If you’re considering becoming an English teacher, there are several paths available to you leading to licensure. While every state has its own specific requirements, typically, the common path is a combination of a bachelor’s degree in English or education with a teacher preparation program included. This option tends to be the one many students choose as it takes the least amount of time to reach the goal.
While a bachelor’s degree may be a popular path to licensure, it isn’t the only option, however. You may decide to pursue a postgraduate degree instead (or your state may require it for licensing). No matter which path you choose, each level of education will have its own set of conditions and years of study to complete.
One other possible path exists for students who already completed an education. There are teacher preparation programs that offer students who currently hold a degree the chance to become a teacher with a minimal amount of additional education and time investment through alternate programs of study.
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English and Educational Undergraduate Degree
The bachelor’s program is typically a four to five-year degree. It satisfies the minimum requirement for initial state licensing in most states across the U.S. This degree tends to be the primary choice for many students due to the fact that it is the shortest path to state certification.
When you have completed the program you will have earned all the necessary state certification’s education training from classroom skills to internship. Every college and university will have a variety of titles for the degrees offered, in general, however, they are broken down by the following categories:
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) English
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) Education Middle School
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) Elementary Education
- Bachelor of Science (BS) Education
The degree itself is then segmented by general education, English courses, teacher training, and fieldwork. The first segment- general education- will typically include courses that support your basic skill set. These courses will help you have a well-rounded education. Courses will include:
- Social Science
- Physical Education
You will also take many courses in your major such as:
- Writing and Grammar
- Creative Writing
- Critical Thinking and Writing
- English Literature (covering various time periods in history)
The final portion of the degree is the teacher preparation portion. In this part of your program, you will learn all the things that you will need to know about how to be a teacher. You will learn about creating lessons and understanding how your students learn. You will also spend time in a class with a mentor teacher teaching students in the age group you plan on working with.
Master’s in Education or English
Some states may eventually require you to have a master’s degree in order to maintain your teaching license. You might be able to seek initial licensing and earn a teaching credential, but they may require you to go back to school and eventually earn a post graduate degree as part of your continuing education or professional development. Even if they don’t, the option for earning a master’s degree may be a good option to consider.
The available master’s degree teacher preparation programs also vary from school to school, but in general will have similar titles:
- Master of Arts (MA) Education
- Master of Arts (MA) Elementary Education
- Master of Arts (MA) Secondary Education
The higher-level coursework that you will take in a master’s program often delves deeper into a particular subject. For instance you may learn more about how children learn and develop by taking a child psychology class that relates to education and learning as opposed to a general psychology course. You may take classes that teach you educational methods or train you in curriculum writing. At the end of your program, you will have to complete a master’s thesis that is approved by your advisor and relates to something of current interest in education.
Fifth Year Teaching Program
Some states may have an additional year of education that includes the teacher preparation component. These educational programs will qualify you for state certification, awarding you a bachelor’s degree, but the additional year may not necessarily count towards a postgraduate degree.
The way you structure your degree and the type of courses you take will have a bearing on that outcome. The main goal of this part of your education is teacher preparation and licensure. If your state has a fifth year requirement and your goal is to earn a master’s degree, seek the advise of your counselor on how to structure your program so that each course counts towards that goal.
Earning a doctorate is not a requirement of teaching in the K-12 classroom. Some students will consider this goal if they intend to teach for a time and then move out of the classroom and into a leadership position.
If you have your sights set on becoming a school principal for instance, than earning a doctorate degree is a good idea at this time. It will also open other doors should you choose to teach on the university level, lecture, or go into educational research. Two potential degrees that you can earn are:
- D./Ph.D. in K-12 Administration
- D English Education Concentration
Alternative Teaching Pathways
The typical teacher preparation degree program is the path most will take to earn a teaching license in English. There are, however, those who want to change careers and pursue teaching at some point later in life. All states offer standard routes to English teaching licensure, but most also have alternative paths that take into account a degree already earned.
Each program typically assesses the courses you have taken and if they meet the states specifications, you may be able to seek a temporary license while you complete any deficits in your education. Most of the time this means taking one or two classes per semester in the evening while you are teaching full-time during the day. This path often pays you a full salary while you are completing the licensing requirements. One benefit that should not be overlooked is the ability to complete a master’s program during this process if you should choose this option.