Education Requirements for Becoming an English Teacher in Pennsylvania

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If you are planning to become an English teacher in Pennsylvania, there are certain state requirements you will need to follow as you prepare to enter this career. The requirements will include teaching courses in all aspects of the English language. This includes rote work such as grammar and spelling skills, as well as more creative work such as writing poetry and reading current day novels.

As an English teacher, you will have the duty of helping your students create a solid foundation in language skills. No matter what grade you plan on teaching, the skills you help your students acquire will greatly impact many other aspects of their life in the future: from knowing how to read complex manuals to simple daily tasks such as understanding product labels, or appreciating a magazine article. Teaching English is core to anyone’s success in life. If you are ready to embark on this new career path, the requirements are laid out for you in basic steps below:

Complete Degree Program Selection
Take Competency Exams in Core Subjects and English
Complete the Certification Process<
Renew Your Certificate



Step 1. Complete Degree Program Selection

When the time comes to enroll in an educational program, knowing what the state of Pennsylvania requires will help you on the road to certification. For instance, you must at least earn a Bachelor’s Degree in order to teach. There are two possible timeframes for being awarded your degree as you work through the teaching program.

  • You will be awarded it prior to entering your teacher preparation portion.
  • It will be included as part of the complete degree program.

Other requirements include:

  • Internship: You will experience a supervised observed time period of student teaching. Part of this experience will be in a classroom of students at your grade level and the other part will be instructional.
  • The GPA requirement for the teaching program is 3.0. You will have to prove this by supplying your transcripts prior to taking the teacher preparation portion of your education.

The courses that prepare you to teach English vary. In the beginning of your degree program a lot of classes cover general educational subjects. By the time you reach your third year (assuming you are a junior) you will begin to take more core classes. When you have reached your last year, this is the time that you will learn about being a teacher and participate in the student teaching component.

Your student teaching experience will have two parts. One part allows you to observe an established teacher instruct students. The other part of your student teaching will turn the tables. You will no longer be the observer; you will now act as the teacher. Your evaluator will observe you during this part and make notes on how well you perform. They will then go over their observations with you, making helpful suggestions for improvement.

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Alternative to the Bachelor’s Degree

Students with a current degree in place, who want to change jobs and become a teacher, have the potential for participating in an alternate program. You may find that the teacher intern program fits your situation. The intern program can be found at many colleges throughout Pennsylvania. These programs help you learn the actual process of teaching. Upon completion of an alternative program, you can earn an Instructional I Certification.



Step 2. Take Competency Exams in Core Subjects and English

The state exams are next on your list. The tests you will be required to take in order to apply for your teaching license are called the Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA) tests. As of October 2014, the exams were undergoing changes in testing requirements. It would be wise to access the PAPA site for updates.

Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA)

The Pearson Education center will serves as the location for your tests. There are many locations throughout the state. You can choose the one that is closest to your home.

You will be tested in core subjects as well as English. There are three sub-areas for the core exam. You may attempt one part at a time, or all of them on one date.

  • The reading test allows you eighty-five minutes to complete the fifty-six questions.
  • The math test also allows eighty-five minutes and has fifty-six questions as well. You may not bring in a calculator. There will be a calculator embedded into the test on the screen.
  • The writing test is the longest. You will be allowed one hour and forty minutes to answer the forty-minute selected-response part and write two essays.

You can opt for registering online for your exams. (Phone and mail registration is also available if you need those options). The individual fees for every test varies and retakes will cost an additional fee. Upon registration, a ticket will be available online for you to print out and bring with you when you take each exam. You will also have to show your official ID (drivers license, state ID, etc.).



Step 3. Complete the Certification Process

After you are out of college and passed the degree program, completed the teacher preparation units, and passed the PAPA tests, you can apply for certification. There are different levels of state certification. The first is the initial certificate at Level I and will stay valid for six years maximum.

This first level isn’t renewable. You will need to complete the requirements of Level One before moving on. Once you meet the Level One requirements, you are able to apply for Level II certification. The Level I certification will lapse if you don’t complete all the requirements in the allotted time and your teaching license will no longer be valid.

The Teacher Information Management System (TIMS) is online and available for applying for certification.

Questions or concerns may be directed to:

Pennsylvania Department of Education
Bureau of School Leadership and Teacher Quality
333 Market Street
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17126

Or you can call the Division of Certification Services at (717) 728-3224.



Step 4. Renew Your Certificate

When you have reached Level II and it’s time to renew the certificate, you must complete 180* hours of professional development courses in order to gain renewal. Before enrolling in any course, contact your school principal for instructions on courses they may require. Each district may have specific courses they want you to take during the renewal period. The 180-hours are met by participating in several ways. Here are some possibilities:

  • Take six college units
  • Take six units of professional education classes
  • Take professional development classes
  • Participate in other programs, activities, or learning experiences adding up to 180 hours.

*Note that each unit is equal to thirty hours of continued education.

Professional Development Activities can include the following:

  • Designing a literacy program in English
  • Developing English related curriculum to Pennsylvania educational standards
  • Any project that will advance exceptional classroom experiences
  • Working with other subjects and creating integrated lesson plans
  • Create individual student-learning plans



Pennsylvania English Teacher Salaries

Schools in Pennsylvania over the past few decades have seen many changes. As our economy continues to rely more and more on skilled educated workers, Pennsylvania schools have worked to meet that demand. There are currently about 500 public schools in the state that vary how they teach and how they pay their teachers. In order to attract the best teachers some districts are now trying new merit pay systems.

As an example, Pittsburg schools have a program known as Excellence for All. The salary for an English teacher in Pittsburg schools will be under Pittsburg Urban Leadership System of Excellence (PULSE) which was part if this initiative.

Under this plan, English teachers will be evaluated based on multiple measures of assessments including their abilities in the classroom, student growth, and student feedback via surveys. A new performance‐based compensation system (Empowering Effective Teachers performance pay) has been implemented in many of the Pittsburg schools and affects teachers hired after July 1, 2010 offering a variable pay scale. It consists of four levels: Novice (Apprentice), Basic, Proficient, and Distinguished with salaries starting at $39,000 a year.

There is another merit pay system in Pittsburg schools—the STAR School‐Based Performance Plan—that rewards schools in the top 15% of district rankings with up to $6,000 additional salary for each full‐time teacher. Teachers who teach in these top performing schools will not only be able to ear a higher salary based on individual performance, they will also earn more based on the school’s overall performance. At the top of the scale, a teacher could earn $100,000 at some point in their career.

By contrast, Penn Manor schools in Lancaster are more traditional in their approach. They offer a step system based on time on the job and education level. A new English teacher will start at $40,987 when they are just out of the teaching program (with a bachelor’s degree). A teacher in this district can earn as high as $81,931 by their 20th year teaching if they go on to earn a master’s plus an additional sixty units of college courses post graduate.

To see additional school district salaries in other cities across Pennsylvania, view the chart below:

Area Name
Annual Median Salary
Erie PA
Estimate Not Released
Harrisburg-Carlisle PA
Estimate Not Released
Johnstown PA
Lancaster PA
Philadelphia PA Metropolitan Division
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington PA-NJ-DE-MD
Pittsburgh PA
Reading PA
Scranton--Wilkes-Barre PA
Far Western Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
West Central Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
Estimate Not Released
East Central Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area

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