History Teacher Career Guide

History teachers educate students in not only the events but also the 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 or around the world. They generally teach students at the middle school, high school or postsecondary level. History curriculum can cover a wide range of topics, from recent events to ancient history. The standard job description for a teacher of history requires that 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. Many states require that teachers pass a competency test, such as the PRAXIS II, in their subject area. Teachers typically complete a supervised period of student teaching for full certification. Many states now allow alternate routes to becoming a certified teacher. 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 relevant current events. History teachers also work with special education teachers to modify curriculum for students who have learning difficulties. Further, most teachers contribute to the extracurricular activities of the 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

There are several pathways to become a history teacher based on a student’s education and experience. Choosing a university that has a respected teaching program is the first step. History education students can expect to finish their degree and receive certification in four or five years.

Prospective teachers of history can expect to take two years of general education classes, which vary from school to school. In most programs, a student must apply for acceptance to the education program at their college following completion of the general education requirements. A major in history, which typically takes 24 credit hours to complete, must also be declared. There may also be a practicum and student teaching requirement for each student. Different courses may be required depending on the grade level(s) for which a prospective history teacher wishes to pursue certification. After prospective teachers graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in history or social sciences, entitlement documentation will be sent to the state to issue a certificate.

If the student already holds a bachelor’s degree, returning to school for a graduate degree in history or education is an alternate route to teacher certification. From that point, a full time student might expect to earn a master’s degree and teacher certification in approximately two or three years. The coursework is dependent on the educational history of the student. If the student has a bachelor’s degree in history, a regimen of education courses for certification and graduation requirements must be completed successfully. If the student’s background is not in history, enough courses in history will have to be completed in order to constitute a history concentration. Practicum hours and student teaching are typical requirements for either situation, and state testing for certification is required.

History Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

According to the 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 $55,050 a year.1 However, a history teacher salary varies widely depending on location and qualifications. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job growth for high school teachers between 2012 and 2022 will be fastest in the South and West.1 A teacher’s work schedule can be lessened by a ten month teaching schedule with breaks during the school year.

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 that fosters 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 is 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.

History Education and Teaching Degrees and Programs

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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 level 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.

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 either a doctoral degree 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.

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics – High School Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm