English Literature Teacher Career Info and Education Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

If you love English literature and want to teach it at the high school level, you will need at least a bachelor's degree and a state license to work in a public school. If you choose to teach at the college level, you will need a master's degree, although a doctoral degree is typically required for a tenured position.

Essential Information

English literature encompasses a variety of genres, from novels and plays to poems and essays. English literature teachers help students explore the range of English literature from all over the world. Those who teach at the secondary level typically need at least a bachelor's degree with coursework in both education and English literature, along with state licensure. Teachers at the post-secondary level typically hold a doctoral degree, although a master's degree can sometimes lead to work in junior colleges.

Career Title High School English Teacher College English Literature Teacher
Required Education Bachelor's or master's degree in English or education Master's or Ph.D. in English Literature
Other Requirements State licensure required N/A
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 4% for all high school teachers 9% for all postsecondary teachers
Median Salary (2020)* $62,870 for all secondary school teachers $69,000 for postsecondary English language and literature teachers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

English Literature Teacher Career Info

From Chaucer to Shakespeare to Hemingway and beyond, English literature includes more than just novels and poetry from England. It also encompasses the work of American authors and writers from any other country whose creative work is written in English. Those who enter the teaching field as English literature teachers typically have a love for literature, which they share with (and ideally transmit to) their students.

Literature teachers' duties include designing lesson plans, keeping grades and other records and maintaining discipline. They may meet with parents and may perform duties outside of the classroom, such as study hall and lunch supervision. Literature teachers typically must be available outside of class to help students with questions.

Middle school and high school literature teachers may also teach other English subjects, such as composition and grammar. At the college level, teachers are often literary scholars who write and publish academic articles on literary topics, as well as serving on departmental and school-wide committees.

Education Requirements

In order to teach English literature in a secondary school, one must have obtained at least a bachelor's degree, typically in English or education. However, in some states, public secondary schools have begun requiring that teachers hold a master's degree or be in the process of obtaining one, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In addition, one must be licensed by the state in order to teach in a public school (private schools do not require licensure). Many states require that post-secondary teachers of any subject complete continuing education courses to maintain their teaching skills.

In order to teach in a post-secondary setting, college professors in literature must have a minimum of a master's degree. A Ph.D. in English Literature is usually required in order to get a tenure-track position at a university. College professors typically teach literature subjects in which they specialize, such as Elizabethan literature, Irish drama or 20th century American literature.

Employment Information

According to the BLS in 2020, jobs for secondary school teachers are expected to increase by about 4% through 2029. Post-secondary teaching jobs are projected to grow by 9% in the same period, according to the BLS. Jobs in rural areas and cities are expected to have the best employment prospects. These jobs come with a tradeoff: poor funding, overcrowding and low salaries mean that these areas can have difficulty retaining qualified teachers.

English literature teachers help students explore the work of English writers throughout history and the world. At the high school level, they design lesson plans, keep grades, and may teach subjects like composition or grammar, while at the college level, they write and publish academic articles and teach specialized literature subjects. Secondary teachers need a bachelor's degree and often a state license, and their job opportunities are expected to rise 4% through 2029. Post-secondary teachers need at least a master's degree and will see job opportunities rise 9% during the same period.

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