Preparing for a Career in Teaching English at the Secondary (High-School) Level

The first decision you’ll need to make is whether you want to teach in a private or a public school. Public schools require certification through a process that includes completing a teacher education program, passing a series of exams, and mentored teaching. Private schools are not required to hire teachers that have completed certification. A license from the New York State Department of Education is necessary to teach in a private school in New York.

The English Department at John Jay encourages you to give back to the education system by teaching in NYC Public Schools.

students attending a class

If you are looking to teach in a public school, you’ll need to decide on the state where you want to teach. All states require educators be certified before they can teach in public schools and have specific requirements. New York State United Teachers has an informative website detailing How to Become a Teacher in New York State


When you know where you want to teach, you can check out certification programs you’d like to apply to in your chosen state. CUNY offers Teacher Education programs across 17 colleges. Several programs are linked in a section below.


Candidates for an initial teaching certificate in New York must pass three main tests: the Educating All Students (EAS) exam; the edTPA; and the Content Specialty Test(s) in their area of certification. More information on each of these tests can be found on the New York State Teachers Certification Exams website.


The Content Specialty Test (CST) in English will test the knowledge of literature in English. To do well on this exam, you’ll need a Shakespeare class, LIT 313 (Shakespeare) or LIT 314 (Shakespeare and Justice). You’ll also need a strong foundation in American literature. To this end, you might take classes such as LIT 233 (American Stories), LIT 223 (African-American Literature) and LIT 326 (Crime, Punishment and Justice in U.S. Literature). Make sure to take LIT 371, “Topics in Medieval Literature,” since this field of study is difficult to learn on your own; this exam usually assumes familiarity with Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. You should also take a course covering the works of John Milton.


Expect your interviewers to ask you to coach a sport or supervise an activity, such as the yearbook or the newspaper. In some cases, they will want teachers to coach a sport for each season.

If you want to teach in a private school, you’ll need to have high grades in your area of expertise: A-grades in the humanities and B-grades in math and science. Hiring committees for these institutions tend to be more concerned with your mastery of a field than your experience in the classroom, though any such background will prove to your advantage. They also might look for faculty who can teach in more than one subject: English or language arts teachers are often asked to teach social studies as well or to participate in core” courses that combine English and history. For this reason, students interested in a career in teaching English should consider a double major or a minor in such subjects as History or Humanities and Justice Studies. Another common combination is English and a foreign language, so if you want to go this route, consider finding some way of demonstrating your proficiency (perhaps a minor?) in a second language. Like those for public schools, interviewers for private schools will expect candidates to participate in after-school programs.


The best way to find a private school job is to go directly to the websites of the schools where you want to teach and to click on the job ads. If you are flexible as far as your location, subscribe to portals such as the National Association of Independent Schools or The Council for American Private Education, which includes religious as well as independent schools: Checking the employment website is also always an option. After two-three years of teaching experience in this country, you may apply for jobs in international (American) schools, but most overseas institutions don’t consider applicants before that time.

The following programs are offered at other CUNY colleges.

John Jay College recently established an agreement with Queens College so that eligible John Jay English Majors can now take up to four Queens College graduate-level Education courses. These courses will count as elective credit for the John Jay BA and they will also be accepted for transfer credit (up to 12 credits) when the student is admitted to Queens College’s Advanced Initial Certificate (Post-Baccalaureate) in English Education program. To learn more about this exciting partnership, contact Professor John Staines (


Click here for general information about the English and Language Arts Education Program at Queens College.

Hunter College - Adolescent English (Master or Arts)

Brooklyn College - English Teacher (7-12) (Master of Arts)

City College - Secondary English Education

Lehman College - English Education 7-12 (Master of Science in Education)

College of Staten Island - Graduate Program in Adolescence Education



Here's NYSUT’s listing of teacher education programs available through the state's network of CUNY and SUNY colleges and universities. 


The programs below are great pathways to a career in teaching for those with an English BA. 

NYC Public School's Pathways to Teaching
This information page contains links to lots of programs and other resources.


NYC Teaching Fellows
The NYC Teaching Fellows program prepares college graduates and career changers to become exceptional teachers, using their skills and experiences to ignite students’ imaginations—and challenge them to dream big.


Teach For America
TFA is a leadership development organization for those who want to co-create a more just world alongside young people in their communities.

Many programs will require you to enroll in a Master’s program on the path to gain your certification. The smartest approach is to secure your certificate and to apply for your first teaching job before completing the Master’s because doing so prevents you appearing over-qualified (and therefore more expensive to pay) while still having little classroom experience; you can usually finish the graduate degree as part of your district’s continuing education requirements once you are in the classroom.


If youre serious about a career in teaching, you should consider joining NCTE (the National Council of Teachers of English)Membership costs $25.00/year for students and another $25.00/year for English Journal. Read the articles because they will show you what really happens professionally today in ELA (English Language Arts).