Learn How to Become a History Teacher
History in the making: discover the joys of teaching history whatever time period you specialize in.
What Does a History Teacher Do?
Whether the subject is William the Conqueror or Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, the enjoyment of a history class rests largely upon how the teacher recreates past and current events and historical biography. It can be lifeless or brought to life, thrilling or rote. Who hasn’t had a dynamic history teacher who helped us to understand the significance of the Industrial Revolution or the cultural impact of the Renaissance?
Good history teachers are storytellers as well as instructors, and they usually teach at middle school, high school and college levels. Although classroom curricula vary depending on the level and course you’re teaching, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to share your knowledge of American and world history, and your passion for learning.
Like any other teacher, a history teacher creates a fun and productive learning environment using textbooks and outside resources, including primary and secondary materials, and relevant interactive media. More and more, history teachers are moving toward technology to help recreate worlds and events, so keep reading to find a list of some of the top classroom apps.
Depending on your institution’s curriculum, school size and budget, and the age of your students, you may end up teaching history as well as social studies or political science courses.
Where Can I Expect to Work?
Although teaching history is a competitive field and may require a nationwide job search to find employment, giving yourself the flexibility to teach social sciences alongside history will greatly improve your chances of finding a job. As a history teacher, you may find yourself in one of these settings:
- Secondary schools, such as middle and high schools
- Community colleges
- Four-year colleges and universities
Common Degrees History Teachers Hold
Most history teachers earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in history or education. You can specialize in areas such as archaeology, women’s studies, American history, world history, or African American history, among others, which are popular specialties within the field and often have departments or classes based upon them.
What Skills Can Help Me Succeed as a History Teacher?
Being a teacher takes enthusiasm, passion and patience, no matter what subject or age level you teach, but there are a few skills you can cultivate to help you do a better job than the competition.
O*Net OnLine’s 2016 Summary Report for postsecondary history teachers suggests these skills, styles and abilities to excel in the field:
- Have integrity
- Be dependable
- Have a strict attention to detail
- Be able to exercise analytical thinking skills
- Have good speaking, writing and reading comprehension and expression skills
- Be an active listener
Steps to Becoming a History Teacher
The path to becoming a teacher is pretty much the same no matter what, but depending upon the grade levels and subject you’re going to teach, you’ll need to hone your education to fit. Here is a step-by-step guide to becoming a history teacher.
Assess which level you want to teach.
History teachers generally have three institutional level options for teaching: high schools, community colleges and universities. You’ll need to decide where you want to teach so you can complete your education accordingly, as the requirements differ.
Earn your bachelor’s degree.
To become a high school history teacher at any level, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in education along with a major or minor in history or social science. This is the minimum requirement to teach at a middle or high school level. If you already have a bachelor’s degree without an emphasis in history, you will most likely need to take additional history and teacher-training courses to meet your state’s teaching requirements. Some states may require you to earn your master’s degree in education in order to teach.
If you want to teach at a community college, earn your master’s degree.
Some states require all teachers to earn a master’s degree. Check with the Department of Education in your state for requirements in your area.
To teach history at the community college level, you will need a minimum of a master’s degree, so you’ll want to make sure you plan for at least an additional two years of postgraduate education beyond your bachelor’s degree program.
Teaching at a college or university requires a PhD or Doctorate.
Doctorate or PhD programs not only prepare you to teach at public and private universities, but for a career as a researcher, analyst or writer at an advanced level. Doctorates take anywhere from two to five years to complete and require you to work with an advisor and prepare a dissertation on a specific topic, which you will defend at the end of your program.
Fortunately, you can find a large number of accredited online bachelor’s, master’s and PhD programs in history. This flexible options can be a lifesaver if you need to continue to work while you attend school or have restrictions, such as family obligations, live remotely, or live with a disability that prevents you from readily attending a physical classroom.
Your coursework will be the same as a traditional program, and you’ll have assignments and exams that you’ll need to schedule with your professor, and as long as you earn your degree from an accredited program, any future employer should honor your credential.
Some online bachelor’s degree programs may offer the option of choosing an emphasis, such as a choice between U.S. History or World History, or regional area such as Russian or Middle Eastern history, but most will require the same extensive overview of modern and ancient eras and survey classes. Many online programs also require you to complete a capstone project at the end.
Are There Certification Requirements?
Although each state has its own teacher certification guidelines, teaching history in middle or high school always begins with a four-year degree. If you already hold a bachelor’s degree but lack the history and/or teaching credentials, you can earn a fifth year master’s degree in one year or simply complete state requirements at a local college or university.
Some states require completion of continuing education courses to stay certified. These course requirements differ from state to state. Some states also require you to sit for a competency exam such as the PRAXIS II, in history, and each state will have its own set of requirements to enable you to do so. No matter, continuing education is a great way to improve your skills, maintain certification and increase your salary.
Here’s a random sampling of the types of courses you may be able to take to earn and keep your certification:
- Social Studies Teaching Methods
- World History to the 16th Century
- World History from the 16th century
- U.S. History to 1865
- Contemporary U.S. History from 1865
History Teacher Salaries
History teachers can earn a healthy salary, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They cite a median annual salary of $66,840, with the highest 10 percent of history teachers in the postsecondary arena making over $125,000 annually. They also have good news about job growth for this discipline of teacher, citing a nine percent job growth through 2024, which is faster than average for all careers combined.
What States Hire the Most History Teachers?
It may not always be easy to find a job teaching in your specific area of specialty but there are some states that hire more history teachers than others. Interestingly, some of the states are logical candidates, either because they are the forefather states of our country’s inceptive history, or project an image of the Wild West and its storied heritage. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 Occupational Employment Statistics survey offers the following geographic data and annual wage data for the top states:
|History Teachers Employed||Annual Mean Salary|
Metropolitan areas with the highest percentage of postsecondary history teachers include these:
|Metropolitan Area||History Teachers Employed|
|New York City||1,270|
|Washington DC – Arlington||580|
|Los Angeles – Long Beach||430|
Tools for the New History Teacher
Maps and charts, chalkboards, globes and textbooks are fine and well but these old staples of the history classroom are moving to the cupboard and making way for technology-savvy students and teachers. The BBC compiled a list of apps that add dimension to the job of imparting history, and make it interactive, fun and fascinating. History teachers are leaving old standbys in the dust and moving toward these types of classroom tools:
- Timeline World War 2 with Dan Snow–Allows students to view events of WWII in a timeline and map view.
- Virtual History Roma–Virtual immersion tour, photos and interactive timelines and maps make this ideal for secondary pupils.
- Pyramids 3D–3D tour of chambers and corridors within the pyramids.
- Streetmuseum: Londinium–Video and audio recordings, maps and an excavation tool to dig up artifacts from Roman London times.
- Timeline Battle Castles–Medieval castles and the battles that waged, siege warfare and weapon demonstrations make this app unique.
- History: Maps of the World–Called “a wonderful teacher’s aid,” this is an impressive array of historical maps dating from the 4th century to the 20th
- Civil War Today–Everything, from old newspapers, letters and diaries to battle maps, pertaining to the American Civil War.
- The British Monarchy–The complete reference guide to the Kings and Queens of England and Scotland beginning in the 8th
- GCSE Modern World History: My Revision App–Written by a history teacher, this app is a good prep tool for tests, containing activities and quizzes about modern history.
- Back in Time–Crosses over into geography territory, but still a modern textbook guide to life and civilization on earth.
Take the Next Step
Now that you’ve read a comprehensive overview about the road to becoming a history teacher and everything you can do with your degree, why not get started researching programs that can help you shape your own history and destiny? We’ve got the accredited degree programs that can put you on the path to a career in the classroom.
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