Reading, Writing, Rhetoric: An English Teacher Education Degree

An English teacher education degree can help you become a middle, high school or adult English teacher. Even if you’re not seeking a full time teaching career, an English teacher education can help prepare you to be a part time adult English instructor.

If you are interested in teaching English, you’ll want to immerse yourself in English classes. These could be literature courses studying Shakespeare or Chaucer. It could include writing or rhetoric courses or classes in prose or poetry.

However, being a subject matter expert might not be enough. You may want to supplement that by taking English teacher education classes that will help you learn how to teach. For example, you may decide to take a curriculum development class, learn how to construct a syllabus, or learn a little about classroom management.

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English Teacher Degree Information

A career as a middle or high school English teacher means first getting a bachelor’s degree in English or in education. Some universities and colleges offer an English teacher education program and degree that combine both the study of English literature with teacher preparation classes. If you know you want to be an English teacher, then this would be the ideal program. Once you have the bachelor’s degree, apply for a teacher preparation program, which prepares you to take on a classroom full of students. Teacher training programs include education courses along with one or two semesters of student teaching.


Most people wanting to become English teachers in high school get their bachelor’s degree in English literature or in education. Most teachers recommend getting the degree in the core subject rather than in education as you’ll have a better foundation in the subject matter. Students will participate in classes in specific subjects, such as Shakespeare or Chaucer, or in time periods, such as the Enlightenment. Once the bachelor’s degree is obtained, the student then applies to a teacher preparation program.


Many students apply to a master’s program in education. While a master’s degree isn’t a requirement for teaching English at the middle or high school level, it is to teach English at the junior college level. A Ph.D. is required by most four year universities and colleges to teach English at a university. A master’s degree in education will include both classes in education, theory and preparation as well as one or two semesters student teaching. Expect courses such as student assessment, methods of teaching English, introduction to information technology and secondary education theory.

Alternative Certification

If you don’t want to get a master’s degree in education, or at least not right away, then consider applying for an alternative certification program. These programs, available in most states, provides all the teacher preparation courses you will need. People who are switching their careers to become teachers find these programs very appealing. The alternative certification route allows students to find work as a teacher right away under the supervision of an experienced teacher. At the same time, these prospective teachers can take the required education classes either online or on nights and weekends.

All the states require public school teachers to pass the state’s certification exams to become licensed teachers.


Teacher preparation programs provide all the education classes you’ll need to become a high school English teacher. The classes offered may vary by program, but all will include some of the following:

  • Curriculum development
  • Student assessment
  • Integrating technology in the classroom
  • Adolescent literacy
  • Teaching English language learners
  • Standardized testing and assessment
  • Teaching English methods
  • Psychology of the adolescent
  • Education trends
  • Teaching the multicultural classroom
  • Managing the classroom

Career Opportunities

Jobs for middle school English teachers will be increasing 15 percent over the next decade, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). High school English teachers may have a tougher time finding their ideal job, as high school teacher positions will increase only by nine percent. A high school English teacher could increase his or her chances of finding a position by getting extra certifications in teaching special education students, teaching English as a second language, or being willing to relocate to where the jobs are. Some states have growing populations, such as Georgia or Nevada, and will need more teachers than other states. From 2010 to 2020, many current teachers will retire, creating further job openings for new teachers.

Earning Potential

The BLS states that median annual wages for high school English teachers is about $53,000. Median means that half of these teachers will make less and the other half will make more. The highest 10 percent can make up to $83,000. While beginning teachers may not earn a great salary, after five years on the job they will be making substantially more. Very few go into teaching for the pay, of course. Teaching is demanding of time and energy, but it can be one of the most rewarding of careers as well. Teachers who are passionate about helping kids to learn and grow can instill their own love of English language and literature into the young.

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English Teacher FAQ

What types of jobs can I expect with an English teacher’s degree?

How long does it take to earn an English teacher’s degree?

Bachelor’s degrees generally take four years to complete. A combined English teacher degree may take five years. The master’s degree usually takes one to two years, depending on the degree program. Alternative certification times will vary, as the candidate teacher works at a school during the day teaching and taking education courses at night or on weekends or online.

Where are the highest paying jobs for English teachers?

The highest paying jobs for English teachers are found on the east and west coasts. However, the state paying the most money for a high school teacher is Illinois at $69,830. New York and Connecticut pay $66,860 and $65,280 respectively. California comes in last at $63,960. Considering the BLS median wage of $53,230, however, these states pay quite a bit higher salaries to their high school English teachers.

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