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
Learn how to become a history teacher.

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.

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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.

History Teacher Job Growth

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for middle school history teachers are expected to increase by 4% from 2019 to 2029, which is average job growth. The job growth percentage rate for high school history teachers is the same at 4% increase for 2019 to 2029.

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 your 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.

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Tests to Pass to Become a History Teacher

After completion of your bachelor's degree, take a state-approved subject area exam (Praxis or other state-approved exam). Most teachers 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 or 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 typically work with middle school and high school students. Typically, middle school students are in grades 6-8, which may vary depending on the school's district. However, high school grades are pretty standard at 9-12.

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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 for the subject: 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 / Social Studies Teachers

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 Teachers

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, resilience 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 Schools

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

NCHE - National Council for History Education: National Council for History Education works to foster an engaged community committed to the teaching, learning and appreciation of diverse histories.

AHA - American Historical Association: Professional organization that serves historians in all fields and all professions and serves as an advocate for history education, the professional work of historians and historical thinking in public life.

WHA - World History Association: The WHA is a professional association of scholars, teachers and students organized to promote world history.

OAH - Organization of American Historians: The OAH fosters excellence in the scholarship, teaching and presentation of American history.

SHE - Society for History Education: SHE is a nonprofit that publishes "The History Teacher," a publication focused on traditional and unconventional techniques in history education.

NCSS - National Council for the Social Studies: NCSS is the largest professional association in the country devoted to social studies education.

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What is the Salary for a History Teacher?

History teachers teach almost exclusively in middle schools and high schools. History teachers at the middle-school level earn a median salary of $59,660 annually and high-school teachers earn a median salary of $61,660, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the entry level, teachers make $39,990 and in the top 10th percentile, teachers can make $99,660 per year.

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. Learn more about teachers' salaries across the U.S.

(Salary data for elementary, middle-school and high-school teachers reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2019. Figures represent state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Information accessed March 2021.)

Salary (2019) and Job Outlook (2012 to 2020) by State

According to the published BLS data from 2019, the national average salary for History Teachers (College Professor) is $84,210, with an estimated 21,030 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 (2019) By Largest Metropolitan Areas

AreaEmployedAvg Salary
Dayton90-
Madison90$102,190
Riverside, San Bernardino, Ontario90$106,150
Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton80$94,750
Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers80$77,470
Flint80-
Kansas City80$75,980
Knoxville80$63,060
Binghamton70$110,790
Charlotte, Concord, Gastonia70$67,300
Columbia70$88,790
Greensboro, High Point70$65,950
Indianapolis, Carmel, Anderson70-
Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale70-
Sacramento, Roseville, Arden, Arcade70$110,870
South Bend, Mishawaka70-
Los Angeles, Long Beach, Anaheim670$127,460
Birmingham, Hoover60$69,510
Colorado Springs60$86,470
Omaha, Council Bluffs60$81,040

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

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