How do I Become an English Teacher?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2018
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The first thing a person typically should consider about being an English teacher in the United States (US) is whether he or she would prefer to teach at a basic educational level or at the college level. To become an English teacher at a college or university, a person generally will be required to have a master’s degree; often, a Ph.D. in English in a specific field such as literature or creative writing is necessary. A professor at a university typically does not need to have a degree in any educational field to teach, but instead is expected to have a thorough understanding of the field as evidenced by post-graduate work and completed higher-level education.

If a person wants to become an English teacher in primary school or high school – commonly referred to as kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) – then he or she needs to decide to either focus on primary education, kindergarten through 6th grade, or secondary education – typically known as middle school and high school. The difference is that in primary education a teacher is expected to teach every subject. In primary school the students have one teacher who teaches reading, writing, math, etc. Teachers in secondary education specialize in one subject and teach only that subject. Therefore, to become an English teacher a person will typically choose to teach secondary education and focus on English.


Most states in the US require that a person have a bachelor’s degree in English education to become an English teacher. This is a four-year degree that ends with a six month practicum commonly known as student teaching in which the student works with a teacher at a school and actually teaches a classroom for a semester. At the end of this time the prospective teacher must pass a test to become certified in the state in which he or she wants to teach. Once the test is passed and the person is certified, he or she may then teach at any school in the state.

Many states also require that a new teacher continue to work toward a master’s degree and earn it within a certain amount of time while teaching. Having a master’s degree before going into the field as a new teacher can be difficult, however, as many schools do not want to pay a first-year teacher the extra wage that is earned by a teacher with a master’s degree. For this reason, most new teachers go into the field with a bachelor’s degree and continue their education while they teach.



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Post 1

Being an English teacher, especially at the middle and high school levels, requires a tremendous amount of patience. English is changing, and students sometimes do not see the value of learning good usage and standard English, when textese and Internet-speak serves them in their peer interactions.

One great challenge for an English teacher at these levels is to help their students understand that, while their nonstandard English is fine for casual conversations, that good, standard English is a valuable, indeed, an indispensable skill for an educated person.

A college student interested in teach English at these levels should, in my opinion, take as many grammar classes as possible to make sure he or she knows how to teach students to use their native language effectively.

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