A brand-new bachelor's degree in English is a proud accomplishment, but that alone isn't likely to land you a teaching job. Even though you've mastered the literature of each historical period and know nearly everything about literary theory, you'll need additional coursework to become a teacher. Except in some private schools, English teaching positions require state certification or graduate study, depending on the level you want to teach.
Middle School Teaching
Middle school English teachers are specialists in those in-between years from sixth to eighth grade. In all states, public school teachers need a bachelor's degree plus state certification. Some states certify middle school teachers separately, while others group them with elementary or high school instructors. Depending on the type of certification, middle school teachers must must major in elementary education or in a subject area, such as English. They must also complete education classes, student teaching, general certification exams and, in some states, a subject matter exam. Public school teachers must also eventually complete a master's in some states.
High School Jobs
If you enjoy teaching more challenging subjects, such as Shakespeare, you may prefer certification as a high school English teacher. In general, this credential prepares you to teach grades 7 through 12. The credentialing requirements mostly parallel those of middle school teachers -- a bachelor's degree, education classes, student teaching and certification exams. The majority of states, however, require high school teachers to major in the subject area they intend to teach -- in this case, English.
Technical Schools and Two-Year Colleges
You'll need at least a master's degree if you want to teach in postsecondary schools and community colleges, and some two-year-college teachers have doctorates. Master's programs vary, but typically require 30 semester units of coursework after the bachelor's degree, including classes in English literature, American literature and research methods. Students usually specialize in a particular area of interest, such as poetry, and a master's thesis may be optional or required. Some programs offer students the opportunity to gain experience by teaching English classes.
University Teaching Requirements
If you want to teach English at a university, you'll have a long road ahead, because most of these jobs require a doctorate. A Ph.D. in English requires advanced classes in a specialty and passing written and oral comprehensive exams. In addition, doctorate candidates must conduct original research in an area of English and prepare and defend a thesis based on that research. Ph.D. candidates also gain practical experience by helping professors grade papers and teaching introductory English classes. A doctoral program in English typically takes eight years after the bachelor's.
English as a Second Language
There's a world of possibilities for teaching ESL, but the job requirements depend on your preferred niche. Licensed public school teachers can qualify to teach English as a second language by completing classes for an add-on certification. Community college and university ESL jobs typically require a master's in teaching English as a second language. Certificate programs in teaching English as a second or foreign language are also available. These credentials aren't normally sufficient without other credentials for public school or college jobs, but many private English language institutes abroad and stateside accept them.
Tips on Landing a Job
Even with the right credentials, you probably won't be the only person applying for the job of your dreams. If the employment market is tight, improve your chances by adding credentials in another subject that's in demand, such as ESL or special education. Try substitute teaching to get your foot in the door and gain experience. The National Education Association recommends searching nationwide because the job market varies from state to state. If you're willing to move where the jobs are, you'll be more likely to find work.