Literature teachers teach students how to read books critically so they can understand how to recognize themes, character development, narrative structure, and more. The training required to become a literature teacher depends upon where you want to teach: a high school, community college or university. However, in most cases, literature teachers should have either an English or a literature degree.
Dedicated literature courses are often taught in the upper levels of high school. During the earlier years, literature is included as part of an overall English class, which also includes instruction on language usage and writing. To become a literature teacher at the high-school level, you need only a bachelor's degree. However, all states require teachers to become licensed either before they are hired or as part of a lateral-entry program, which allows them to work toward licensure while they teach. At a minimum, becoming licensed will require passing a licensing exam, but some states may require additional education, a certain number of student teaching hours or sample teaching materials.
Most community colleges require literature teachers to have a master's degree in English or literature. According to the Modern Language Association, two-year colleges typically favor candidates who have more teaching experience, rather than those who have a doctoral degree. Teaching experience at a community college is favored over teaching experience at a four-year university since teachers at a community college also provide additional assistance for students who may have been out of school for a while and are trying to transition to rigorous college study.
To teach literature at the university level, you will need a doctoral degree in literature. Typically, your dissertation or your concentration of study will need to match the subject you wish to teach. For example, if you want to teach American literature, you should have studied American literature as your primary focus in your doctoral research. Your research should also match the time frame and authors that you intend to teach, such as early 19th century American authors. Jobs at the university level are competitive, and you should plan to publish and present scholarship to make yourself more attractive for these positions. Student teaching experience can also help you get the job.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs for high school teachers are expected to rise slower than average for other industries from 2010 to 2020, while jobs for postsecondary teachers -- at the community college and university level -- are expected to rise about as fast as jobs in other industries. Postsecondary English language and literature teachers were reported to have a mean annual income of $67,980 in 2012.