Learn How to Become a History Teacher (2023)

History teachers are critical in shaping students’ understanding of the past. They breathe life into historical events, transforming them from mere dates and facts into vibrant narratives that provide context to today’s world.

These educators not only convey historical knowledge but also guide students in interpreting events, developing critical thinking skills, and understanding the interconnectedness of global societies. Doing so, they help mold informed citizens who can learn from the past to make informed decisions about the future.

This article is a comprehensive guide for those aspiring to shape young minds as history teachers in 2023. It will delve into the skills needed, the educational journey, licensure procedures, potential career paths, and professional development opportunities. This article aims to prepare future educators to take on the rewarding challenge of bringing history to life for the next generation of learners by providing a roadmap to the profession.

Understanding the Role of a History Teacher

History Teacher

History teachers bear significant responsibility as they serve as their students’ gateway to the past. Their primary role involves teaching students historical periods, events, and figures. They introduce students to various perspectives and interpretations of these historical occurrences through tailored lesson plans.

But a history teacher’s job goes beyond simple dissemination of facts. They inspire students to look deeper, to question the why and how of events, and to draw connections between different historical periods. They encourage students to critically analyze sources and interpretations, fostering essential critical thinking skills.

Moreover, they help students see the ripple effects of historical events on contemporary society, demonstrating the relevance and impact of history on your current world. They highlight how understanding history can inform present-day decisions and future trajectories. In short, history teachers play a crucial role in broadening students’ horizons, sharpening their analytical abilities, and shaping them into well-informed members of society.

Skills and Qualities

To succeed as a history teacher, certain skills and qualities are paramount.

  • Passion for history: A deep interest and enthusiasm for history are crucial in engaging students. Teachers who are passionate about their subject can inspire the same passion in their students.
  • Communication skills: History teachers must be able to clearly and effectively communicate a wide range of complex historical events and concepts. This includes both oral and written communication.
  • Critical thinking: History is not just about learning facts. It’s about interpretation and analysis. History teachers need to be able to think critically and teach their students to do the same.
  • Patience and empathy: As with any teaching role, patience and empathy are key. Not all students will grasp concepts at the same pace, and a good history teacher must be able to adapt their teaching methods to meet the needs of each student.
  • Organizational skills: History teachers often juggle multiple classes, grade assignments, and plan lessons. Strong organizational skills are crucial in managing these tasks efficiently.
  • Continuous learning: The field of history is ever-evolving, with discoveries and interpretations constantly emerging. Successful history teachers remain committed to ongoing learning and professional development to keep their knowledge current.

These qualities and a dedication to cultivating an inclusive and stimulating learning environment lay the foundation for a successful career as a history teacher.

Fostering a Deeper Appreciation for History

To cultivate a deeper appreciation for history among students, history teachers employ a variety of innovative strategies:

  1. Storytelling Approach: By transforming historical facts into compelling narratives, teachers can engage students’ attention and invoke their curiosity. Relating history as a story helps students connect with historical figures and events more personally.
  1. Connecting History to the Present: Teachers often draw parallels between past events and current issues. This technique helps students understand the relevance of history to their own lives and the world around them.
  1. Field Trips and Authentic Learning Experiences: Visiting historic sites and museums or participating in reenactments can provide students with a tangible connection to the past. These experiences can make historical events more relatable and less abstract.
  1. Encouraging Historical Research Projects: By assigning research projects, teachers encourage students to delve deeper into specific historical periods, events, or figures. This expands their knowledge and teaches them how to interpret and analyze historical data.
  1. Class Discussions and Debates: These stimulate critical thinking and allow students to explore different perspectives. Students can better understand the complexities of historical events and their impact through debates.
  1. Use of Multimedia Resources: Incorporating films, documentaries, and online resources can make lessons more engaging and dynamic. These resources can offer diverse viewpoints and a more detailed picture of history.

By adopting these strategies, history teachers educate students about the past and inspire them to think critically about how history shapes the present and future.

Educational and Certification Requirements

To become a history teacher, you must follow a specific educational path.

  • Bachelor’s Degree: The first step in your journey is obtaining a Bachelor’s degree. This degree is often in Education or History. If you decide to major in History, you should also pursue a minor in education to ensure you receive adequate teacher training. Your coursework will often include a blend of history and education classes, providing you with the necessary background in both subject matter and pedagogical techniques.
  • Teacher Preparation Program: Most states require aspiring teachers to complete a state-approved teacher preparation program. These programs cover essential teaching skills, including lesson planning, classroom management, and instructional strategies. They also involve a student-teaching component, which gives you practical experience in a classroom setting under the supervision of an experienced teacher.
  • Master’s Degree (Optional): While not always required, some history teachers pursue a Master’s degree in Education or History. A Master’s degree can enhance your knowledge, make you more competitive in the job market, and potentially lead to higher pay.

Remember, educational requirements can vary somewhat depending on your state and the grade level you wish to teach, so it’s essential to research the specific requirements for your particular career goals.

The Importance of a Degree in History Education

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Obtaining a degree in History Education or a related field is a key step towards becoming a history teacher. This education provides a solid understanding of historical concepts, events, and trends alongside the pedagogical skills required to convey this knowledge effectively to students.

A History Education degree is designed to blend content knowledge with instructional expertise. Students delve into various historical eras, cultures, and events, acquiring a holistic global history perspective. Simultaneously, they learn about educational theory, teaching methods, and assessment strategies, providing a robust foundation for future teaching careers.

Moreover, degree programs in History Education often include field experiences, such as student teaching or internships. These practical experiences allow aspiring teachers to apply their theoretical knowledge in real-world classrooms under the supervision of experienced educators.

In a related field such as History or Education, the degree would also cover essential areas, though not combined with a History Education degree. For example, a History degree would provide an in-depth understanding of history but may lack the pedagogical training. Conversely, an Education degree would cover teaching methods thoroughly but might not offer the same depth of historical knowledge. Therefore, a minor or additional coursework in the other field could be beneficial in these cases.

Gaining Practical Experience

Practical experience in the classroom is a crucial component of the journey to becoming a history teacher. This step allows aspiring educators to apply the theoretical knowledge and pedagogical skills acquired during their academic preparation in a real-world teaching environment. It offers a crucial opportunity to gain firsthand experience in managing a classroom, designing and implementing lesson plans, and addressing students’ diverse learning styles and needs.

Classroom Dynamics

Practical experience also helps future teachers understand the dynamics of a classroom, develop effective classroom management strategies, and build confidence in their teaching abilities. This experience provides a context for integrating historical knowledge and teaching skills, crucial for developing competency as a history teacher.

Student Teaching, Internships, and Practicums

Student teaching, internships, and practicums form crucial elements of teacher preparation programs. They offer the much-needed bridge between academic theory and real-world application, allowing future educators to learn by doing.

Student Teaching

Student teaching typically involves aspiring teachers working closely with an experienced mentor teacher in a classroom setting. It provides an immersive experience where future teachers can apply their learned pedagogical techniques, lesson planning, and classroom management strategies. The student teacher usually takes on an increasingly active role in the classroom as their confidence and skills grow, eventually assuming full responsibility for teaching lessons and managing the class under the mentor’s supervision.


Internships offer a similarly hands-on experience but often involve a broader scope of responsibilities, potentially including school administration tasks, community outreach initiatives, and curriculum development projects. Internships can be an invaluable opportunity for aspiring history teachers to gain insights into educational professionals’ diverse roles and responsibilities.


Practicums are another field experience that usually happens earlier in the education program. They involve observation and limited participation within a classroom setting. Practicums allow future teachers to become familiar with the classroom environment early in their studies, laying the groundwork for the more involved experiences of student teaching and internships.

All these experiences combine to provide an integral part of the preparation for a history teacher. They offer a rich, multifaceted understanding of the profession, helping to prepare the teacher for the challenges and rewards they will encounter in their career. Through these experiences, aspiring history teachers can hone their skills, expand their knowledge, and gain the confidence necessary to succeed in the classroom.

Researching State-Specific Licensure Requirements

Each state in the United States has specific requirements for licensure as a history teacher. These requirements can vary significantly, underlining the importance of researching the specific requirements for the state you plan to teach.

  • State-Specific Examinations: Many states require teachers to pass specific examinations to obtain teaching licenses. These examinations typically assess both general teaching knowledge and subject-specific knowledge in history. Some states also require a performance assessment, which evaluates the candidate’s teaching skills in a real classroom setting.
  • Teaching Experience Requirements: While all states require some form of student teaching experience as part of a teacher preparation program, the exact duration of this requirement can vary. Some states require a student teaching semester, while others may require a full academic year.
  • Educational Requirements: Most states require a Bachelor’s degree as the minimum educational requirement for licensure. However, some states may require a Master’s degree, especially for advanced or specialty teaching positions. Again, the specifics may vary, so it’s crucial to check with your state’s Department of Education or a trusted advisor.
  • Continuing Education: Many states require teachers to continue their education to maintain their licensure. This could involve earning a certain number of professional development credits, pursuing a higher degree, or passing periodic competency tests.
  • Background Check: A comprehensive background check is usually a prerequisite for teaching licensure across all states. The process typically involves fingerprinting and a check of criminal records.

Achieving licensure as a history teacher can involve meeting various requirements, often determined by individual state policy. Aspiring teachers should thoroughly research these requirements to ensure they are adequately prepared for licensure.

Completing History Teacher Preparation Programs

Accredited teacher preparation programs are vital for aspiring history teachers. These programs equip candidates with the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to excel in the classroom. The curriculum typically includes academic coursework in history and education, plus practical teaching experiences.

Accreditation ensures that the program meets nationally recognized standards for teacher education. Programs can be accredited by bodies such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) or the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC). Accreditation is crucial as it assures program quality, and many states require that teachers graduate from an accredited program as part of their licensure requirements.

These preparation programs often include courses in subjects like world history, American history, and specialized history topics, alongside pedagogical theory and practice courses. This mix ensures that graduates have a robust understanding of both historical content and effective teaching strategies.

Furthermore, accredited history teacher preparation programs typically include a student-teaching component. This experience allows candidates to apply what they have learned in a real-world classroom setting under the guidance of a mentor teacher.

Lastly, many programs also offer preparation for state licensure exams, ensuring that graduates are ready to meet all the requirements to become licensed history teachers. This comprehensive approach, combining academic knowledge, practical experience, and licensure preparation, makes accredited history teacher preparation programs crucial to becoming a history teacher.

Meeting Licensure Exam Requirements

Meeting licensure exam requirements is a significant step in becoming a licensed history teacher. Often, state-specific exams aim to assess aspiring teachers’ knowledge and skills, ensuring they are adequately equipped to educate students effectively.

Types of Licensure Exams

There are various types of licensure exams prospective history teachers may need to take, depending on the state’s specific requirements in which they plan to teach. Some of the most common exams include the Praxis and state-specific exams.

Praxis Exams

The Praxis exams, developed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), are used by many states as part of their teacher certification process. The Praxis Series includes two examinations: Praxis Core and Praxis Subject Assessments.

  • Praxis Core: This exam tests candidates’ academic skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. It is designed to assess the basic skills and knowledge necessary for all prospective teachers, regardless of their chosen subject.
  • Praxis Subject Assessments: These are subject-specific exams to assess a candidate’s knowledge and competency in their chosen field. For history teachers, the relevant test would be the Praxis II: Social Studies Content Knowledge, which covers areas such as U.S. History, World History, Government/Civics/Political Science, Geography, Economics, and Behavioral Sciences.

State-Specific Exams

In addition to or instead of the Praxis exams, some states have their licensure tests. These exams are tailored to meet the state’s unique educational standards and requirements. A few examples include:

  • California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET): In California, prospective history teachers may need to take the CSET Social Science exams, which evaluate their knowledge and understanding of world, U.S., and California history, geography, economics, and political science.
  • Florida Teacher Certification Examinations (FTCE): In Florida, candidates who wish to teach history must take the FTCE Social Science 6–12 exam, which covers topics in U.S. History, World History, Economics, Geography, and Political Science.
  • New York State Teacher Certification Examinations (NYSTCE): For those planning to teach in New York, the NYSTCE Social Studies CST evaluates knowledge in History (World, U.S., NY State), Geography, Economics, Civics, Government, and Political Science.

These are just a few examples of the wide range of licensure exams available. Prospective history teachers should ensure they research what exams are required in their specific state and prepare accordingly.

Applying for Teaching Licensure

After meeting all the educational and examination requirements, the next step in becoming a history teacher is applying for teaching licensure. This process involves using the designated state board or department of education. The application typically includes:

  1. Proof of Education: Candidates must provide official transcripts from the accredited institution where they completed their teacher preparation program.
  1. Exam Scores: Official scores from all required licensure examinations must be submitted. This includes both general teaching exams and history-specific tests.
  1. Practical Experience Verification: Documentation verifying the completion of required student teaching, practicum, or internships must be provided.
  1. Background Check: All applicants must undergo a background check. The specifics of this process vary by state, but it typically includes fingerprinting and a criminal history review.
  1. Application Fee: Most states require an application fee to process the licensure request. The amount varies by state.

Once the application is submitted, it will be reviewed by the state board or department of education. If approved, the candidate will receive a teaching license, officially qualifying them to teach history in that state. It’s important to note that each state has its unique requirements and application process, so prospective teachers should thoroughly review the specific process for their state.

Common Challenges in the Licensure Application Process

Navigating the licensure application process can present challenges for aspiring history teachers. Understanding these potential obstacles can help you to prepare effectively and ensure a smoother path to obtaining your teaching license.

  1. Understanding State-Specific Requirements: As each state has its requirements for teaching licensure, it can be challenging to fully comprehend and meet these specific criteria. States may have different educational prerequisites, examination requirements, and standards for practical experience, making it crucial to carefully research the requirements for the state in which you plan to teach.
  1. Preparing for Licensure Exams: Licensure exams typically assess a wide range of competencies, from subject-specific knowledge to general teaching skills. The breadth and depth of these exams can make them challenging, necessitating comprehensive preparation to pass.
  1. Meeting Practical Experience Requirements: Gaining the required practical teaching experience can pose a challenge, mainly if opportunities for student teaching or internships are limited or highly competitive.
  1. Navigating the Application Process: The licensure application process can be complex and time-consuming, involving a range of documentation, background checks, and potentially significant fees.
  1. Keeping Up with Continuing Education: Once licensed, teachers must engage in continuing education to maintain their licensure. Balancing teaching responsibilities with ongoing professional development can be challenging but crucial for remaining current and effective in teaching.

Understanding these common challenges can help aspiring history teachers navigate the licensure application process more effectively, bringing them one step closer to their goal of leading a classroom.

Developing Effective Teaching Strategies


Developing effective teaching strategies in history education is paramount to fostering student engagement and comprehension. As a history teacher, it’s essential to make the subject matter accessible, relatable, and intriguing for students.

  • Encouraging Critical Thinking: An effective history teacher goes beyond simply presenting facts, dates, and events. Instead, they encourage students to think critically, evaluate sources, interpret data, and draw conclusions. This approach helps students understand history as a series of interconnected events, each with its causes and effects, rather than isolated incidents.
  • Making Connections to the Present: History becomes more relevant and interesting for students when they see its impact on their lives today. For instance, a lesson on the Civil Rights Movement can be linked to ongoing racial equality and social justice discussions. Drawing these connections can make historical events feel more real and immediate to students.
  • Storytelling Approach: History is full of stories, and an effective history teacher knows how to tell them in a way that captivates students. This may involve incorporating primary sources, like letters or diary entries, which can bring historical events and figures to life.
  • Utilizing Technology: Technology can be a powerful tool in the history classroom. Digital resources like online archives, interactive timelines, and virtual field trips can provide engaging ways for students to explore the past.
  • Differentiated Instruction: Recognizing that students have different learning styles and needs, effective history teachers differentiate their instruction. This might include providing various resources (texts, videos, hands-on activities), using varied assessment methods, and offering targeted support.
  • Promoting Discussion and Debate: History is full of differing perspectives and interpretations. A history teacher can stimulate critical thinking and deepen understanding by promoting discussion and debate among students.
  • Continuous Learning and Improvement: Effective history teachers are dedicated to ongoing learning and improvement. They stay current with historical scholarship, engage with professional development opportunities, and continually refine their teaching strategies based on feedback and reflection.

Effective teaching strategies are integral in creating a dynamic, engaging, and impactful learning experience for history students. They help to make the past come alive and illuminate its ongoing relevance to your present and future.

Incorporating Technology in History Education

Incorporating technology in history education is an increasingly important aspect of effective teaching. Technology can transform the history classroom, creating dynamic, interactive learning environments that boost student engagement and deepen understanding.

There is an abundance of digital resources, educational apps, and online tools available for history teachers to enrich their lessons.

  • Primary Source Databases: Online archives like those offered by the Library of Congress, the National Archives, or JSTOR provide access to an immense collection of primary source documents. These can be integrated into lessons to give students direct interaction with historical evidence.
  • Educational Apps: Apps such as Google Earth can be used to explore historical sites. In contrast, others like Historypin allow users to view and share historical photos of their modern locations. Timeline creators such as Sutori can be used to help students visualize and understand the sequence of historical events.
  • Virtual Field Trips: Services like Google Arts & Culture offer virtual tours of museums, historical sites, and cultural events from around the world. This opens up vast possibilities for bringing global history into the classroom, even when physical field trips are not feasible.
  • Interactive Learning Platforms: Websites like Khan Academy and Crash Course offer engaging video content and interactive exercises that can supplement classroom teaching.
  • Current Events Resources: Resources like the New York Times Learning Network provide lesson plans, quizzes, and discussion prompts based on current news stories, helping students to connect past and present.
  • Educational Games: Games like iCivics, Mission U.S., or the BBC’s History Game collection can engage students in learning history through interactive, scenario-based gameplay.

These resources offer engaging ways to present historical content and empower students to explore, discover, and engage with history in new and interactive ways.

Continuing Professional Development

Continuous professional development is crucial for history teachers to ensure they remain at the forefront of their field. As historical research evolves, teachers must stay updated on the latest findings and interpretations to ensure that their instruction is current, accurate, and relevant. Professional development also exposes teachers to innovative teaching methods, learning technologies, and classroom management techniques, all of which can enhance the quality of education they provide.

Opportunities for enhancing teaching skills and staying updated on historical research and methodologies are plentiful for proactive educators.

  • Professional Workshops and Seminars: These events often provide educators with the latest insights into effective teaching strategies, new research, and innovative classroom technologies. They also provide a platform for networking and collaborating with other teachers and professionals in the field.
  • Academic Conferences: Attending academic conferences allows history teachers to engage with ongoing research and debates in historical scholarship. This can stimulate fresh perspectives and ideas that can be integrated into classroom teaching.
  • Online Courses and Webinars: Platforms like Coursera, edX, and Khan Academy offer a variety of courses for educators, including courses specifically focused on history education. These allow teachers to explore new pedagogical approaches, delve into specific historical topics, or earn additional qualifications.
  • Professional Journals: Journals like ‘The History Teacher’ or ‘Teaching History’ publish articles and research studies related to history education. Regularly reading such journals can aid teachers in staying abreast of the latest trends, strategies, and resources in history education.
  • History Education Associations: Joining associations such as the National Council for History Education (NCHE) or the American Historical Association (AHA) offers access to resources, professional development opportunities, and a community of educators committed to advancing history education.
  • Peer Collaboration and Observation: Observing other teachers or participating in teaching groups or mentorship programs can provide valuable insights into new teaching techniques, classroom management strategies, and ways to engage students.

By taking advantage of these opportunities, history teachers can continually enhance their teaching skills, keep their historical knowledge up-to-date, and provide their students with the best educational experiences.

Navigating Challenges as a History Teacher

While rewarding, a career in history education presents its share of challenges. One of the most common is engaging students in complex historical topics.

  • Complexity of Historical Topics: History covers a wide array of subjects, many of which are intricate and multifaceted. It can be challenging for teachers to simplify these complex topics without losing the essence of their significance. They must present these subjects in a digestible manner for students yet still encompass the complexity of the event or era.
  • Student Engagement: Engaging students in history can often be an uphill battle. Many students perceive history as a dull series of dates and events irrelevant to their lives. History teachers make the past engaging and relevant, showing students that history is a living story that shapes your present and future.
  • Overcoming Preconceived Notions: Sometimes, students come into the classroom with preconceived notions or misconceptions about certain historical topics. Addressing these misconceptions becomes the teacher’s challenge, providing accurate information and promoting critical thinking.
  • Dealing with Sensitive Topics: History is full of events and issues that are emotionally charged or controversial. Teachers often have to navigate these sensitive topics carefully, ensuring a respectful and balanced discussion in the classroom.
  • Presenting Multiple Perspectives: History is rarely about absolute truths. It’s usually about different perspectives and interpretations. A challenge for history teachers is to give these different perspectives, fostering in students an understanding that history often depends on the narrator’s viewpoint.

These challenges, while considerable, can be met through effective teaching strategies, ongoing professional development, and a passion for history that inspires students to see the relevance and excitement of learning about the past.


Becoming a history teacher is a journey filled with challenges and trials but abundant rewards and fulfillment. The role of a history teacher extends beyond imparting knowledge of the past. It is about inspiring curiosity, fostering critical thinking, and developing a deeper understanding of the world. As a history teacher, you can show students that history is not just static facts and dates but a vibrant tapestry of stories, lessons, and connections highly relevant to your present lives.

Cultivating a classroom environment where every student feels valued and engaged creates a space where history comes alive. This is where the transformative power of education truly shows. The journey may be challenging, but the opportunity to shape young minds and inspire a love for history makes every hurdle worth it. In the end, the journey of a history teacher isn’t just about teaching the past but about preparing students for the future.

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