How to Become a High School English Teacher

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It's no secret that there is high demand for secondary teachers nationwide. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects demand will continue to be high at least through 2020. High school English teaching jobs are no exception. There are two ways to become a high school English teacher. The traditional path is to earn bachelor's degree plus successfully complete other state-required steps. If you already have a bachelor's degree, you can become a high school English teacher in 1 to 2 years through an alternative program. Each state sets its own requirements, but all follow the same general model.

Things You'll Need

  • Bachelor's degree
  • State teaching certificate
  • Enroll in an approved teacher preparation program leading to a bachelor's degree in education. For you to be eligible to get a teaching certificate, your program must be accredited by either the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education or the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.

  • Acquire advanced academic skills in English and literature in addition to the required courses in education theory and practice, and psychology. Many aspiring high school teachers earn a "double major" in education and the subject area they intend to teach. Most approved teacher programs require a 3.0 grade point average in courses required for the education major.

  • Complete the student teaching or practicum requirement. Traditionally, part of the undergraduate preparation has been a year of student teaching, and that is still sufficient in many states. Others have raised the requirement. In these states, you need a year of postgraduate supervised teaching plus additional coursework.

  • Take the certification tests required in your state. A basic skills test is necessary for all prospective teachers. You must also pass a subject test in English and literature. In most states, this qualifies you to teach English in grades 7 through 12.

  • Enter an alternative teacher preparation program if you already have a bachelor's degree in another field. Persons seeking to make a career change and who have degrees in related fields such as journalism are actively recruited for these programs. You can start supervised teaching immediately and complete coursework and certification requirements in 1 to 2 years.

Tips & Warnings

  • State Boards of Education have continuing education requirements for teachers you must follow to maintain your teaching certificate. There is a trend toward requiring ongoing education that eventually leads to a master's degree in education. Although some states have full reciprocity (they recognize teaching credentials from certain other states), this is not always the case. However, if you take and pass the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards examination, you can begin teaching anywhere pending state certification.

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