer a complete representation of the writing teacher job market. Based on these and other job postings, employers were particularly interested in teachers with master's degrees, prior teaching experience, the ability to work collaboratively and excellent organizational skills.

  • A school in New York was looking for a cooperating reading/writing teacher to work with high school/GED students who had remedial writing and reading needs. The employee would support the lead reading/writing instructor, work with students and attend professional development meetings.
  • A community college in California was looking for an English as a Second Language/developmental writing instructor. Its ideal candidate would have a master's degree in TESOL, linguistics or English with a TESOL emphasis. The employee would teach at least 15 units per semester of developmental writing and ESL classes.
  • A university in Kansas was looking for an assistant professor of English in creative writing to teach nine hours of composition, creative writing and literature at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Requirements included a degree in creative writing with a specialization in fiction, and current publication of a novel or short work.
  • A middle school in Illinois was looking for a creative writing teacher who would also head up the yearbook and school newspaper. The school preferred someone with prior experience in all three areas who had a good understanding of progressive education ideals and middle school philosophy.

Making Yourself Stand Out

Since prior experience is always a plus to employers, look for ways to volunteer your services at local schools and community centers. You can also look for work as a substitute teacher. Schools sometimes allow non-faculty teachers to add their names to a list of recommended tutors; check with local schools to see if this might be an option for you. This approach can also lead to connections with local administrators, which may help you get your foot in the door when applying for future job openings.

Before you begin your job search, craft a document that lays out your philosophy of education. Not all schools request this for interviews, but it may be easier to answer interview questions after determining your teaching style. School districts and universities often hold teacher job fairs in the spring; prepare for these by memorizing short, concise 'sound bites' that describe your teaching philosophy, reasons for wanting to teach writing and your teaching and writing accomplishments. Also, consider writing up lesson plans and short units on writing to include in your portfolio. This will allow potential employers to see both your ideas for how to teach writing and your ability to create a well-rounded lesson plan.

Alternative Career Paths

English Teacher

Maybe the thought of teaching writing all day long is what bothers you, and not the thought of teaching in general. If this is the case, consider pursuing a career teaching English. You'll still have the chance to teach some writing, but you'll also get to teach literature as well, a subject that lends itself to more class discussion than writing does. The typical pay would be no different from the rates mentioned earlier; however, the BLS does indicate that teaching jobs in the humanities will not be in as much demand as other content areas.

Technical Writer

Maybe it's the thought of teaching that you don't like, and you'd prefer to spend your time writing; consider pursuing a career as a technical writer. You'd spend most of your time writing, but you'd also work with end users to determine the kind of information they need. In addition, you may meet with technical staff to make sure you're conveying product information properly. Some technical writers even work with product creators to help make products easier to use. This job field is expected to grow about 17% from 2010-2020, and as of May 2011 technical writers earned an average salary of over $67,000.

Public Relations Specialist

This might not sound like a writing-related career, but public relations specialists need sharp writing skills to help create and maintain a positive public image for their clients. They may write press releases, speeches, website content and grants for donors if the client is a non-profit organization. A bachelor's degree is usually required, and many public relations specialists start with a bachelor's degree in English. The BLS predicted that this career would grow 21% from 2010-2020, which is faster than the average national rate. Public relations specialists earned over $60,000 on average as of 2011.

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Concordia University Portland

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