How to Become an
English Professor

Male teacher speaking in front of a blackboard

Are you considering a career as an English Professor? If so, this is the place to be. This guide is packed with information and resources for aspiring English Professors. Keep reading to learn about educational requirements for the job, what it pays and more.

What does an English Professor Do?

An English Professor teaches courses in an academic environment, either at an undergraduate or graduate level. They instruct students in literature, writing and/or English.

In some cases, English Professors also teach graduate school in their discipline. In addition, an English Professor regularly publishes academic papers in reputable journals, with the goal toward publishing a book in their field by a university press or a publishing house. They might also participate in school committees or assume further administrative duties, such as representing an entire English department. Such professors also advise students who are having difficulties in the subject matter and who need academic guidance.

Some common English Professor duties and responsibilities include:

  • Teaching classes or lectures

  • Organizing course curricula

  • Grading papers

  • Meeting with students

  • Reading books and articles on their subject to stay ahead of the curve.

English Professor Skills

An English Professor must know how to teach and have the ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in written form. As an English Professor, a prospective candidate must be able to interact with others, such as while advising students. In this way, he or she must be patient and empathetic.

The English professor needs to have excellent writing skills, as well as have the ability to write scholarly articles.

They also must enjoy research and reading in their discipline, and they also must be able to explain difficult concepts to others by translating academic jargon into everyday language.

But the most important skill that every English Professor needs is a firm grasp on literature, whether that is the English Renaissance or the realm of contemporary fiction.

Other key English Professor skills include:

  • Able to communicate effectively

  • Having the necessary post-secondary education

  • A willingness to spend years toiling in hard work and study

How Do You Become an English Professor?

Education and Training

For those who want to become an English Professor, he or she must first hold an undergraduate degree in literature, maintain an excellent grade point average and do well in his or her studies in order to appear more appealing to graduate schools.

Speaking of graduate school, the next step would be to earn a master’s degree and, in most cases, a doctoral degree. Expect a comprehensive exam or thesis in order to graduate.

A candidate who is hired by a university or a college will often begin at the bottom, as an assistant teacher or adjunct professor. To work your way up to getting tenure, the candidate must learn how to teach effectively. They must also publish articles in esteemed academic or scholarly journals or publish a book. In addition, they must complete extensive educational requirements and gain experience in the academic field to become a tenured English professor.

Finding a Job

Demand for English Professors is increasing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 10 percent growth for the position through 2024, amounting to a total of 2,660 openings for English Professors during that period.

Given this projected growth, aspiring English Professors are likely to find many job opportunities at universities and colleges.

Any successful job search begins with crafting a high-quality resume that highlights your skills and experience. For guidance on creating a resume, take a look at JobHero’s library of English Professor resume samples.

Once your resume is complete, search online for job opportunities. As you look for English Professor openings, be sure to make the most of your professional network, including professors and colleagues from graduate school, as well as people whom you met through your lectures.

When applying for jobs, write a cover letter that expresses your interest in the position and highlights your qualifications and what you would bring to the role. Take a look at our English Professor cover letter sample for help.

Insights from an English Professor

To go more in-depth of what to expect from a job as an English Professor we meet with professionals in the industry to get their thoughts. Scroll down to learn more.

What is the common career path for a English Professor?

The first step in becoming an English Professor is to pursue a bachelor's degree in English or American literature combined with education. This can already get you through the door and on your way. To teach at a college level you must also pursue a master's degree at an accredited university. You can gain experience by becoming a part-time assistant teacher at this level which will help your resume in the end.

What should someone consider before becoming a English Professor?

The first goal when considering to become an English Professor is getting a Bachelor's degree in English or American Culture literature. Next is to enroll in a graduate school program with the intent of pursuing a master's degree. As you pursue your master's degree you can already apply to be a graduate teaching assistant to gain experience so you become an even better candidate.

What type of person excels in this job?

Students enjoy teachers who are innovative and not monotonous. A good imagination is a start. Also, interaction with students is another important aspect when it comes to teaching. Students enjoy one-on-one interaction.

What are some of the most important skills for English Professors to have?

The ability to speak in public, time management and planning every step of the course. An open mind to deviate from plans and be flexible. Communication skills with your fellow students must be consistent. Passion for teaching and for the English language is a must to inspire students to learn and succeed.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a English Professor?

The most rewarding aspect is knowing that you're contributing to the future by teaching students tools to become successful professionals. It is teachers who in the end transform lives and shape the world.

How Much Do English Professors Get Paid?

English Professors are typically paid a salary, with the median wage in the United States being $62,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest-paid English Professor makes $34,200 per year while the highest-paid can earn $121,900.

Top 10 States for English Professor Salary

English Professors in the following states make the highest median annual salary in the U.S.

    New York

    $91,070

    California

    $90,770

    Alaska

    $90,740

    Illinois

    $80,780

    Massachusetts

    $75,390

    Pennsylvania

    $69,260

    Ohio

    $68,710

    Texas

    $65,950

    Maine

    $63,310

    Vermont

    $55,620

    English Professor Resources

    We compiled this list of additional resources to help you continue exploring a career as an English Professor.

    Professional Groups

    The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
    Dedicated to "improving the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels of education.” The council, which is more than 100 years old, has 30,000 members and subscribers in the United States and other countries.

    Modern Language Association (MLA)
    The MLA is host to an annual convention and other meetings in order to share scholarly findings and teaching experiences with colleagues.

    English Professor Websites

    Reading all the books
    The mission here is to get teachers and students reading.

    English Resources for Teachers
    Teaching materials and resources aimed at English teachers.

    English Professor Books

    How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines
    An entertaining introduction to literature and literary basics, including symbols, themes and contexts.

    The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide To Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job
    For those eager to get tenure or turn their Ph.D. into their ideal job.<

    Write It Up: Practical Strategies for Writing and Publishing Journal Articles
    Suggestions for those who want to publish their articles in their journal of choice.

    The information in this article comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job postings and other online sources.