Teacher (English Course Career)

One of the most common career fields for people with English degrees is teaching. While in the past, an English degree usually meant that you were limited to teaching English courses in high school. Today you can use it to teach special education, yearbook, journalism, creative writing, and even drama courses. You also can teach English as a second language to students in your own country or abroad, and you can teach at virtually every academic level, from elementary school to college.

An English degree can be especially helpful if you want to teach at the elementary and the high school levels, since most schools require teachers to have a degree in a subject other than education. In fact, many states only require a handful of core education courses to certify teachers. Thus, it is not necessary to major in education if you want a teaching career.

Most teaching jobs will require you to develop a curriculum that will steadily increase students’ knowledge and skills in a subject area. You will be expected to not only to design a course of study that challenges students, but will likely have to accommodate special needs students, too, such as those with learning disabilities. In elementary, middle, and high school teaching, employers also will expect you to work collaboratively with parents to ensure that the student has the best chances of success. On top of all this, you will have to stay current on educational trends and technology through continuing education.

Depending on the teaching environment and employer, you may have to demonstrate special skills to be hired. As online distance education becomes more common, more employers in the education field are looking for teachers that are comfortable using websites, forums, and social networking sites in their courses. With parents willing to pay more for a high-quality private school education, some schools are even starting to demand that their journalism and drama teachers have real-world experience in the newsroom or theater.

If you want to teach English as a second language in your own country or if you want to teach English abroad, you will need specific training for these jobs. You also may have to pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language to get the job.

Some private schools may even require you to prove your good character before hiring you as a teacher. Parochial schools, which offer religious education in addition to regular subjects, often require applicants to demonstrate good moral character through references and regular participation in a religious community. These schools usually have high ethical standards, and teachers are often required to sign “morals clauses” as part of their contract in which they promise to avoid certain behaviors in their private lives.

Though teaching is a personally rewarding career, it is not always financially lucrative. The average starting salary for a first-year teacher at the elementary, middle, and high school level is about $35,000, according to PayScale, a company devoted to compiling salary data in a variety of industries. Fortunately, the longer you teach, the more money you will make, and your salary ought to climb steadily once you have taught for five or more years.

Having a Master’s degree can increase your salary, too. Most schools are willing to pay more for teachers with a Master’s degree; in some cases, your starting salary can be up to $10,000 more with a Master’s degree. This means that in some schools, new teachers with a Master’s degree may make considerably more money than teachers who actually have significant classroom experience.

The good news is that there is a serious teacher shortage in some areas of the country, so even educators with little teaching experience can negotiate a stellar compensation package in these school districts. Desperate school districts are luring teachers with huge signing bonuses, fully paid health insurance, free graduate courses, annual bonuses, and even housing subsidies. In 1998, Massachusetts started offering new teachers $20,000 signing bonuses, paid over four years, and school districts in California, Texas, and Philadelphia have streamlined their hiring processes so that out-of-state educators and even English-speaking teachers from other countries can be hired quickly and easily. In some cases, you don’t even need teaching experience at all; if you have a Bachelor’s degree and want to teach, or even just a solid employment history, you have a good shot at a public school teaching job.

As most veteran educators will tell you, the real reason teachers keep coming back year after year is not for the money or the benefits. Teachers return to the classroom because teaching influences the lives of children and makes a positive difference in the world. Perhaps former astronaut and teacher Christa McAuliffe explained it best: “I touch the future. I teach.”


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