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History Teacher Career Guide

History teachers educate students in the events and lessons of history and how these relate to current events. A teacher specializing in this field must possess a thorough knowledge of history supplemented by study in other liberal arts to help students understand the role and processes of history. This guide provides in-depth information on what history teachers do, how to become a history teacher, and history teacher salary and job outlook.

History Teacher Career Description

A history teacher leads students in the study of past events in the United States and around the world. They generally teach students at the middle school, high school, and postsecondary levels. History curriculum can cover a wide range of topics from recent events to ancient history. History educators encourage students to look at multiple viewpoints, become informed citizens, and make valid arguments by providing stimulating discussion, readings, and projects. History teachers often help students process and comprehend the significance of difficult social and political issues. To reach these goals, teachers of history organize lesson plans in line with curriculum standards, collect and design lesson presentations and class assessments, and perform other common teaching tasks such as grading assignments.

History Teacher Requirements and Common Tasks

To be hired to teach history, an applicant needs a degree in history education and must meet state requirements for teaching history. All states require that teachers pass one or more competency tests, such as the Praxis Series, in their subject area. While earning a bachelor’s degree, teachers typically complete a supervised period of student teaching to qualify for certification. Depending on the size of the school district where a teacher is hired and the district’s approved curriculum, history teachers may be expected to teach classes across the spectrum of social sciences, from American history to economics. Teachers design and grade tests and interactive projects, deliver lectures, interact with students and parents, and stay abreast of current events. History teachers also work with special education teachers to modify curricula for students who have learning difficulties. Further, most teachers contribute to the extracurricular activities of their school and are often asked to work with debate teams or other clubs because of their current events expertise.

How to Become a History Teacher

Choosing a university that has respected history and teaching programs is the first step to becoming a history teacher. Prospective teachers of history pursuing a bachelor’s degree can expect to take two years of general education classes and lower-level history courses prior to applying to the teacher preparation program. A major in history, which typically comprises at least 30 credit hours, must also be declared. The typical route to becoming a history teacher is as follows:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in history and complete a teacher preparation program.
  2. Complete a student teaching internship at the grade level(s) to be taught.
  3. Take your state’s required exams for prospective teachers.
  4. Apply for your teaching license.
  5. Begin applying to open history teacher positions.

If the student already holds a bachelor’s degree, returning to school for an alternative certification program or master’s degree in history or education may be an alternate route to teacher certification. With these pathways, full-time students can earn a master’s degree or post-graduate certificate and teacher certification in two to three years. If the student already has a bachelor’s degree in history, education courses for certification must be completed. If the student’s background is not in history, enough courses to constitute a history major will typically be required. Practicum hours and student teaching are typical requirements for either situation, and state testing for certification is required for all prospective K-12 teachers.

History Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the high school education field is growing at about 6% a year as student enrollment increases and school districts focus on lowering student-teacher ratios.1 A new teacher at the high school level can expect an average salary of about $57,200 a year.1 However, history teacher salaries vary widely depending on location and qualifications.

Helpful Skills and Experience

To be successful in teaching history, an educational background in history from all time periods and global regions is a must. Successful history teachers generally have strong communication skills as well as classroom leadership skills that foster a learning environment centered on discussion and debate of past events and how these relate to modern times. A genuine interest in history can help teachers engage students in the subject. In addition, history teachers should have knowledge of modern research and citation methods to help students learn about and cite historical facts.

Additional Resources

  • The National Council for the Social Studies – The largest association in the US focused on social studies education. Membership is open to social studies educators at all grade levels, and member educators receive access to databases of social studies classroom activities, education standards, and professional development opportunities.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a History Teacher

Question: What state certification(s) are required to teach history?

Answer: While history teachers in private schools might not be required to obtain state teacher certification, history teachers in public schools must typically hold state-level certification to teach as well as an endorsement in the subject area(s) taught. For guidelines specific to your state, check with the state Board of Education or your school’s education department. You can also check out our traditional teacher certification and alternative teacher certification guides.

Question: What grade levels can I teach with a degree in history?

Answer: Most history teachers find work at the high school level, although some districts hire history teachers at the middle school level. For teaching grades K-12, a bachelor’s degree is typically the base qualification. Teachers of history in post-secondary schools usually have a doctoral degree and/or significant experience in their field(s) of expertise.

Question: How can I improve my outlook for getting hired to teach history?

Answer: A strong liberal arts background is a great start for seeking employment as a history teacher. Joining history-focused associations, networking, and getting published in outlets focused on education and humanities are other great ways to be competitive in the hiring process.

References:
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm