Being an English professor is a rewarding and distinguished career -- rewarding because you get to devote your time to the study of great art, and distinguished because you are willing to devote your time to help other people study great art. But before you teach courses in English literature, you’ll have to take quite a few of them.
High School Courses
Before you think about taking university courses on English literature, don’t underestimate the importance of your high school English class. It may be boring, it may come at the end of the day on Friday afternoons and it may be taught by someone who doesn’t care about the books he assigns. But that class will prepare you for what is to come in university or college, and it will probably introduce you to the works of Shakespeare and to modern classics that you’ll be expected to know when you get to university.
The first step after high school to becoming a professor of English literature is to get an undergraduate degree. That means taking usually four years of classes on a wide variety of topics, such as theories of reading, texts in context, contemporary literature, adaptations, science fiction, poetry, the 20th century novel, censorship, freedom of speech and literature, imagination and identity, global diversity, theatre and the novel, and gothic literature.
The next step to becoming a professor of English literature is to get a master’s degree. You should note that some people skip this step: it’s sometimes possible to go straight from your undergraduate degree to your doctorate. But a master’s degree can be a great bridge. You can build on what you learned during your undergraduate without committing to a doctorate. You’ll probably take courses similar to the ones you took during your undergrad, but they’ll be at a much more advanced level, and the expectations of your performance will be much higher.
The final educational step to becoming a professor of English is to get your doctorate in English literature. You’ll discover that you’ll take the same courses as master's students: graduate level courses. You’ll just be expected to take more of them than master's students. Not only that, but you’ll be expected to follow your coursework up with comprehensive exams, and then a lengthy dissertation in which you make an original contribution to scholarly research about English literature.
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