Becoming a History Teacher: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a history teacher career? Get real job duties, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a history teacher is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a History Teacher Career

History teachers may teach students at various education levels. Check out some of the benefits and negatives of becoming a history teacher by reading the table below.

Pros of a History Teacher Career
Work may offer personal rewards *
High school teachers can find work with a bachelor's degree *
Tenured positions offer job security *
Summer vacation *

Cons of a History Teacher Career
Long hours during the school year *
High school history teachers have lower-than-average job prospects (6% growth between 2012 and 2022) *
Difficult students can create stressful work environment *
College teachers may need about 10 years of education for entry-level positions *

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Duties and Responsibilities

Regardless of which education level you choose, you'll be responsible for creating lesson plans that engage your students. High school teachers have less freedom in this because they often have to adhere to state-mandated education guidelines. College professors have greater freedom in planning their lessons, but they also have more pressure to do research and publish results without falling behind on their class work.

Salary and Career Prospects

Reports issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) offer information on teachers' salaries and job outlooks. As of May 2014, high school teachers (all subjects) earned an annual mean wage of about $59,000 and were predicted to see an employment opportunity increase of 6% between 2012 and 2022. The BLS noted that college professors could see a hiring increase of 19% in the 2012-2022 decade and showed history professors earned an annual mean wage of about $73,000 in May 2014.

Specialization Options

History covers a wide range of themes, and you'll have the opportunity to teach areas such as social studies, modern history, American history, world history, archaeology and many other focal points, especially at the college level. Depending on the position, colleges may require you to have a specific area of emphasis as part of your doctoral program. High school history teachers generally teach a broader perspective.

What Are the Requirements?

Teachers must have excellent communication and writing skills. Patience is also a key component of a teacher's makeup, because some students will test your limits as you strive to maintain discipline in the classroom. At the high school level, teachers are required to have a license or teacher's certification through the state Board of Education if they teach in public schools. The National Center for Alternative Certification has information on programs that may allow you to work in supervised teaching positions in your state before you earn your certification, but you'll need to earn a master's degree once you complete the program. Private schools may not require certification.

Requirements for education rise incrementally with the grade level you teach. High school teachers can find jobs with a bachelor's degree, community colleges generally require a master's degree and universities generally want you to have a doctorate. Some high schools are now requesting master's degrees.

What Are Employers Looking for?

Job postings for teachers tend to specify the areas history teachers are expected to cover in the classroom as well as the academic background of an ideal candidate. Below are overviews of history teacher jobs that were open in November 2012.

  • The Boston Public School District looked for a teacher of social studies and history. A candidate needed a bachelor's degree in history or education and a Massachusetts teaching license. The ideal candidate would have experience teaching in an urban school environment.
  • A community college in Texas wanted a full-time history professor. The position required you to have a master's degree, preferably with a concentration in American history.
  • A tenure-track U.S. history and historical archaeology position in a Tennessee university required you to have a Ph.D. in history or a related field with an emphasis in historical archaeology. Along with teaching responsibilities, the ideal candidate would be willing to help develop field projects and have some experience in archaeology.

How to Stand Out

Many positions require you to have experience. You can earn this experience early through internship programs offered by state education organizations and, in some instances, through individual school programs. If your goal is to become a college professor, you can usually find assistant professor positions that may allow you to earn credit, tuition discounts and sometimes stipends while you work towards your doctorate.

Specialize

Focusing on a specific era or type of history may open doors. For example, if you specialize in military or war history, you might have an easier time gaining a position at a military academy. You may want to be cautious when you choose your specialization area, though. Placing too great an emphasis on too narrow a focus may end up cornering you into a consultant niche rather than making you more desirable as a teacher.

Leave the Classroom

History and archaeology go hand in hand. Along with having teaching experience, you may find it both professionally and personally helpful to walk through an ancient battlefield or stand in the shadow of the pyramids to gain some personal experience. While history is a theoretically fact-based discipline, being able to offer your students your personal perspective on the subject matter can enhance the learning experience from both sides of the desk. It may also demonstrate your enthusiasm for teaching history, which is a desirable trait by any institution's standards.

Alternative Career Options

If you love history but prefer a less hectic work atmosphere, you might consider becoming an historian. Historians generally need a master's degree, but researchers may need a doctorate. They research and analyze, archive, consult, write papers and books on data gathered and offer assistance to those in need of historical information. Historians' annual mean wage was almost $58,000 in May 2011 according to the BLS, which also predicted an employment opportunity increase of 18% between 2020 and 2020 for this profession.

Anthropologists and archaeologists delve into history as well, and offer work environments in offices, laboratories and out in the field, literally digging up history. These professionals can find employment once they have a master's degree, but leadership roles may require a doctorate and field experience which can be acquired through internships. The BLS expected this field to increase by 21% from 2010-2020, which is faster than average when compared with other jobs in the U.S. In May 2011, the BLS reported an annual mean wage of about $59,000 for this career.

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Kaplan University

  • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
  • Master: Higher Education - Online College Teaching
  • BS in Early Childhood Administration
  • Undergraduate in Early Childhood

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The George Washington University

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning

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Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Education - Special Education and Wilson Reading System Certification

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Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices

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American InterContinental University

  • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
  • Master: Education - Leadership in Educational Organizations
  • Master of Education - Elementary Education

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Northcentral University

  • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
  • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
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Penn Foster High School

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Grand Canyon University

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  • M.S. in Sociology with an Emphasis in Education
  • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education

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