There are four common ways that English majors find themselves teaching.
1. High School English and Creative Writing
2. Creative Writing at the College Level
3. Literature/Rhetoric at the College Level
4. Tutoring in a Writing Center at a College or University
5. Teaching English as a 2nd Language to People Who Live in Another Country
6. Educating young people through museums or zoos or historical sites or national parks
The path to each of the above options is slightly different. To teach at the high school level you will need to get certified to teach in the state in which you want to live. The University of Iowa has a Teacher's Education Program which will certify English majors to teach English as an undergraduate student, post-graduation after undergraduate time, or as part of a master's degree in teaching (MAT). The program takes at least three semesters after you are accepted. Most students start it their first or second year as an undergraduate to fit in the 12 courses required for the certification. Some choose to wait and start it after graduation if they are already late in their academic career when they decide to teach. High school teachers enjoy some job security, decent benefits, and often have summers off. They work an entire day in the classroom and need to be able to work within the administrative policies of a given school district.
Teaching at the college level requires the terminal degree in the area in which you want to teach. Creative Writing requires an MFA, literature requires a PhD. Most MFA programs make their evaluation of your candidacy based largely on your writing sample. As a writing instructor at a college or university you would be expected to publish semi-regularly in your genre. Ph.D programs will assess your grades and GRE scores and as a literature or rhetoric instructor you would likely be expected to publish semi-regularly in the field in which you are researching at a given point in your career. Faculty may start their career with less security and benefits than a high school teacher, but also enjoy more flexible hours and more control over the material they teach.
Teaching English to those who live elsewhere does not generally require an advanced degree. Students can graduate from college and do this for a couple years just by searching for job listings. We recommend you go through places vetted by career services. If you want to teach abroad long-term you will have to do a bit more research into the rules of the country in terms of employment and might benefit from a certificate in TESL or Linguistics classes. To teach English as a 2nd Language here in the United States one is often asked to be certified to teach in that state or to have a master's degree in TESL/Linguistics.
Educating in Non-School Settings:
Many of our majors are also interested in art, science, or history. The University of Iowa offers a Museum Certificate and our students often volunteer or intern with non-profit local sites to learn more about preservation and educating young people in that setting. Others use their writings skills to help with marketing or website descriptions. Still other majors get Event Planning certificates and help plan large events for these sites. Students may also take education courses to learn more about facilitating learning for young people. Elementary or Secondary Education certification is an option though not necessary to work in these settings in most cases.
Local internships and volunteer opportunities can be found at: Brucemore Historic Site, Herbert Hoover Birthplace & Museum, African-American Museum, National Czech & Slovak Museum, Des Moines Blank Park Zoo, Indian Creek Nature Center, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Peabody Essex Museum, Ushers Ferry Historic Village, Seminole Valley Farm
Dallas Zoo (Texas) has unpaid but good experiential internships
Possible Mentors in the Department:
Any professor can mentor on becoming a professor