Learn How to Become a Social Studies Teacher

collage of topical world landmarks signifying social studies teaching
collage of topical world landmarks signifying social studies teaching

Social studies is where students learn to put current events into context and understand the world around them. As a social studies teacher, you can inspire students to think critically about their world. You’ll have an opportunity to teach them how government functions and how to research the facts to support their ideas.

Social Studies Teacher Job Description

Your life as a social studies teacher will require you to create engaging daily lesson plans that address the expected outcomes of your state and/or school district. Each day, it’s your job to deliver these lessons to your students through a variety of teaching methods. Some approaches include:

  • Group Projects
  • Multimedia Projects – slideshows, posters, Websites, videos
  • Lectures
  • Plays written by students
  • Integrating Literature into the study of History

As a teacher, you’ll need to adapt lessons to suit a change in class size, prepare students for exams, communicate with parents about their child’s progress and supervise students outside of the classroom, such as during lunchtime.

Many teachers take on extracurricular responsibilities as well. As a social studies instructor, you might act as faculty advisor for a club that is related to your subject specialty, or you might coach a team for the school’s athletic department. A few ideas for extra-curricular duties include:

  • Current Events Club
  • Academic Bowl
  • International Club
  • Soccer coach
  • Drama advisor
  • International Media Club
  • Football coach
  • Track and field coach
  • Tennis coach

If you are teaching in a high school, you’ll likely teach several different courses such as Ancient Civilizations, Philosophy, World History and Civics.

What is the Workplace like for a Social Studies Teacher?

The typical workplace for a social studies teacher is a publicly funded middle or high school, private school or charter school.

A social studies classroom might feature maps of countries from around the world. Often, you can find great maps in old National Geographic magazines and at educational retailers. You might also decorate your classroom with posters that feature cultures from around the world. You can also seek out posters and other artifacts that reflect the specific subjects you cover. For instance, you might teach Economics at the high school level. In that case, your classroom might feature posters of famous economists and a graph of the GDP.

Most social studies teachers work a traditional 10-month school year with a summer break. While teachers work school hours, you’ll often find you’ll have to devote time in the evenings and weekends to grading papers and preparing lesson plans.

Education and Training

High school teachers are required to hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Most teachers also complete a student teaching experience and demonstrate an active engagement with their targeted age group, including working as a tutor, after-school mentor or coach. Some social studies teachers graduate with a double major in education and a related topic such as political science or history.

In your bachelor’s degree program, you can expect to take courses such as these:

  • Teaching Adolescents
  • Teaching HS Social Studies
  • Teaching in a Diverse Society
  • Ethical Issues for Teachers

If you plan to work as a high school social studies teacher, you may be required to earn a master’s degree in some states. The advanced degree can also lead you into a higher pay scale or prepare you for an administrative role.

Every few years, teachers must keep up-to-date with Continuing Education Units (CEUs). These are courses that pertain to your work in the classroom, either from a pedagogical standpoint or as they relate to social studies. For instance, a history course may satisfy your local school board, or you might take a classroom management course to help make your daily lessons move more smoothly.

Teacher Certification for Social Studies Teachers

All states require public school teachers to be licensed. First, check with your state board of education to learn about requirements. The criteria vary by state and you may need to complete a teacher preparation program or student teaching experience.

Most states require that teachers pass the Praxis I and II tests. Praxis I is a general knowledge test on par with the SAT. The Praxis II is a subject-specific test that will ensure that you know the subject matter for your academic area and grade level.

After you secure licensure and are working under contract, you may need to continue your education with state-approved CEUs. Often times, the cost for these is covered by your local school board, but that is not guaranteed.

Certificate vs Certification


Certificate:

A certificate is awarded by an educational institution, and signifies that a student has satisfactorily completed a given curriculum. Certificate programs can help students prepare for certification exams.


Certification:

A certification is generally awarded by a trade group after an individual has met certain professional requirements (e.g. earned a specific degree, worked professionally in a given field for a set amount of time, etc.) and passed a certification exam.

In short, a certificate is evidence that someone has completed an educational program, while a certification denotes that someone has met a certain set of professional criteria and/or passed an exam.


Not all programs offered are designed to meet state educator licensing or advancement requirements; however, it may assist candidates in gaining these approvals in their state of residence depending on those requirements. Contact the state board of education in the applicable state(s) for requirements.

Job Outlook and Salary

The demand for secondary teachers is holding steady and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 5 percent growth rate for high school teachers through 2031.

Advancing your academic credentials and accruing experience can help boost your pay over time. Further, many teachers find extra work as tutors or writers. Take a look at median annual salaries:

Social Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary, All Other

National data

Median Salary: $77,500

Projected job growth: 5.5%

10th Percentile: $38,080

25th Percentile: $60,270

75th Percentile: $102,230

90th Percentile: $155,580

Projected job growth: 5.5%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $78,150 $62,820 $127,900
Arkansas $49,860 $22,880 $161,830
Arizona $63,670 $60,390 $63,670
California $115,900 $78,200 N/A
Connecticut $79,290 $49,220 $122,690
District of Columbia $78,060 $60,270 $161,360
Florida $77,330 $44,190 $123,630
Georgia $59,540 $18,180 $81,250
Hawaii $39,110 $31,070 $78,390
Iowa $63,670 $37,400 $121,450
Illinois $63,900 $38,410 $126,040
Indiana $63,900 $30,800 $103,890
Kansas $37,230 $29,310 $63,900
Kentucky $62,890 $38,810 $81,250
Massachusetts $63,900 $48,660 $100,510
Maryland $81,360 $40,000 $132,720
Maine $61,460 $37,800 $81,250
Michigan $76,490 $29,900 $103,860
Minnesota $100,360 $55,250 $127,900
Missouri $60,810 $48,110 $100,940
Mississippi $60,630 $47,330 $79,530
North Carolina $76,550 $48,720 $155,580
North Dakota $60,680 $38,170 $81,250
Nebraska $76,290 $46,090 $167,950
New Hampshire $64,640 $25,940 $123,630
New Jersey $77,630 $30,700 $123,630
New Mexico $63,140 $49,960 $79,970
Nevada $64,850 $19,070 $106,240
New York $98,070 $48,520 $194,540
Ohio $64,440 $21,850 $122,700
Oklahoma $73,940 $49,860 $82,290
Oregon $96,620 $49,010 $168,070
Pennsylvania $73,990 $46,920 $126,460
Rhode Island $78,610 $37,910 $163,090
South Carolina $78,150 $50,130 $126,300
Tennessee $60,680 $47,200 $81,710
Texas $48,540 $17,730 $99,400
Utah $61,350 $38,470 $122,690
Virginia $81,050 $63,720 $103,890
Washington $61,690 $48,670 $121,610
Wisconsin $80,660 $49,990 $131,120
West Virginia $61,350 $20,010 $77,630

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

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