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

Learn the main steps to becoming a history teacher in this video. Learn about the job, its education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in teaching history. View article »

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  • 0:00 Becoming a History Teacher
  • 1:09 Earn a Bachelor's Degree
  • 2:26 Obtain a Teaching Certificate
  • 3:39 Complete a Master's Degree

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Video Transcript

Becoming a History Teacher

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's degree sometimes required
Degree Field History, education
Licensure/Certification State-specific teacher license/certification required
Experience Student teaching internship required
Key Skills Patience; instructional and communication skills
Salary $55,860 and $57,200 (median for middle school and high school history teachers respectively)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Often teaching in middle schools and high schools, history teachers apply their historical knowledge to teach students about historical events, methods for understanding relationships between past events, and concepts in history. They plan and deliver lessons, assess students' understanding and evaluate overall student progress. Teachers must have patience and strong instructional and communication skills. 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.

Prospective history teachers must attain at least a bachelor's degree, generally in history, and complete a teacher education program that involves student teaching internships. To teach at public schools, educators must also have a state-specific 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.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The first step to becoming a history teacher is to earn the necessary education. The majority of future history teachers acquire bachelor's degrees in history while simultaneously attending teacher-training programs. History programs typically encompass courses in United States and world history, geography and economics, among other courses and topics. Education or teacher preparation programs incorporate student-teaching internship experiences and offer classes in areas such as human development, instructional techniques and student assessment.

In addition to earning a degree, there are other things that you can do to increase your chances of success at learning everything you need to know and getting the job you're looking for. This includes working as a substitute teacher and attending an accredited program. 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; and, 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

The second step to becoming a history teacher is to earn professional licensure and certification. 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.

In order to further increase your chances of success, it may be a good idea to 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. Many states also require that teachers meet ongoing education requirements to remain licensed. Certain states can even expect history teachers to earn a post-baccalaureate degree.

Step 3: Complete a Master's Degree

The third step to becoming a history teacher may involve earning a master's degree or simply maintaining certification. 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.

Once prospective history teachers have completed all three steps, finding a job teaching history should be attainable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for middle school teachers as of 2015 is $55,860 and $57,200 for high school teachers. The demand for teachers in both middle school and high school is also predicted to grow by six percent from 2014-2024.

In summary, the three main steps to becoming a history teacher include earning a bachelor's degree, obtaining professional licensure and certification, and potentially completing a master's degree program or continually working to maintain up-to-date certification.

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