How to Become a Middle School History Teacher

Learn how to become a middle school history teacher in this video. Learn about the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in teaching.

Should I Become a Middle School History Teacher?

Middle school teachers generally instruct students in grades 6-8 in both public and private schools. Depending on the school, teachers may be responsible for teaching one or several subjects. They perform a number of duties, including meeting with parents, grading papers, preparing lesson plans, supervising extracurricular activities and setting classroom rules. Teachers generally work during the months and hours in which school is in session, but also plan lessons and assess students' work during other times.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's (minimum), master's or doctorate degrees for advancement
Degree Field History, education, social studies or middle school education
Licensure and Certification License and certification requirements vary by state for public schools; may not be required for private institutions
Experience Student teaching often required for certification
Key Skills Strong verbal and written communication skills, basic computer and multimedia skills, public speaking, critical thinking, patience, empathy
Salary $54,940 (Median annual salary for middle school teachers in 2014)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

To teach history to middle school students, the minimum education required is a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Appropriate majors include history, education, social studies or middle school education. Students may be asked to take a qualifying examination.

The curriculum for a bachelor's degree program in history with teacher licensure/certification typically includes core history classes, secondary education classes and general education content. Topics addressed may include curriculum and instruction, adolescent psychology, Civil War and Reconstruction, U.S. History and government, modern Europe and classroom diversity. These programs may also cover methods to teach history, how to teach special needs students and education planning.

Step 2: Gain Experience by Student Teaching

Regardless of the responsibilities and subjects assigned, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that all teachers need to have formal training resulting in a bachelor's degree and a certification or license if working in a public school. Student teaching is a common and important aspect of these training programs, but may not be required in all states to gain certification. Many states require that teachers earn continuing education credits to maintain licensing. Alternative routes to certification are available in all states for those who hold bachelor's degrees in other fields.

The student teaching practicum (or capstone) is a segment of most teacher preparation programs and is designed to prepare the student for initial certification. The prerequisites of the practicum vary by program, but usually entail the completion of certain classes and a minimum grade or GPA in previous coursework. The fieldwork can last anywhere from 8-16 weeks and is supervised. Student teaching typically begins in the last semester of the bachelor's degree program.

Step 3: Obtain a Teaching Certificate or License

Each state has its own certification type (e.g., certificate, educator credential, provisional license) and education requirements. The BLS states that teachers in private schools typically don't require teacher certification, but all states require certification for public school teachers. Certification for middle school may fall under elementary education in some states. States have specific testing requirements and eligibility standards. According to the Educational Testing Service, approximately 40 states require 'The Praxis Series' tests for teacher licensure which consist of a pre-professional skills test, a subject assessment and a teacher performance assessment.

Students who have a non-education bachelor's degree and want to earn a teaching certification but don't want to return to college to complete a teacher preparation program may apply for alternative certification. The National Center for Alternative Certification reported that, in 2010, the District of Columbia and 48 states have some kind of alternative certification program for teachers. These programs have many grade level and subject area options. They may incorporate more field exercises, seminars and education coursework to supplement what could have been learned in a traditional teacher preparation program. This option may last from 1-3 years beyond a bachelor's degree program.

Step 4: Complete Professional Development Classes

Most states require professional development to evaluate new teachers and renew certification of experienced teachers. The timeframe varies from 1-5 years depending on the type of certification. Numerous organizations offer continuing education classes, workshops, seminars and conferences for teachers to improve their understanding of history (or social studies) and help them with instruction, student evaluations and lesson plans. The goal of professional development is to not only assess and improve a teacher's knowledge, but to increase what students learn and prepare them for standardized tests. One professional development resource for history teachers is the Annenberg Learner, a division of the Annenberg Foundation. The organization offers online, video and print tools for various grade levels in history.

Positions for middle school teachers are expected to grow by 12% between 2012-2022. Part of this is due to the efforts to reduce classroom size, but also due to an expected increase in middle school students - especially in the South and West (www.bls.gov).

Success Tip:

  • Consider becoming nationally certified to advance your career. After three years of teaching, licensed middle school history teachers can apply for certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. While optional, this enrollment can improve employment and salary opportunities as well as demonstrate leadership in the field. A variety of content exercises and portfolios entries are scored before acceptance is granted.

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