High School History Teacher Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Get the truth about a high school history teacher's salary, training requirements and career prospects. Read the job description and see the pros and cons of becoming a high school history teacher.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a High School History Teacher

As a teacher, you may feel a deep sense of satisfaction from seeing your students' progress and develop a love of learning because of the guidance with which you've provided them. However, it may be difficult to find a position, and some districts pay more than others, so consider the pros and cons before you decide if teaching history is right for you.

Pros of Becoming a High School History Teacher
Regular vacations (2 months off for summer, plus holidays are common)*
Regular weekday working hours*
Opportunities for advancement (lead teacher, principal, instructional coordinator)*
Inspire young minds and help students develop their love of history**
May be able to help underserved communities**

Cons of Becoming a High School History Teacher
Sluggish job growth (predicted 6% increase between 2012 and 2022)*
Can be stressful (responsible for students' performances on standardized tests, may have to deal with disrespectful student, etc.)*
Some positions may not pay well (lowest 10% of teachers earned less than $37,500 in 2014)*
May have to spend additional time grading papers, preparing lessons and meeting with students or parents*
Can take several years of work to earn tenure*
Some school districts may not possess vital learning tools (computers, current text books, etc.)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Teach.org.

Career Information

Job Description

High school history teachers help prepare students for graduation by instructing them with required curriculum in history. The lessons are designed to get the students ready for college or to enter the job market, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As a high school teacher, you typically plan lessons and grade assignments or exams to determine the students' level of comprehension and to evaluate their progress. You'd also help prepare them to take the standardized tests required by the state in which you work. Working one-on-one with students to help them improve areas they are weak in can also be part of the job. To provide an environment conducive to learning, you normally create and enforce classroom rules as well.

The majority of high school teachers are employed in public or private schools. Although you usually work regular weekday hours, you may spend evenings and weekends getting lessons ready and grading assignments. Additionally, you may need to meet with students and parents before or after school.

Salary Info and Job Prospects

In May 2014, the BLS reported the median annual wage for high school teachers was about $56,300. The top 10% earned more than $88,900, while the lowest 10% earned less than $37,500.

Job growth for teachers was expected to be slower than the average for all occupations, with a predicted 6% increase between 2012 and 2022, according to the BLS. Student enrollment in the West and the South is expected to increase, and job availability in these areas will likely grow faster than those in the Northeast and Midwest. More jobs are also expected to open up as many older teachers are reaching retirement age. The BLS stated that more jobs would be available in urban and rural school districts than in the suburbs.

Education and Training Requirements

To become a high school history teacher, you will need at least a bachelor's degree. To teach in a public school, you will also need to complete a teacher preparation program, which is offered at many colleges and universities. Teacher preparation programs include supervised teaching experience, generally in the form of student teaching. Most states require you major in the subject you wish to teach. You'll likely need to pass a general teaching exam and an exam in your area of expertise.

After earning your degree and passing the exams, you are eligible for the required certification (sometimes referred to as licensure) to become an educator. However, specific certification requirements vary by state, and a minimum GPA may be needed in order to work in some locations. Additionally, some states may want you to earn a master's degree after receiving certification. Teachers in private schools are not subjected to state requirements, although private schools generally require a bachelor's degree with a major related to history to become a history teacher.

Important Skills

The BLS reported that having good instructional skills was a key component of working as a teacher. You must also be able to adapt your teaching methods to individual students who may learn in different ways or at a different pace from the rest of the class. Because you must interact with students, co-workers, administrators and parents on a regular basis, good communication skills, both orally and in writing, are fundamental to this job. Having the patience to deal with students who have different learning abilities and backgrounds is a valuable quality as well. Additionally, computer courses that teach you how to use various programs, such as Microsoft Word and Outlook, may also be beneficial.

What Are Employers Looking For?

While job opportunities for high school history teachers are not plentiful, some do exist. Securing employment may require relocating or pursuing teaching in less conventional environments (e.g. online courses). The following posts from May 2012 are some examples of what real employers are looking for:

  • An online school based out of Virginia is looking for a certified high school history teacher with at least 3 years of teaching experience. The candidate must have a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree is preferred. Proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook and the ability to learn new technologies quickly are also listed as requirements.
  • A public high school in Massachusetts needs a licensed history teacher who is committed to excellence and has a strong academic background. Applicants should have proven knowledge in standards-based education, different teaching strategies, methods of assessment and instructional technology.
  • A charter school in Massachusetts is seeking an enthusiastic history teacher with teaching experience. The prospective employee should demonstrate eagerness to design engaging curriculum that includes practical applications of skills. Experience with project-based curriculum is preferred for this position.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Due to the fact that teaching history isn't currently a booming career field, you may need to start in a low-paying position. You may find multiple incentives from beginning your teaching career in a low-income district; not only could you gain valuable teaching experience, but these positions may also pay off some of your school debt. You'll want to decide which state you want to work in as well, since you may have to become recertified if you decide to move to another state.

Some employers prefer candidates who have worked with high school students before. You can gain experience working with high school students while you complete your student teaching, which may set you apart from those who worked with different age groups.

Develop Related Skills

To help you develop your ability to converse effectively and constructively, you can take leadership, speech and communication courses. Since teachers must stay up-to-date with technology and be able to learn new Web-based tools, it is advisable to take technology and computer education courses. Per online job postings, the ability to create curricula that includes hands-on projects aimed to teach real life skills may be preferred by some employers. Completing projects related to curriculum development while in a teaching program can also be useful.

Alternative Career Options

Historian

As a historian, you'd research and analyze historical documents, artifacts and archives to discover the importance and meaning of an object and to validate its authenticity. Some of the topics you could study include historical events, societies and people. You may present your research findings through reports, books, exhibits and educational programs. This line of work is usually not as stressful as teaching and you may have the opportunity to travel. You also don't have to worry about becoming certified or obtaining a license to become a historian. Most historians (57% in 2010, according to the BLS) work for the government, but some are employed by museums, nonprofit organizations and historical societies.

The educational requirements generally take longer to complete for historians versus high school history teachers; you'll likely need a master's or doctoral degree in history or a related field. Historians earned an annual median income of approximately $52,000, according to the BLS in 2011. However, the BLS reported that employment growth for historians was expected to better than for history teachers, with a projected increase of 18% between 2010 and 2020. You'll likely face competition for jobs, but historians with hands-on or practical experience should have the best job prospects.

Museum Registrar

Museum registrars are also known as museum technicians. In this line of work, you'd help museum curators prepare and care for museum items and exhibits. You may also be responsible for answering questions from the public about the displays.

To become a museum registrar, you generally need a bachelor's degree that closely aligns with the museum's specialty or related work experience. There may be opportunities for advancement, particularly if you pursue a graduate degree in history, art history or museum studies. You may eventually be qualified to advance to a curator or a museum director position. The BLS reported that curators, museum technicians and conservators were expected to see a 16% increase in jobs during the decade of 2010-2020. Museum technicians and conservators earned a median salary of roughly $38,000 in 2011, according to the BLS.

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