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How to Become a History Teacher: Step-by-Step Guide

Learn how to become a history teacher. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in teaching.

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Do I Want to Be a History Teacher?

Often teaching in middle schools and high schools, these educators apply their historical knowledge to teach students about historical events, methods for understanding relationships between events, and concepts in history. They plan and deliver lessons, assess students' understanding and evaluate overall student progress. Working with young people who may be unruly or unmotivated may be quite challenging and tiring. On the other hand, being able to observe their immense accomplishments can be very rewarding.

Job Requirements

Prospective history teachers must attain at least a bachelor's degree, generally in history, and complete a teacher education program that includes student teaching. To teach at public schools, educators must also have a state teaching license, which can be acquired after completing state educational and examination requirements. Some states require that teachers complete further education, such as attaining a master's degree, after receiving certification. The following table reflects the key requirements for working as a history teacher, based on information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree required; some states require a master's degree
Degree Field History, education
Licensure/Certification Teacher certification required
Experience Student teaching internship required
Key Skills Patience, instructional skills, communication skills

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The majority of future history teachers acquire bachelor's degrees in history while simultaneously attending teacher-training programs. History programs typically encompass courses in U.S. and world history, geography and economics. Education or teacher preparation programs incorporate student-teaching internship experiences and offer classes in areas such as human development, instructional techniques and student assessment.

Success Tips:

  • Work as a substitute teacher while in college, if possible. Substitute teaching offers the opportunity to gain experience in the classroom and develop the skills needed to be successful as a teacher, such as effective communication and classroom management.
  • Attend an accredited program. While it is not necessarily a requirement, completing an accredited teacher education program might simplify the licensing process. The two chief accrediting bodies are the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.

Step 2: Obtain a Teaching Certificate

Potential history teachers must acquire certification through the state in which they plan to teach. Aside from a bachelor's degree and completion of an educator preparation program, the guidelines for certification often vary by state. Individuals should contact their state Board of Education for specific details. Each state typically evaluates educators' competence through an examination process, but the required exams can vary by state. After completing the state licensure requirements, aspiring history teachers can apply for teacher certification, which typically involves fingerprinting and a background check. Many states require that teachers meet on-going education requirements to remain licensed. Certain states also expect history teachers to earn a post-baccalaureate degree.

Success Tip:

  • Join a professional organization. By joining a professional organization, such as the American Historical Association's Organization of History Teachers, educators can gain access to professional events, networking opportunities and information about developments in the field.

Step 3: Complete a Master's Degree

As stated by the BLS, certain states expect teachers to earn a master's degree within a stipulated time period after they start teaching. Some master's degree programs are fashioned for individuals who have obtained a bachelor's degree in history, but who are not certified, while others are designed for educators certified in different subject areas who seek a history certification. There are also programs that offer master's degrees in education with history concentrations. Classes in a master's degree program in education may include curriculum planning, classroom technology and human development. Students could also be expected to complete a thesis or a research project to graduate.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics