how to become a high school history teacher

Whether the subject is William the Conqueror or Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, the enjoyment of a history class rests largely upon how their history teacher recreates past and current events and historical biography. It can be lifeless or brought to life, thrilling or rote. Who hasn’t had a dynamic history teacher who helped us to understand the significance of the Industrial Revolution or the cultural impact of the Renaissance?

how to become a high school history teacher

how to become a high school history teacher

Good history teachers are storytellers as well as instructors, and they usually teach at middle school, high school and college levels. Although classroom curricula vary depending on the level and course you’re teaching, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to share your knowledge of American and world history, and your passion for learning.

Like any other teacher, a history teacher creates a fun and productive learning environment using textbooks and outside resources, including primary and secondary materials, and relevant interactive media. More and more, history teachers are moving toward technology to help recreate worlds and events, so keep reading to find a list of some of the top classroom apps.

Other typical duties may include the following types of activities:

  • Preparing lesson plans, and grading homework, tests and essays
  • Compiling notes and delivering engaging, coherent lectures
  • Accumulating specialized materials for outside reading and homework
  • Coaching teens and young adults individually and in group settings
  • Studying and utilizing the most appropriate learning strategies
  • Engaging the class in stimulating discussions
  • Conducting research and publishing your findings
  • Staying abreast of current and significant historical events
  • Delivering lectures on ancient history, postwar civilizations, and histories of specific regions
  • Evaluating student progress, class work and assignments
  • Administering exams and preparing grades for students

Depending on your institution’s curriculum, school size and budget, and the age of your students, you may end up teaching history as well as social studies or political science courses.

Where Can I Expect to Work?


Although teaching history is a competitive field and may require a nationwide job search to find employment, giving yourself the flexibility to teach social sciences alongside history will greatly improve your chances of finding a job. As a history teacher, you may find yourself in one of these settings:

  • Secondary schools, such as middle and high schools
  • Community colleges
  • Four-year colleges and universities

If the classroom isn’t your cup of tea, educators with a degree in history may also use their skills in settings such as these:

  • Libraries
  • Historical societies and museums
  • Test creation for schools companies
  • Editing, authoring and publishing companies
  • Tutoring facilities
  • Historical preservation societies
  • Legal study agencies
  • Education program development departments

Common Degrees History Teachers Hold

Most history teachers earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in history or education. You can specialize in areas such as archaeology, women’s studies, American history, world history, or African American history, among others, which are popular specialties within the field and often have departments or classes based upon them.

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What Skills Can Help Me Succeed as a History Teacher?

Being a teacher takes enthusiasm, passion and patience, no matter what subject or age level you teach, but there are a few skills you can cultivate to help you do a better job than the competition.

O*Net Online’s Summary Report for postsecondary history teachers suggests these skills, styles and abilities to excel in the field:

history teacher graphic
  • Have integrity
  • Be dependable
  • Have a strict attention to detail
  • Be able to exercise analytical thinking skills
  • Have good speaking, writing and reading comprehension and expression skills
  • Be an active listener

Steps to Becoming a History Teacher

The path to becoming a teacher is pretty much the same no matter what, but depending upon the grade levels and subject you’re going to teach, you’ll need to hone your education to fit. Here is a step-by-step guide to becoming a history teacher.

  1. Assess which level you want to teach.History teachers generally have three institutional level options for teaching: high schools, community colleges and universities. You’ll need to decide where you want to teach so you can complete your education accordingly, as the requirements differ.
  2. Earn your bachelor’s degree.To become a high school history teacher at any level, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in education along with a major or minor in history or social science. This is the minimum requirement to teach at a middle or high school level. If you already have a bachelor’s degree without an emphasis in history, you will most likely need to take additional history and teacher-training courses to meet your state’s teaching requirements. Some states may require you to earn your master’s degree in education in order to teach.
  3. If you want to teach at a community college, earn your master’s degree.Some states require all teachers to earn a master’s degree. Check with the Department of Education in your state for requirements in your area. To teach history at the community college level, you will need a minimum of a master’s degree, so you’ll want to make sure you plan for at least an additional two years of postgraduate education beyond your bachelor’s degree program.
  4. Teaching at a college or university requires a PhD or Doctorate.Doctorate or PhD programs not only prepare you to teach at public and private universities, but for a career as a researcher, analyst or writer at an advanced level. Doctorates take anywhere from two to five years to complete and require you to work with an advisor and prepare a dissertation on a specific topic, which you will defend at the end of your program.

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