History Teacher Career Guide

History teachers educate students on historical events and notable periods. To specialize in this field, teachers need a deep understanding of history supplemented by interdisciplinary studies. This knowledge is crucial in helping students understand how historical events have shaped the world as we know it. This guide provides in-depth information on what history teachers do, how to become one, and their salary and job outlook.

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How to Become a History Teacher

Choosing a college or university with respected history and teaching programs is the first step to becoming a history teacher. To qualify for licensure via the traditional route, you will need to complete a bachelor’s degree program that includes a state-approved teacher preparation program. Prospective history teachers pursuing a bachelor’s degree can expect to take two years of general education classes and lower-level history courses before applying to the teacher preparation program. A major in history, which typically comprises at least 30 credit hours, should also be declared. The typical route to becoming a history teacher at a K-12 public school 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 you wish to teach.
  3. Take your state’s required exams for prospective teachers.
  4. Apply for your teaching license.
  5. Begin applying for open history teacher positions.

For students who already hold 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 they already have a bachelor’s degree in history, education courses for certification must be completed. If the student’s background is outside of history, a history major will typically be required. Practicum hours and student teaching are typical requirements for both pathways. State testing for certification is also required for all prospective K-12 teachers at public schools.

Education Schools and Certification by State

Each state has its own process for becoming a teacher. Below, you will find schools in your state that offer teacher preparation programs, as well as information on traditional and alternative certification pathways specific to your state.

History Teacher Job Description

A history teacher leads students in the study of past events. They generally teach students at the middle school, high school, and postsecondary levels. Depending on the size of the school district and the approved curriculum, history teachers may be expected to teach classes across the spectrum of social sciences, from American history to economics. At some schools and levels, history teachers are more specialized and may include social studies teachers, world civilization teachers, U.S. history teachers, and world history teachers.

History curriculum can cover a wide range of topics from recent events to ancient history. History educators encourage students to view the world from multiple perspectives and to become informed citizens. History teachers facilitate learning by providing stimulating discussions, readings, and projects. They often help students comprehend and process 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.

Common Tasks

History teachers design and grade tests and interactive projects, deliver lectures, interact with students and parents, and stay abreast of current events. History teachers may also work with special education teachers to modify curricula for students with learning challenges. Further, most teachers contribute to the extracurricular activities of their school and are often asked to work with debate teams or other clubs related to their expertise.

Helpful Skills and Experience

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 understand modern research and citation methods to help students learn about and cite historical facts.

History Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

History teacher salaries vary widely depending on location, qualifications, and type of school. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the high school education field is expected to grow by about 4% through 2031.1 Teachers at the high school level earned a median salary of $62,360 a year in 2022, according to the BLS, while middle school teachers earned a median salary of $61,810 per year and had job growth expectations of 5% through 2031.2,4 Postsecondary teachers in all categories earned a median of $79,640 per year in 2021.5 A 7% increase in jobs for postsecondary history teachers is expected through 2031.5

Additional Resources

  • American Historical Association (AHA): Seeks to advance teaching and learning, advocate for the discipline, promote scholarly discussion, and enhance career development for members.
  • National Council for History Education (NCHE): Supports history teachers and champions history education through professional learning opportunities, community building, and advocacy.
  • National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS): The largest social studies education focused association in the US. 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.
  • National Council on Public History (NCPH): Membership association promoting collaboration between historians and the public and providing resources for educators.

Frequently Asked Questions

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 university’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 in public schools, a bachelor’s degree is typically the base qualification. Teachers of history in post-secondary schools usually have a graduate degree such as a master’s degree or a doctoral degree and/or significant experience in their field(s) of expertise.

Question: How hard is it to become a history teacher?

Answer: Becoming a history teacher is typically no more difficult than becoming a teacher in any other subject! If you have an affinity and/or aptitude for history and a desire to share your knowledge with others, then becoming a history teacher may be right for you!

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. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2022 Occupational Employment and Wages, High School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252031.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2022 Occupational Employment and Wages, Middle School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252022.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Middle School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Postsecondary Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm