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How to become an English teacher 

Interested in helping young people improve their language and literature skills? Discover how to become an English teacher with FutureLearn.

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Do you have a passion for language and literature? Would you like to inspire young people to share your enthusiasm for reading and develop important skills? If so, we think a career as an English teacher could be for you.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to become an English teacher and help you decide whether this is the right career path for you. From the qualifications you’ll need to how much an English teacher can earn, you’ll learn everything there is to know about the wonderful world of English education.

What is an English teacher and what do they do?

Whether you decide to specialise in English language, English literature, or both, what an English teacher covers is determined by their students’ ages and learning abilities. Day-to-day, you could be teaching anything from poetry and short stories to writing skills and grammar. 

You’ll need to be passionate about working with young people and highly knowledgeable about the discipline of English you teach. As English is a core subject and forms a major part of primary and secondary education, you’ll have a big responsibility to teach students key skills that will be used for the rest of their lives.

As an English teacher, you’ll be expected to plan and lead lessons, teach students, and set assessments in a school, college, or university environment. Your other responsibilities will include:

  • Teaching in line with curriculum requirements whilst meeting students’ needs
  • Covering a broad spectrum of areas that include spelling and grammar; writing skills; discussions about novels, short stories, and poetry; different forms of writing; and more
  • Assessing students’ needs and tailoring lessons to them
  • Setting assignments and providing feedback
  • Working alongside other faculties and departments to develop learning objectives
  • Creating an inclusive teaching environment for pupils of all backgrounds and learning abilities
  • Going to parent and teacher meetings

What is an ESL teacher?

An ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher gives English language lessons to non-native speakers. Working in schools and other educational settings, they will teach all aspects of the language to help students develop and improve their spoken and written English.

What qualifications do you need to become an English teacher?

To teach English in the UK, you’ll need a degree in English language or literature, or in another relevant discipline such as humanities. Qualifications needed to be an English teacher include:

  • An undergraduate degree in English or another relevant field, such as Geography
  • To have completed a postgraduate teacher training course at a university or college

Once you’ve passed your degree, the most common way to get into teaching English is through a PGCE. Typically, this takes up to two years to complete and provides you with the professional skills to teach and any other academic requirements. It’s led under the School Direct Training Programme framework. 

There are other training options as well, such as School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT). This involves learning the essentials of teaching through a simulated environment. If you do choose this path, then make sure you’re also able to obtain PGCE credits.

Other training routes into teaching English include:

  • Class-based assessment – if you have teaching experience or qualifications outside of the UK, your suitability can be determined by teaching a live class in front of an examiner.
  • Teach First – provides immediate professional placements within demanding schools in the UK.

To teach in primary and secondary schools funded by local authorities in the UK, you’ll need to reach Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) by the end of your training. However, you don’t need QTS to teach in further education or early years.

University is the preferred and recommended route, but there’s now another way to become an English teacher. Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status is an alternative to QTS. You just have to meet the following criteria:

  • Be part of the Society for Education and Training
  • Have a teaching qualification at Level 5 or above
  • Hold a Level 2 maths and Level 3 English qualification
  • Teach or train in a Further Education and Training setting throughout the Professional Formation programme
  • Have identified a suitable supporter (someone you have worked with closely that has observed your teaching and learning practice)

What are the skills required to be an English teacher?

If you want to be the best English teacher you can, there are some essential skills you need to develop. The soft skills you’ll need include:

  • Extensive knowledge and passion for English
  • An interest in working with young people and helping their development
  • The ability to work patiently and calmly under pressure
  • Excellent organisation skills 
  • Great attention to detail
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Empathy and understanding
  • The ability to provide coaching and mentoring

How long does it take to become an English teacher?

Becoming a qualified English teacher will typically take three to five years. This factors in the average time it takes you to study for your degree and complete a postgraduate teacher training course. That said, the time it takes will largely depend on whether you study part or full-time, the number of work placements you complete, and what teacher training course you do.

What are the typical working hours of an English teacher?

Your hours will depend on whether you teach primary school education, secondary school education, or at college. Normally, you’ll work either:

  • 8.30 am to 3.30 pm five days a week
  • 9 am to 4 pm five days a week

In addition, you’ll also be required to spend more hours outside of these times to plan lessons, mark homework, and take part in parent evenings and training courses.

How much does an English teacher make?

We know you’re an expert with words, but now it’s time to look at the numbers. 

On average, in the UK, the salary an English teacher earns is approximately £40,337.

Other salaries from around the world include:

What is career progression like as an English teacher?

Your career progression as an English teacher typically depends on the age group of students you teach. For example, you may decide to start life as an English teacher in a primary school and work your way up to studying for a doctoral degree to become a professor at a university.

In terms of progressing through a particular school or college, after years of experience, you could eventually land a role as head of the English department or even become a head teacher.

How to become an English teacher: additional learning

If you want to help inspire the next Zadie Smith or George R. R. Martin, then hopefully this guide has helped you understand how to get started. If you’re passionate about helping young people to succeed academically and you love language and literature, it’s time to take the next step.

You can support your learning and development by enrolling on one of the teaching courses we offer at FutureLearn. From English teaching courses to history teaching courses, we have the perfect learning opportunity to suit your needs.

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