Explore a Bachelor's Degree in English Language Arts
A degree in English language arts is typically designed for students who want to teach English in K-12 schools. The field of English language arts encompasses all manner of communicating in the English language, emphasizing reading comprehension and writing skills, but also including speaking and listening skills. Students of English language arts are exposed to a great deal of classic and contemporary literature, and must be able to communicate the primary themes of these literary works in their social and historical contexts. Aside from cultivating these skills themselves, students of English language arts programs learn how to teach reading, writing, and literature to high school, junior high, middle school, and elementary populations.
Most bachelor's degrees in English language arts can be completed in four years, but program length does differ somewhat from school to school. Students may be able to complete these programs in a shorter timeframe if they transfer in credits from community college, high school AP classes, or through CLEP testing. Because each state has specific, additional educational requirements for teacher certification, including student teaching, some students may take longer than four years to complete the program to meet those requirements.
English language arts curriculum includes basic and advanced instruction in English composition, Western and Eastern literature, and various styles of writing. Writing courses might include creative writing, fiction writing, nonfiction writing, and poetry. In addition, a number of education courses are included in the teacher education component that are focused on instructing students how to effectively teach English language arts. Students may take the following core courses:
- Literature for the Classroom Teacher. In this course, students learn effective methods of promoting literacy and are exposed to research into the teaching and learning of literature. Students also learn strategies for literacy instruction, including how to select appropriate literate for the grade or age group being taught.
- Expository Writing. This course is designed to teach students how to communicate a message clearly through prose. Students learn how to write for specific audiences, select and narrow a topic, develop and support a thesis, and refine their writing through rough drafts, editing, and revision.
- Children's Literature. In this course, students are exposed to a wide variety of literature written for children. Special emphasis is often placed on differences in genres, symbolism, and cultivating a student's ability to critically evaluate various children's texts.
Homework in an English language arts program is writing-intensive. Students will demonstrate their knowledge of various writing forms in reports, essays, short stories, and literary criticism. For example, students may be asked to read two different texts and write an essay comparing the two works and detailing how each author brings across specific themes. Even in teaching-oriented courses, students may be asked to write an essay on the most vital pedagogical principles that guide English language arts instruction, drawing from what they learned in their classes. Students pursuing teacher certification must also complete a semester-long student teaching internship in a real-world classroom environment where they gain practical experience developing lesson plans and teaching students.
Building a Career
The most common careers for students who complete a degree program in English language arts is kindergarten and elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and high school teachers. To enter these careers, students typically enroll in an English program and specialize in English language arts education so that the core professional education course work to earn teacher certification is included in their degree requirements. Requirements for teacher licensure vary by state, but in general, students must have completed a minimum of a bachelor's degree from an approved teacher education program, and often must pass both a general teacher certification test and a test that demonstrates their knowledge in their particular subject area.
The median yearly salary for teachers was $48,800 for kindergarten and elementary teachers, $51,960 for middle school teachers, and $53,230 for high school teachers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, teacher salaries vary based on a number of factors, such as how much experience you have, the size of your school district, your degree level, and other considerations. Between 2010 and 2020, slow employment growth is expected for high school teachers and average job growth is expected for middle and elementary school teachers, the BLS explains.