Becoming a history teacher simply because you love history is a safe bet for a potential career after graduation, especially for those wanting to become a middle or high school history teacher.
Middle and high school teachers must be certified so be sure you’re aware of the history teacher requirements in your state before you commit to a degree program.
Becoming a history professor means more intense degree requirements and a much longer timetable. Teaching at the postsecondary level almost always requires, at the very minimum, a master's degree, and maybe even a doctorate.
In either case, history teacher degree requirements can be fulfilled completely online by a number of different degrees and majors.
Common skills and traits necessary for a successful career as a history teacher include the need to capture the attention of students in order to help them grasp the importance of historical events. Storytelling is a must to capture the imagination of your audience, all while reciting important facts and information. Not only will you need to understand world and national history, you will likely teach a diverse range of students - some of which you will readily connect to, and others who may challenge even the most patient of souls.
Step by Step: How to Become a History Teacher
While you may not need a master’s or doctorate to become a history teacher, there are four requirements for training and education that all history teachers need to meet.
Step one. Determine state teaching requirements for the state in which you intend to teach.
Find answers to:
- What education requirements do you need to complete? What level? What major?
- What national and/or state certification tests must you pass to gain teaching certification?
- Are there any other prerequisites you must satisfy for licensure?
Step two. Obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. While it is not the standard for secondary and elementary levels, some states will require a master’s degree for certain positions.
How to choose a school:
- Compare accredited online degree programs from different schools to see which are approved to fulfill your state’s history teacher requirements.
- Note specific enrollment requirements. For example, some schools require that students pass the initial Praxis exam, prior to acceptance into an education program.
- Explore the different majors and possible complementary minor programs that are available. Some schools may require you to major in history, others in education. In some instances, you will gain a dual major in both history and education.
Tip: A popular path for a secondary history teacher is to complete an undergraduate major in history, and then pursue a master's in curriculum and instruction, in order to gain the necessary teaching components for licensure.
Step three. Acquire state licensure. Public elementary and high school teachers need state-issued teaching certificates or licensure. Each state is different, so requirements will vary. Teachers from private schools will also need to meet some type of licensure requirements.
Step four. Don’t forget about continuing education requirements. Once you begin teaching, your education will not stop with your degree. Most school systems and/or states require you to complete ongoing trainings and courses to retain licensure.
What Level of History Should I Teach?
Before we go further into the education and certification, view the history teacher job descriptions below. Licensing and degree requirements will vary depending on where you’d like to teach history.
Middle School History Teacher
There are actually very few history-specific classes at the middle school or junior high level, but that does not mean the subject of history goes untouched. Instead, history is usually taught as part of social studies, which covers a broad range of topics related to the humanities, including government, geography, and current events. Social studies is often taught at the upper elementary school level as well. As part of the social studies curriculum, history at the middle school level focuses on general American history and world history. Usually, middle school history teachers move through history as a timeline, building a foundation of historical knowledge. They may, however, pause over major events like the Civil War or World War II.
Expect middle school students who are beginning to move on to a more adult-like view of the world. They are often still energetic and enthusiastic, but usually need more help with the step-by-step learning process.
High School History Teacher
Teaching high school history, you will begin to sharpen the focus on specific U.S. events, American government, and important national figures. World history, on the other hand, often goes the opposite direction, broadening the scope to include topics like Chinese history, African culture, or ancient civilization. High school history curriculum is often named “U.S. and Global Economics,” “Modern U.S. History,” or simply “World History.”
High school students come with the realization that full-fledged adulthood is coming soon. History teachers have more flexibility with the type of assignments they can assign since high schoolers are able to handle more independence.
Community College Professor
Community colleges are also a great place to teach history. A typical community college history class will be at the introductory, or “100” level. For example, “Western Civilization 101” or a variation of that topic is likely taught at a community college near you. Community college teachers may also be required to supervise a student organization, serve on faculty committees, and hold office hours for one-on-one tutoring with students.
Community college students are older and usually more motivated, however, because community colleges are more affordable, many students come from low-income backgrounds. Older students may also have been out of the classroom for years, meaning they may need help acclimating themselves to a life of studying, testing, and thinking like a scholar.
To teach at major universities, history professors need at least a master’s degree, while many hold doctorates in history or another field related to liberal arts or the humanities. View the most affordable online master’s in education.
When working as a professor, you will lead students in advanced historical topics that are both broad and specialized. Professors will be a part of the college’s history department, and they often have an education in a specific historical area, such as African studies, colonialism, or ancient cultures.
As a history professor, you are not only a teacher, you need to be a highly-skilled investigator who can create new and exciting research on historical topics. Becoming a history professor is not easy, as the requirements are higher and the jobs are more scarce, but it offers a wide variety of challenges, independent work, and higher pay.
You may be teaching students from the area, from across the country, and from multiple continents, all in one class, making the creation of a uniform curriculum all the more difficult. Courses will usually involve a lecture to a large audience, with weekly meetings between smaller classes, usually hosted by a graduate assistant.
History Teacher Degree Requirements
To become a history teacher, you will need an education that combines both history and education. Not only will you need a strong understanding of historical events, you’ll need to understand the fundamentals of teaching, which gives you the skills to engage students, grade learning and ability, and interact with a wide range of kids and young adults.
While history teachers traditionally have degrees from brick-and-mortar institutions, it’s now possible and common to obtain the education you need online.
Because history is such a broad topic, there are hundreds of online degrees that qualify prospective history teachers for licensing. However, there are two obvious degree majors—history or education.
Best Online History Degrees for Teachers
In order to teach history, you have to understand it, and that starts with a degree in history. It’s important to remember that studying history is not just about memorizing facts and dates. It’s about understanding, on a deep and broad level, the events that have led up to the present. It’s about understanding how we got here, what challenges were faced, and what changes have been made. For example, it’s great to know that General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House happened on April 9th, 1965, but understanding the context leading up to the surrender, as well as the short and long-term results, are what studying history is really about.
Good online history degree programs teach methods for effective researching, including where to look for the best resources and artifacts, and then critically weigh biases of these recorders of history.
Master’s degrees can vary in scope, but they often focus on a more specific genre of history, such as American history, medieval culture, or colonialism.
- Regent University Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - History
- Grand Canyon University Bachelor of Arts in History
- Columbia College Bachelor of Arts in American Studies
Best Online Education Degrees for Teachers
When studying education, you will learn the skills, theories, and concepts related to being a teacher. This will include human development, teaching methods, and the historical foundation for teaching in the U.S. and abroad. Choose your degree based on the degree level you want to teach. You may study common teaching techniques in this country while exploring different teaching concepts from around the globe. You will learn how to design classes, assess curriculum, and grade assignments.
- Capella University Master of Science in K-12 Studies in Education
- Liberty University Bachelor of Education in Teaching & Learning - History
- Grand Canyon University Bachelor of Arts in History for Secondary Education
You will also have to complete a student teaching assignment at a specific level (high school, for example), usually the level you want to pursue in your career. A certain number of hours of supervised teaching must be completed in order to obtain a teaching certificate. Again it varies by program and state. In general, student teaching takes place over the course of a semester.
Tip: In a 2011 student teaching study, The National Council on Teacher Quality emphasizes the importance of positive student teacher experiences in order to develop the highest quality educators, and cites that all schools should require a minimum of 10-week student teaching program. If you have no prior teaching experience, look for an online school that includes a student teaching component.
Do I Have to Be an Education or History Major To Be a History Teacher?
While history and education degrees are the foundation for a career teaching history, there are other degrees that may apply to your field. These can provide additional content for your historical knowledge, enhance your ability to deal with youngsters, or provide a deeper understanding of how people think, learn, and interact.
Degrees and related careers that may qualify you to become a history teacher include:
Get Your Teaching Certificate
After you have completed your online degree and student teaching, you will have to become certified in the specific state in which you wish to teach. Each state has different requirements, so if you are a teacher in Massachusetts but decide to move to California, you will have to go through the certification process again. The process will be different for each area, and some states may require further education for particular teaching positions, such as history.
To obtain a teaching certificate, you will have to pass an exam that is either administered by, or required by your state. The state certificate procedure will also usually include fingerprint and background checks.
Also, each certification exam process will be different. Iowa, for example, does not require a basic skills test, as this is administered in the Iowa teacher preparation program. However, in New York, teachers must pass the NYSTCE Liberal Arts and Sciences Test and a written assessment of teaching skills.
The Praxis Series® Tests provide one of the most common examination series used for state teaching certification. The first exam tests core knowledge of the three Rs: reading, writing, and math. The second in the series focuses on subject-specific content, along with assessing teaching skill knowledge. Some schools will require students to pass the first exam prior to acceptance into their online degree program. Other programs allow entrance, but recommend that students begin completing these comprehensive exams early in their education, as it is quite common to take several attempts to pass. Check state testing requirements to verify certification requirements.
Continuing Education & Retaining Certifications
Regardless of the teaching level, all history teachers must complete continuing education courses to meet ongoing job criteria and certifications.
Continuing education may vary from first aid and safety classes, to managing student behaviors and creating effective lessons. For the most part, any courses that you complete while earning a graduate certificate or master’s degree satisfy ongoing certification requirements.
Find out if your employer offers tuition reimbursement. Enrolling in a part-time master’s curriculum and instruction program is a plus for teachers; made cheaper by tuition benefits. Moreover, history teachers with a master’s degree typically are placed on a higher pay scale than those with a bachelor’s.
Should I Become a History Teacher?
Being a history teacher is not for everyone. It takes a special kind of person with unique character traits—traits that are effective for both teaching and understanding history. You can’t teach history if you don’t understand it, so a general interest and curiosity about the topic is a must. You must have a good memory that will help you cite facts and information, but you must also be an imaginative and interesting story teller. In fact, it’s probably more important to be an engaging story teller than a storage bin of information.
History teachers must also have a strong desire to teach, and a belief that what you are teaching (in this case, history) matters. You must also believe that with proper instruction, any student, from any walk of life, can benefit by learning history.
If you initially pursued a history degree but lack teaching endorsement credentials, you may be eligible to pursue an alternative teaching certification path. With the growing demand for teachers, a number of states have invested in career-switcher opportunities that give credit for prior professional experiences that ultimately shorten formal teacher education processes.
History Teacher Salary & Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report specifically on history teacher salaries, but they do provide information on “high school teachers.” During 2014, high school teachers earned an average of $56,310. Preschool, primary, and secondary teachers earned an average of $53,160 in 2014.
History professors, however, earned an average salary of $73,720, while the top 90% earned over $121,000. Professors at community or junior colleges earned less, bringing in an average of $67,180.
There will not be a sharp rise in history professor jobs, but neither will there be a drop. Middle and high school teacher jobs are expected to rise about 6% from 2014 to 2024, which is essentially the average for all jobs in the U.S.
Ready to Become a History Teacher?
If you are ready to help people young and old discover the amazing stories and important facts about history, get started today with an education or history degree online.
Not quite sure yet? Get your feet wet with an online course in education!
Why You Shouldn’t Earn an Online Master’s in Education
The 3 Most Prestigious Online Master’s in Education
Teaching Certification & Online Education
How to Become an Elementary or Middle School Teacher