Down Through the Ages: History Teacher Education

The philosopher, George Santayana, is famous for saying that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. If you’re a lover of history, and want to make sure that what happened in the past is not forgotten, then you may want to teach history in public or private schools. To help you accomplish this goal, there are numerous history teacher education courses available in an online format.

Your interest in history may have led you to become an SME (subject matter expert) in a certain historical era. For example, you may be a Civil War specialist or know everything there is to know about the American Revolution, or World War II.

As much of an expert as you might be, you still may need assistance teaching a class. To teach high school, for instance, you have to take a certain amount of education courses and pass a state teaching test.

Teaching classes include curriculum development, classroom management and learning about the education evaluation processes.

Many accredited colleges and universities offer online history education teacher courses that can help you become a competent history teacher.

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History Teacher Degree Information

The first step in becoming a history teacher is to get a bachelor’s degree in history or in education with elective history courses. If you already know you want to be a history teacher, check into college and university programs that combine core history courses with teacher preparation courses. Some programs are set up to allow students to obtain all the training they’ll need in both core history studies and teacher training courses plus a clinical component in student teaching in four or five years.

Many students opt to get a bachelor’s degree in history and enter a master’s degree program in education, studying such subjects as curriculum development, child development, lesson planning, effective use of technology and educational assessment. Today, many universities also offer an alternative certification process whereby the prospective teacher takes a number of educational classes and perform student teaching under the supervision of an experienced teacher. Many people change their careers in order to teach; the alternative certification process appeals to them as they can be teaching full time while taking education courses either online or evening and weekend courses.

Other students earn the bachelor’s degree by majoring in education and getting a minor in history, which can also fulfill necessary core history learning with teacher preparation courses. Teacher education programs usually include two semesters of student teaching.

License or Certification

While private school teachers do not have to pass a state’s licensure or certification exams, public school history teachers are required by all the states to obtain a state license to teach by taking both core history or subject matter and certification exams. Once a candidate achieves certification, they’re ready to look for teaching jobs.

Today, people who wish to teach history in elementary schools will also need to take a variety of social studies courses to prepare them for the grades K – 6 social studies curriculum and to pass the teacher license exam for social studies. So if you wish to teach history at the elementary level, you will need to study anthropology, geography, sociology, political science and economics. Introductory courses in general studies curriculum should also include classes in music, English, art, science and math.

If you’re more interested in teaching at the middle or high school level, you might also want to specialize in a certain era of history, such as the Renaissance or the Enlightenment periods while getting your bachelor’s in history. Pick a historical era that fascinates you and learn as much as you can about it as a way of providing yourself a niche when it comes to looking for a job.


Getting a bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in education seems the best route, according to current teacher’s advice on the subject. At least you’ll have a great deal of historical knowledge in various eras. Alternatively, you could major in education and minor in history, but you might not have a firm understanding of core history topics. Most teachers recommend getting the bachelor’s degree in the core subject matter, that is, history or biology, and then apply to a teacher training program for post-baccalaureate studies.


Many students obtain their bachelor’s degree in history and then work towards a master’s degree in education as the best pathway to becoming a history teacher. Other students chose an alternative certification program where they take education courses and perform student teaching, without getting a degree. Many of these programs have an online component, but all will also provide for student teaching as a necessary part of the program. While the master’s degree is not necessary to become licensed as a history teacher in most states, obtaining the master’s shows a deep commitment to the teaching profession. Master’s and doctoral degrees in history are usually a requirement to teach at a college level.


History majors will take a wide variety of history courses such as world civilization to the 15th century, world civilization since the 15th century, European civilization, ancient civilization, American history, political science and constitutional law. Some states are beginning to require that history teachers must also teach other social study classes such as geography, anthropology and economics as well as history. Check with your state’s requirements. Education courses, whether at the undergraduate or graduate level will include subjects such as:

  • Child development and psychology
  • Teaching history
  • Teaching techniques
  • Technology in the classroom
  • Standardized testing
  • Curriculum development
  • Classroom management
  • Multicultural education
  • Issues and trends in education
  • Adolescent behavior

A practicum of student teaching is offered by all undergraduate and graduate programs so the student can experience hands-on teacher training.

Can I Complete My Studies Online?

While most of the components earning your degree can be done online, due to the nature of the job you will have to complete some parts elsewhere. This can include a certain number of supervised teaching hours at a local school. To study online ensure that you have all the required hardware and software needed for the course. This is especially important if your course includes real time videoconferencing, which requires a webcam and microphone. The advantage is that you can typically access classes at any time and any day from anywhere with an internet connection. Most good online courses also ensure that you have access to all the resources and support that you would have received on-campus.

Who Is An Ideal Candidate To Get A History Teacher Degree?

First and foremost, you should have a love for the subject which you will be teaching in order to make it exciting and engaging for your students. It is an ideal career field for those who love investigating the past and knowing about the events that helped to shape our world. Of course, you must love working with students and have good communication skills. Since a lot of your time will be devoted to the organizing of lectures and creation of presentations, you should have good planning skills along with critical thinking skills. As with any career in teaching it also helps to have plenty of patience.

Earning Potential

The BLS report slight differences in salary for elementary, middle and high school teachers. Elementary school teachers make the least at a median salary of $51,640, middle school teachers earn about $55,860 and high school history teachers earning a median salary of $57,200. Teaching history at the university level usually requires a doctorate, but the pay is higher at approximately $72,470. Keep in mind the regional and state variations in pay levels, as well. Usually extra income can be generated by conducting summer classes or opting to coach extracurricular activities in addition to normal classes.

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History Teacher FAQ

What Types Of Jobs Can I Expect With A History Teacher Degree?

Elementary, middle and high school history teachers all generally work school hours, which can vary by state and school district. Most history teachers also spend evening and weekend hours planning lessons and grading homework and papers. Some history teachers take on advising student organizations and clubs or coaching sports for extra pay. The school year runs for 10 months, which means a two month summer vacation for students and teachers both. Public school teachers are also required to earn continuing education credits to keep up with their studies and advances in their fields, which means some extra schooling every year.

How Long Does It Take To Earn A History Teacher Degree Or Degrees?

A bachelor’s degree generally takes four years to complete, and a master’s degree takes a year or two beyond that. Some universities combine the bachelor’s degree in history with a teacher preparation component, so that a student graduates with both a bachelor’s and a master’s and is ready for the state certification exams. These combined programs usually take five years to complete.

Where Are The Highest Paying Jobs For History Teachers?

 Annual mean wage figures released by the BLS indicate that the top states for history teachers are California, Massachusetts and Michigan with salaries ranging from $92,380 to $95,840. Beginning teachers earn less at first, but by five years on the job, they generally earn the average salary. The top paying metropolitan area is Rochester, NY as of 2015.

What Are The Job Prospects For History Teachers?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a significant number of teachers will reach retirement age from now until 2024, which will create opportunities for new teachers. There are other factors, such as the region of the country that will also influence how many opportunities are available. For example, better opportunities tend to exist for teachers in urban and rural school districts compared to the suburban school districts. The employment growth of high school history teachers is estimated to be about six percent until 2024.

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