How to Become an English Literature Professor
An English literature professor teaches English-language literature and related subjects at a college or university. In most cases, an English professor is also required to publish articles and write books about literature. To become an English Literature professor, you will need to have a critical approach to literature, be able to communicate effectively, have the necessary post-secondary education and be willing to put in years of hard work and study.
Getting the Necessary Credentials
Complete an undergraduate degree in English Literature or a related field.Though it will be more beneficial to have a degree in English Literature, a degree in a related field or subject like Comparative Literature or Creative Writing can also move you forward in your career. You should maintain an excellent grade point average and do well overall in your undergraduate degree to appear more appealing to graduate schools.
- In some cases, you can teach English at the higher education level even if your undergraduate degree is in an unrelated field like fine art or engineering. However, you will need to able to demonstrate that you have a high level of expertise and writing ability in your applications to graduate English programs.
- In a bachelor’s English Literature program, you may cover subjects such as English literature, American literature, African American literature, Postcolonial literature, Shakespeare, nonfiction, global literature, and contemporary novels and short stories.
Apply for master’s programs in English Literature.To teach English Literature at the college or university level as a professor, you will need to begin by completing your master’s in English Literature. Many master’s programs are one to two years and require you to choose a sub-field of English literature that you would like to specialize in, for example, the seventeenth-century novel, postcolonial literature, or American poetry. You will be required to produce a written dissertation, known as your master's thesis, on your chosen topic of specialization in order to graduate.
- During your master’s degree, you should try to get more experience in the classroom as an instructor. If possible, you should apply for a teacher assistant (T.A.) position, which will allow you to work closely with an experienced professor and gain first hand experience in a college classroom. Your responsibilities as T.A. may include organizing class materials, instructing students on small tasks, grading assignments, preparing exams, and lecturing on topics to the class. Your professor will give you expectations around how many hours a week you are expected to put into your T.A. position.
Complete an application for a PhD program in English literature.In your application, indicate your area of expertise, your readiness for doctoral research, and your past accomplishments in the field. Include examples of your work from your undergraduate or master's program.
- To complete the application for most programs, you will need to provide a statement of purpose, a CV or resume, letters of recommendation (at least two for most programs) and a writing sample. A writing sample that showcases your best writing in essay or paper form is expected for the application.
- In a recent study done by an economist, data showed that getting a PhD from a top 10 ranked school can improve your chances of landing a position as an English Literature professor. Though you may be able to find a position if you go to a lower ranked university for your PhD, you may end up working with undergraduates with weak academic backgrounds. Take this information into account when you are applying for PhD programs.
- You should focus on coursework and expanding the scope of your reading during the first two years as a doctoral student. You should also try to secure a position as a teaching assistant or lecturer during the middle years of your doctoral program. Teaching experience is essential for becoming an English literature professor.
Publish papers and other original research.You should try to do this as soon as possible, or at least by the second year of your degree. Having a record of publications and research will look good on your resume when you are applying for English literature teaching positions.
- Ideally, you will publish papers early in your PhD career and often. You should try to gear your seminar papers towards topics that you are interested in or have specialized knowledge in the subject. You can then revise them and submit them for publication in journals. To submit papers for publication, you should look on the website of the publication for the submission guidelines. Each publication will have their own guidelines to follow in order to submit your article for consideration. You can find a database of current English literature journals for submission .
Complete your dissertation.You will then need to complete a dissertation by the end of your sixth or seventh year in graduate school that demonstrates your mastery of your chosen sub-field, your ability to conduct original research, and your writing ability. Once your complete your dissertation, your degree will be complete and you can enter the workforce.
Finding a Position
Search for open positions at colleges and universities the year before you graduate.Between 2012-2022, the job market for post secondary teachers is expected to rise by 19%. However, it can be difficult to get a position straight out of your PhD and academics is a competitive market, so you should begin your job search while you are still completing your PhD.
- The most desirable jobs are tenure-track positions at major universities; after those, look for lecturer positions or adjunct faculty posts. Teaching-intensive jobs at junior or community colleges are another option.
- You should also look for postdoctoral research positions, as they are a good stepping-stone to move from the completion of your PhD to a permanent position. These positions can allow you to pursue further research and, often, gain teaching experience, increasing your job prospects later.
- Often, you may find that many job offers are for part time work as an adjunct professor. Even with a PhD, many masters graduates struggle to find full time work, especially if they did not attend an Ivy League masters program. In fact, 58% of community college courses are taught by adjunct professorsand at least 50% of all university faculties are not tenure tracked.It's important that you keep an open mind and do not only search for tenure tracked or full time teaching positions, as these positions may not be available for a long time in the current state of the field.
- Keep in mind your salary may fluctuate based on what state you are teaching in. For example, post secondary teachers in Vermont had an annual mean wage of ,860 and the median annual wage for post secondary English teachers in California was ,290.
- In general, the median annual wage for post secondary English teachers as of 2013 was ,920. The upper 90% of these teachers can make 6,460 or more per year, and the lowest 10% of these teachers can make ,610 or less.
Be prepared to work in a related field.Many newly graduated PhD English literature students can have a difficult time finding a position as a professor at a university. Some students end up teaching composition or reading and comprehension, instead of English literature. You may also find more open positions in interdisciplinary studies or in non-academic studies. Often, PhD programs do not prepare students for other options besides a career as an English literature professor, which has been a point of criticism from economists and individuals working in English literature PhD departments.
- It’s important to be open to work in other related fields once you graduate from your PhD program. You may find a position as an English literature professor at a university, or you may have to branch out to teaching reading composition and technical writing. Some PhD graduates have also found success teaching at high schools, especially elite high schools. These positions can pay well and offer a more secure teaching career.
Continue to publish and maintain a good teaching record.Once you secure a position at a university or college, you should continue to publish new work every year and maintain a positive teaching record. If you are not already tenured, you may be offered a tenured position at the university you currently work for or at other universities based on your publishing credentials and your teaching record.
QuestionDo I need to clear NET before starting up a career as a professor?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNET is compulsory for starting career as a professor. If you have a good academic record, you can join as a guest faculty in any private college as per the criteria of the college.Thanks!
QuestionWhat is a basic degree that students can do to become an English literature professor?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you're in college, you'll probably want to study English or a related subject, as stated in step 1. However, you cannot become a professor straight out of college. You'll need a doctorate in English literature to be a professor. With a master's degree, you can teach freshman writing, and in some community colleges, sophomore literature. But without a doctorate degree, it's hard to get a full-time position. There are tons of part-time adjunct positions for people with master's degrees in English, but the pay is incredibly poor and you have very little say in what and sometimes how you teach.Thanks!
QuestionHow many degrees do I have to achieve?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerBased on the article, you have to achieve your B.A or B.S., then your M.A. or M.S. and finally a PhD. You will likely need to attain at a minimum your PhD as well as continue your studies in other related fields.Thanks!
QuestionIs good writting compulsory?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, definitely.Thanks!
QuestionWhich subject should I take in high school to become an English lecturer?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTake as many different types of English classes as your high school offers as well as your required courses.Thanks!
QuestionI completed my degree in English literature. How long I need to be a college professor?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAs long as you have your Masters degree you can be a college professor.Thanks!
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To become an English Literature professor, complete your undergraduate degree and your master’s degree in English Literature or a related field. While you’re pursuing your master’s degree, apply for a position as a teacher assistant, or T.A., which will give you valuable classroom experience. You will have better success getting hired as a professor if you complete a Ph.D. in English Literature as well. During your studies, submit the research papers you write for publication, since being published will improve your desirability as a faculty member.
- The most important factor when applying to faculty positions is often not your ability to teach English, but your research and publication record. Therefore, it is important to focus on your research and writing abilities even as an undergraduate.
- Although the process of becoming an English literature professor is usually begun in the late teens or early twenties, it is still possible to secure a job as an English professor later in one's career. However, the only experience that will count is your academic record.
Video: Writing & Publishing Tips : How to Become an English Professor
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