5 Steps to becoming a History Teacher

Does the past make you wonder how today was formed? History teachers are a essential component to ensure traditions are kept alive, facts current, democracy relevant, and provoking the thought of “what ifs”. Those who enjoy social studies and courses such as Western civilization often seek earning a history degree. Other areas studied are major European events like the Renaissance period, which formed Europe as a whole, and controversy wars such as Vietnam. The Middle East has become a hot topic of study in recent years due to increased tensions between nations. Historiography is common for history majors at an entry level to teach how historians research and analyze material.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in history education is an excellent path for those who believe the past, present, and future is in large how we evolve and move forward as a society. A master’s degree is an excellent step for anyone seeking to further possibilities of increased pay, research methods, administration roles, and career advancement. Most who venture on to teaching at colleges or universities, must earn a doctoral degree (PhD).

Begin learning how to become a history teacher today by requesting complementary information from the highly accredited schools below.

Here are five simple steps towards a degree in History from an accredited University:

  • Completing a bachelor’s degree is the first step. Depending on the grade level of interest, advanced degrees are often required. Those seeking to teach at colleges or universities generally need an undergraduate degree accompanied by a master’s and doctoral (PhD) degrees.
  • Complete and pass the required teaching exam in your state. When contacting the schools below, they can provide exact information on which teaching exam is required.
  • Classroom experience (read below for more detail).
  • Obtain your teaching license in your state (the schools will have this information as well as guidelines and timelines).
  • Finally, educators are required to keep sharp with continued education. This can be completed through various means, such as national teacher conferences, course specific programs, and more.

Topics On This Page:

1. Get The Right Teaching Education

Choosing your Grade Level

a. The first step in becoming a History teacher is to decide the grade level you wish to teach in. For Elementary level education you need to have a Liberal Arts degree in most cases, as it covers all of the subjects, however anything past Elementary will require at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Education with a specialization in History. Schools offer a wide array of History classes, but the most common ones are Ancient History, US History, European History, and Regional History, which is generally specific to the state in which the school is located. When taking courses for your Degree you can also expect to take classes such as Social Sciences, Anthropology, Archeology, World and Civilizations History, Latin History, and other classes related to education and history.
Understand the Requirements

b. If you already have your degree or are close to completing one, you will want to contact the district or University you wish to teach in as educational requirements can vary. If you do not meet the requirements it is still possible to become a teacher, however you will need to communicate with the institution and show acceptable experience or education. In all cases you will need to have a degree in education and not just a History Major alone, as a Bachelors in Education is required to receive a teaching license.
Which Degree should you Obtain

c. To become a high-school History teacher only a Bachelors Degree is required, however many prospective History Teachers already have or are working towards a Masters Degree. Community Colleges generally require a Masters degree, however many look for individuals with a Doctorate in their respective History focus. Almost without exception four-year Universities will require a Doctorate along with strong experience in the educational field, so unless you have been teaching for a while you will want to look to start in elementary, middle, or high-school education.

Once you have met the educational requirements for the district or University you wish to teach in, you will need to pass the required teaching exams and work towards receiving your teaching license.

2. Take the Required Teaching Exam

Passing the Basic Skills tests

a. Some states have other specific basic skills exams you need to pass, but the majority of states first require you to pass the Praxis I: Basic Skills test. This test covers basic skills in English, Mathematics, and Writing. The test is comprised of multiple choice questions with an essay for writing evaluation. For information on taking the Praxis exam you can visit the Educational Testing Services (ETS) website at http://www.ets.org/praxis. The paper and computer test layouts are detailed below.

Paper Format:

TestNumber of QuestionsTest Length (minutes)
Break (Optional)N/A15
Writing (2 sections)44
Written Essay

Computer Format:

TestNumber of QuestionsTest Length (minutes)
Writing (2 sections)38
Written Essay

Passing the Specific Content Examinations

b. Most states will also require you to take the Praxis II: Content Examination, or another version of a content specific exam. There is over 120 different exams so make sure to communicate with the desired school and state to make sure and take the correct version. The Praxis II can be taken on the computer or in paper format, however not all subjects are offered in computer format.

3. Get Your Classroom Experience

Meeting Experience Requirements

a. Showing that you have experience in teaching or in the field of your degree is a big plus, and in some cases required when looking to find a position as a History Teacher. In finding a position in an Elementary, Middle, or High-school, experience is usually not required but is often taken into consideration. For teaching at a College or University you will need prior teaching experience in almost all cases, and many times you will need to show experience in your field of study. Highlighting experience in your field of study can be done with things like research papers or thesis statements. Make sure to communicate with the school or district you wish to teach in to understand what experience is required, if any.

Preliminary Requirements

a. The next step to becoming a History Teacher is getting your teaching license. This requirement varies by state, however in most states you can receive your teaching license upon successful completion of the Praxis exams and meeting the state and federal requirements.
State Specific Requirements

b. Some states will require you to take additional exams on things like state and US history as well as the state and US Constitution. You may also need to take a specific teacher preparation course that is defined by the state.
State and Federal Requirements

c. All states require you to submit to state and federal background checks as well as go in for fingerprinting at a registered state fingerprinting site. Many states also require basic health screenings for things like Tuberculosis to maintain student safety, check with your state and district for details.
License Application Requirements

d. When submitting a teaching license application it is important to include all necessary components of the packet. These generally include a mandatory application fee, transcripts, and references. Be sure to check with the state you are applying in for full application details. Generic sample applications can be found online.

5. Stay current with History Teacher Education

Remaining Relevant in your field

a. Once you have met all the aforementioned requirements you are ready to become a History Teacher. However, being a teacher is a continuous process, you will need to keep current in your subject of profession as there is always new content to be learned. Many teachers accomplish this by continuing their education, which serves not only to keep you current, but allows you more employment opportunities, be it moving from high-school teaching to Community College, or Community College on up to a University. Another way to stay current is to retake the Praxis II: Content Examination every couple of years in your specialization as the content can be updated and changed year to year.

Remaining Relevant as a teacher

b. Just as important as remaining up to date in your focus is remaining current as a teacher. Pretty much every state offers teacher workshops each year, and while some are mandatory there are also voluntary ones as well. Consistently completing these not only helps polish your skill set but also looks good on your portfolio as a teacher, showing you take the initiative remain dynamic. The other thing that is important to keep in mind is that teaching licenses are usually valid for a period of 3 to 5 years, after which you must update and/or reapply for your teaching license.