How to Become a History Teacher

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. William Arthur Ward

A history teacher often teaches high school or middle school students about various aspects of history, including national, state, local, and global history. Often, these teachers build on what the students have already learned in elementary school. However, good history teachers will guide their students beyond rote memorization of historical names and dates. Exceptional teachers give their students opportunities to critically analyze historical events. Like other teachers, a history teacher will be responsible for creating and implementing lessons as well as assigning and grading homework, projects, and assessments.

Qualities of a History Teacher

History teachers must be able to communicate effectively with students and their parents. In addition, history teachers should be able to engage students as they present information through multiple modes. A good teacher strives to bring history to life for their students.

Job Growth

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for junior high school history teachers are expected to increase by 17% from 2010 to 2020. The job growth percentage rate for high school history teachers is lower, with only a 7% increase during the same time period.

What are the Requirements for Teaching History?

Education Requirements for Teaching History

Each state has different requirements in regards to what it takes to become a certified history teacher. All states require a Bachelor's Degree, however some will require that the Bachelor's Degree be in History. In addition, the completion of a teacher education program with an emphasis in History/Social Studies must be completed.

If a college or university does not offer a history major, consider a minor in the subject and take as many history classes as possible, using your elective hours. Some states only license teachers in social sciences and not in history specifically. Teachers in these states are required to take several classes in United States History, as well as courses in world history, European history, economics, government, geography, and psychology. A prospective history teacher should attempt to get a well-rounded background of all the social sciences, depending on what your state requires.

Many certified History teachers earn a degree in Secondary Education or Education with an endorsement in History/Social Studies.

Tests to Pass for Teaching History

After completion of your Bachelor's Degree, take a state-approved subject area exam (Praxis or other state-approved exam). Most teacher will be required to take a basic skills test, which measures a candidate's skills in basic reading, writing, and mathematics. In addition, the candidate will be required to pass a test specific to History/Social Studies. The exam may be a general social sciences exam or a specific exam focusing just on the specific subject you want to teach; this varies by state.

Find Information About Becoming a Teacher In Your State

Each state has different requirements for becoming a certified teacher. To find out specific requirements, click on your state.

History Teacher by Degree Level

The tables and charts below break down the education level obtained as averaged across the U.S.

Degree LevelPercent (%)
Less Than High School Diploma0.2%
High School Diploma0.1%
Some College2.6%
Associate Degree2.3%
Bachelors Degree16.0%
Masters Degree35.6%
Doctorate Degree43.3%

Data taken from BLS Educational attainment for workers 25 years and older by detailed occupation, 2010-11 (http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_111.htm)

Who Will My Students Be?

History teachers will typically work with junior high and high school students. Junior high (middle school) students will generally be between grades grades 6-8. The junior high grade range may vary, depending on the school's district. However, high school ranges from grades 9-12.

What Does A History Teacher Do?

A history, or social studies, teacher will be expected to educate students as they learn about the changes throughout various regions of our country as well as the world.

History teachers should be well-organized in order to be able to manage time and tasks well. Good teachers should frequently assess students' understanding of concepts through multiples measures. Most importantly, these educators should possess a great deal of dedication toward the subject in order to instill a lifelong love and passion of learning in their students.

Qualities of a History Teacher

History teachers will teach students how things have changed and stayed the same over time. More importantly, it is a history teacher's task to help students gain a deep conceptual understanding of the important events, inventions, and time periods that have helped shape our current way of life. This can be very exciting for some students as they learn information they did not know before, or may have known very little about. It can also help them understand why things are the way they are in modern society.

On the Job Duties

History teachers will create lesson plans, assignments, and projects. These teachers will also choose supplemental teaching resources to help their class understand the concepts being presented. Often times, history teachers incorporate primary sources so that students can feel more connected to the concept. History teachers should be able to modify lessons in order to reach both struggling and advanced students.

Social Studies

History teachers often fall under the umbrella of "Social Studies" teachers. The National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) established the following definition of "Social Studies":
Social studies is the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence. Within the school program, social studies provides coordinated, systematic study drawing upon such disciplines as anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, and sociology, as well as appropriate content from the humanities, mathematics, and natural sciences. The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.

History Teacher Jobs & Job Description

Our educational standards require history to be taught at both the elementary and secondary school levels in order to understand past decisions that shaped our country and apply those perspectives to our ever-changing world. The history teacher job does look different in grade school as opposed to high school; read on to learn about the role with younger children and more mature learners.

Elementary History Teacher

Often history teachers at the elementary level teach a broader range of topics known as ‘social studies' or ‘social science'. Coupled with current events, learning skills, technology and geography, history forms an integral part of the curriculum. Elementary teachers may:

  • Have an awareness of students' cognitive, emotional, social and physical development
  • Help students develop an understanding of responsible citizenship
  • Help students discuss diversity in local and global contexts
  • Develop students' understanding of human communities and their relationships
  • Develop students' foundational knowledge for more in-depth studies in geography, economics, law and history
  • Help students develop past societies and how they influence us today
  • Help students analyze how cultures have changed over time
  • Develop a ‘historical' mindset and line of inquiry for examining historical events
  • Help students voice informed opinions on community matters
  • Empower students to adopt leadership roles
  • Help students understand the importance of rules and laws over time and in the present
  • Help students develop an attitude of civic engagement
  • Empower students to work collaboratively
  • Teach students about basic human needs and work in society
  • Teach students about mapping basics and our nation's identity
  • Teach students about First visitors and First Nations people and the significance of national holidays
  • Teach students about ancient civilizations, colonization and economics
  • Teach students about general United States history
  • Teach students about political systems in ancient, historic, and modern times
  • Teach students about notable American achievements
  • Teach students about the organization of the American government and the electoral process
  • Teach students about the structure and function of local and state governmental organizations
  • Teach students about the evolution and influence of American culture decade-by-decade
  • Model initiative, resiliency, and patience for students, while maximizing student experience
  • Be reflective listeners and unbiased assessors of projects, tests, and assignments
  • Support the values mission of the school district and school
  • Commit to teaching students in their particular community, and empowering them to lead there
  • Help students see high academic goals as personally achievable
  • Pursue accredited and casual professional development on an ongoing basis
  • Proactively and reliably communicate with families about student progress
  • Enthusiastically promote instructional strategies and student rules
  • Praise students in meaningful ways related to their academic development and achievements
  • Develop positive and meaningful relationships with students and their families
  • Conduct all activities in a manner that practices professionalism

High School History Teacher

Often history teachers at the high school level have a much narrower scope of interest than those at the elementary level. Coupled with current events, and civic engagement, high school history teachers work hard to help students become engaged in American politics on a local, state, and national level. High school teachers may:

  • Help students describe the ongoing challenges of racial and cultural groups in America
  • Help students describe various community, cultural group and country contributions to American society
  • Inform students about a variety of historical and contemporary examples of injustice in America and abroad
  • Help students demonstrate America's relationship with First Nation people
  • Ell students describe the progress that America has made in terms of human rights and equity
  • Teach students about the impact of important social movements and shifts in perception
  • Teach students how social groups have created unions and coalitions in order to advance equity and their objectives
  • Teach students to identify how to work and live in a diverse society
  • Teach students about eras in US history, from first contacts to contemporary America.
  • Teach students about the significance of wars in American history and their impact on culture and global relations
  • Teach students about America's revolutions and their impact on culture and settlement
  • Teach students about settlement in the East, and the West
  • Empower students to have an historical mindset and line of inquiry in approaching history for research and study
  • Empower students to become critical thinkers about the success of historical campaigns and movements of all kinds
  • Teach students about mapping basics and our nation's identity
  • Teach students about First visitors and First Nations people and the significance of national holidays
  • Teach students about ancient civilizations, colonization and economics
  • Teach students about general United States history
  • Teach students about political systems in ancient, historic, and modern times
  • Teach students about notable American achievements
  • Teach students about the organization of the American government and the electoral process
  • Teach students about the structure and function of local and state governmental organizations
  • Teach students about the evolution and influence of American culture decade-by-decade
  • Model initiative, resiliency, and patience for students, while maximizing student experience
  • Be reflective listeners and unbiased assessors of projects, tests, and assignments
  • Support the values mission of the school district and school
  • Commit to teaching students in their particular community, and empowering them to lead there
  • Help students see high academic goals as personally achievable
  • Undertake professional development opportunities as often as time permits
  • Communicate with students and their families to report on progress
  • Praise students in a professional manner to foster pride in their academic achievements
  • Develop positive associations with students and their families
  • Conduct all teaching practice and related activities in a professional manner

There are many career options available to certified history teachers. Read on to find out more information.

Where Can Certified History Teachers Teach?

History teachers often teach in public elementary schools, private schools, or charter schools. Most often, history teachers teach in middle schools and high schools.

Public Schools

Public schools are free and are funded by federal and state resources. These schools are required to admit any student in their district regardless of ethnic or socioeconomic background. If you decide to teach in a public school, you will be required to use the state mandated standardized tests. These yearly tests measure student learning. The results of the tests categorize schools by student performance index.
In addition, the results can impact school funding. Prospective history teachers should apply to the district they wish to gain employment in.

Private Schools

Private schools receive no federal funding and are independent from the government. They require tuition and are generally governed by private school boards or organizations. They are funded by tuition and donations. Many private schools have religious affiliations and educate students based on their specific beliefs. Since private schools are independent, they set their own standards for students and teachers. Many private school teachers are not required to hold state certification, yet many private schools insist their teachers hold this certification. This is in order to sustain a high educational standard. For specific requirements in regards to a private school check with the school you wish to teach in.

Charter School

Charter schools require no tuition, and are run independently and are more self directed than public schools. Charter schools have more flexibility in regards to their operations because they are held at a higher accountability for performance. Each charter school has a certain "charter" or petition that acts as its contract. The charter details the school's mission, vision, students served, performance goals, curricular program, and methods of assessment. Charter schools are usually smaller, more selective, and may have additional requirements for their teacher.

History Teacher Organizations & Associations

What is the Salary of a History Teacher?

In the United States, certified History teachers on average make between $45,058 (Payscale.com) and $55,050 (BLS.gov) during the beginning states of their career. History teachers teach almost exclusively in middle schools and high schools. Average salary is approximately $50,000 annually in the public sector, while private salaries are considerably less. Secondary teachers certified to teach history generally do not earn more money than other teachers; salaries are based on years of experience teaching, not on specific teachable subjects. High school teachers are more often found to have earned multiple degrees and thus experience a slightly higher base salary than their elementary counterparts.

To learn more about a teacher's salary, visit out Teacher Salary page.

Salary (2013) and Job Outlook (2012 to 2020) by State

According to the published BLS data from 2013, the national average salary for History Teachers (College Professor) is $74,100, with an estimated 23,640 being employed nationwide. Also, the job outlook growth projection from 2012 to 2020 is expected to increase by 13.6%.

StateProjected Growth (%)Avg Salary
Alabama11.3%$56,050
Alaska7.4%-
Arizona19.4%$72,240
Arkansas22.0%$52,180
California16.7%$88,960
Colorado21.5%$60,040
Connecticut13.9%$82,160
Delaware--
Florida18.0%$79,110
Georgia39.1%$63,360
Hawaii12.7%$73,180
Idaho13.0%$53,090
Illinois11.6%$65,080
Indiana9.3%$75,830
Iowa13.4%$66,750
Kansas17.5%$55,900
Kentucky15.5%$68,260
Louisiana15.0%$62,700
Maine6.8%$72,050
Maryland13.4%$84,950
Massachusetts12.3%$91,680
Michigan-$78,950
Minnesota4.7%$78,660
Mississippi17.1%$53,790
Missouri8.7%$67,260
Montana11.3%$69,790
Nebraska10.0%$59,580
Nevada10.5%$64,690
New Hampshire8.5%$81,810
New Jersey8.1%$98,080
New Mexico-$65,260
New York13.5%$90,280
North Carolina13.3%$66,800
North Dakota14.5%$67,070
Ohio14.5%$69,770
Oklahoma8.9%$52,230
Oregon-$83,020
Pennsylvania9.1%$81,030
Rhode Island7.7%$92,130
South Carolina15.9%$66,200
South Dakota7.9%$60,370
Tennessee8.5%$51,830
Texas17.3%$64,530
Utah32.1%$63,330
Vermont3.6%$80,070
Virginia19.8%$70,150
Washington18.5%$65,310
Washington, DC-$86,600
West Virginia-$57,760
Wisconsin9.2%$69,720
Wyoming15.0%-

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/) for History Teachers (College Professor) (SOC Code: 25-1125)

Salary (2013) By Largest Metropolitan Areas

AreaEmployedAvg Salary
New York, White Plains, Wayne1,140$102,760
Baltimore, Towson630$88,860
Washington, Arlington, Alexandria620$85,320
Philadelphia490$87,720
Los Angeles, Long Beach, Glendale370$84,550
Chicago, Joliet, Naperville350$67,110
Boston, Cambridge, Quincy350$109,110
Pittsburgh320$77,650
Houston, Sugar Land, Baytown310$76,050
San Antonio, New Braunfels310$47,940
Austin, Round Rock, San Marcos260$75,890
Newark, Union240$89,740
Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington230$82,490
San Diego, Carlsbad, San Marcos230$89,730
Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Newport News230$55,890
St. Louis230$66,940
Denver, Aurora, Broomfield210$53,330
Atlanta, Sandy Springs, Marietta200$69,850
Providence, Fall River, Warwick200$90,880
San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara180$82,330

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/) for History Teachers (College Professor) (SOC Code: 25-1125)