What Does a Career in History Education Entail?
If you love learning about past generations and time periods and are also a great storyteller, you might be a perfect fit as a history educator. History teachers tie the past to the present for their students by combining a thorough knowledge of the past with the skills needed to relate the information to students in a way they can understand.
Although history is a major component of this degree, you'll need other skills to complement your knowledge. Classroom management, organization of lesson plans, and similar teaching abilities are necessary as well as being well organized and having interpersonal skills to interact with students, parents, and other school personnel.
Although you can become a history teacher with a bachelor's degree, most teachers hold a master's degree or higher, so that should be your long-term goal. Many school systems hire teachers with a Bachelor degree with the caveat they must earn their Master's within the next five years.
Education Degrees & Career Paths
Components of a Successful Career in History Education
Because all states require teachers to be certified you should plan on earning at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. You can begin your teaching degree as an assistant once you have your associate's degree, and most programs require an internship which will give you more experience.
Although most people who earn a history education degree work within the state school systems you might consider working at a secondary level school or as a historian or museum curator. These positions typically require a Master's degree, and four-year universities and more prestigious museums usually require a Doctorate.
How to Become a History Teacher
Typical History Education Degree Requirements
As mentioned above you can begin working as an assistant with an associate's degree, which are typically 60 credit hours of classes. Your bachelor's degree will require another 60 credit hours for a total of approximately 120 credits. Some programs require an extra six to seven credit hours for specific education subjects.
Your master's degree will require another 30 to 40 credits and is usually in a specific concentration. If you decide to continue your education a PhD will take another four to six years.
Typical History Education Certifications Needed
Every state requires teachers to successfully pass a state exam and become certified before they are eligible for employment as a teacher. While the requirements may differ from state to state most require a specific amount of experience, a bachelor's degree, and a passing grade on the state exam.
Teachers are required to take continuing education (CE) courses throughout their career, and successful completion of your CEs in a timely manner is a requirement of your certification renewal.
Because certification is a requirement you should verify your school of choice program meets the standards as set by your state's Board of Education or licensing department.
Academic Standards for a History Education Degree
You should plan to keep your academic standard high, as most state boards will only accept a bachelor degree with a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0. Likewise, most master’s degrees have the same standard for you to be admitted in a graduate program.
A high academic standard may have other benefits, as many scholarships and grants are merit-based and take your classroom performance into account when choosing grant recipients. In addition, many employers look at your GPA as an indication of your dedication to the field.
Exam/Experience Needed for a History Education Degree
As mentioned before, you'll need to successfully pass a state exam in order to become a certified or licensed teacher. Most states have reciprocity agreements, so a good score on your state exam may mean you won't need to retest if you move to another state after you're licensed.
Important Questions to Ask
How long does it take to earn a History Education bachelor's degree online?
If you're taking a full class load, a bachelor's degree will take four years. If you already have an associate's degree, it should take half as long as you already have two years of credits. If you can only take a half load of courses, it will take you about twice as long, or eight years with no prior degree. The U.S. Department of Education reports that most students take five to six years to complete their bachelor’s degree.
How much does a History Education bachelor’s degree cost?
Your history education degree cost can vary widely due to many factors. The area of the country in which you live, whether you qualify for in-state tuition rates, and whether your school is public or private are three of the major cost variables. The Department of Education states the total tuition cost for a Bachelor's degree ranges between $22,000 and $50,000 before deductions for federal aid, scholarships, and grants.
Does the school have the major(s) you’re considering?
This can be a loaded question for education degrees because you can major in education or in history and minor in the other. If you have a choice you should consider majoring in education because this major will guarantee you take the courses required for state certification. If you're not sure, look for a school with an excellent history curriculum and one well-regarded for its education degree so you have a clear idea of both what you need to take and what you'd like to take. Often the same degree is available but doesn't hold the title of "BA in History." You might also consider attaining a double-major, as this will put you in excellent standing if you decide to continue your education and earn your master’s.
How many students graduate “on time,” in four years?
This is an important number to look for even if you plan to attend part time. Four-year graduation rates are an excellent indication of the school's dedication to their students' success. An average of five years to graduation may show a problem with student support programs, a school that's more concerned with enrollment than with graduation, or a college with a reputation as a party school. Although a low graduation rate shouldn't automatically exclude a school from your list it is an indication you should look further for an explanation.
What kind of accreditation does the program hold? How is it regarded in the field?
Accreditation is vital to your degree program and more so with an education degree. A school that meets accreditation standards has shown a good track academic record and will be proud to declare this status. If you don't recognize the accreditation of your school don't hesitate to do a web search to verify it is legitimate.
Accreditation is required for all federal aid as well as most scholarships, grants, and student loans. It is also a requirement for most state boards when you're ready to take the certification exam.
Teachers need to be tech savvy in many areas and this will be reflected in your history education curriculum. You'll need to be fluent with word processors, slide show programs, and databases as well as platforms such as Backboard that are popular within the school systems.
You should be comfortable researching archived information as well as pertinent history-related digital libraries and similar information sources.
Although a bachelor's degree is required for teacher certification you may begin your career as an assistant once you have your associate's degree. Your associate's degree will cover all your core classes in English, Mathematics, and Sciences as well as some of the basic courses for your history education major.
- Principles of Geography Lecture & Lab
- Introduction to the Education Profession
- History of U.S. - Civil War
- Speaker-Audience Communication
- General Psychology
- Critical Reading & Writing
- College Algebra
Your Bachelor degree will complete your teaching requirements while giving you a solid knowledge base in many areas of history. Each school is different, so make sure yours offers all classes that are required for certification by your state board of education.
- Managing & Motivating Learners in Middle/Secondary Classrooms
- Exceptional Children in General Classrooms
- Development & Learning of the Adolescent
- Political Science
- Non-Western Geography Requirement
- Instructional Approaches for ESOL Learners
- Curriculum & Instruction in Social Studies Classrooms
- Teaching State Government
- Latin American History Requirement
- European History Requirement
- Advanced Practices in Teaching Social Studies
- Reading & Writing Across the Curriculum
- Advanced Teaching Practicum
- Governance & Organization
- Advanced Practices for Children with Disabilities
Secondary School Teaching
Social Studies Teaching
When you're ready to begin your Master's degree program you should have a definite idea of what concentration you wish to pursue, and your curriculum will reflect that specialty. For example, if you love to teach you may pursue a Master's of Education with a History Concentration.
- European History
- Global History
- Public History
- U.S. History
- Historic Preservation
- Museum Studies
- State and Local History
Cost Range for Each Degree
The cost of your degree will depend on your current level of education and where you live and attend school. If you already have an Associate's degree you can cut the cost of your Bachelor's degree by approximately half, and if you have a few years of employment experience your employer may cover all or part of your Master Degree costs. The following chart shows the average cost for each degree nationwide, in both public and private schools:
|Degree Type||Public School||Private School|
Your earnings potential with a history education degree will typically rise in direct proportion to your education. An associate's degree will reflect the least amount of education and experience, and those who hold a master's or higher will typically earn the most.
Employment fields are narrow for history education scholars as it is a specialty area. That being said, careers may be diverse as you can eventually teach on all levels and differing subjects as you gain experience. In addition, you may choose to enter administration as a principal or administrator or seek employment at a museum or archive. There are very few positions open to those who only hold an Associate's degree and the top positions in the fields hold Doctorates.
History Education Fields of Study Median Salaries
High School Teacher: teach students on the high school level in subjects such as World History, American History, Social Studies, and government; may also lead debate teams and similar history-related extracurricular activities.
Historian: Analyze research, interpret, and write about historical documents, events, and people; may work for a local, state, or national historic society or organization.
Field of Study Average Salary by Degree Level
|Field of Study||Associates Salary||Bachelors Salary||Masters Salary|
|High School Teachers||--||$59,170||$95,380|
History Education Salaries by Occupation
When you look at specific occupations common to those who hold a history education degree you will see the direct correlation between degree level and experience. Teaching assistant is one of the few positions open to associate's degree holders in this field, so most of the occupations reflect a bachelor's or master's degree and several years experience. Note there are some occupations not listed; positions such as head of museums or large archive holdings are almost exclusive held by those with PhDs.
History Education Occupations
- Teacher assistant
internship or entry level job working under the direct oversight of a certified teacher. May help plan curriculum, instruct children, grade papers, and perform similar chores both in and out of the classroom.
- Middle school teachers
Bachelor level position, teach adolescents on U.S. History, Social Studies, and possibly World History and Geography. May substitute teach for other subjects.
- History Teachers, Postsecondary
Instruct on all subjects of expertise within the realm of history; community colleges may accept a Bachelor degree four-year colleges and universities usually require a Master's degree or PhD.
- School principals, all levels
The first step into administration, school principals oversee the behind-the-scenes needs of a school. Master's degree required; usually begins as head of an elementary school and advances to high school.
- Postsecondary education administrators
Master's degree position in the offices of a two- or four-year school, usually administrating one department or area.
- Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers
Process, catalog, appraise, and preserve documents, records, exhibits, and artifacts in an institution such as a museum or archive.
Annual Salary by Occupation (Range)
|Occupations||Entry Level Salary Range||Mid-Career Salary Range/Average||Late Career Salary Range|
|Middle School Teachers||$40,662||$45,812||$58,759|
|History Teachers, Postsecondary||$40,170||$72,690||$134,870|
|Elementary School Principal||$73,455||$78,773||$86,835|
|High School Principle||$79,097||$85,132||$95,685|
|Postsecondary education administrators||--||$61,698||--|
History Education Scholarships
Scholarships and grants can cover part or all your tuition and expenses, so you should set aside several hours a week to search for and apply to any you might qualify for. Check your county and state educational organizations as well as major employers who might offer financial assistance. Here are some scholarships available on the national level:
The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR)
Deadline: February 15
offers several scholarships totaling over $150,000 each year. Not exclusive to women, the DAR focuses on history fields of study at accredited colleges:
- DAR: The Dr. Aura-Lee A. and James Hobbs Pittenger American History Scholarship is in the amount of $2,000 renewable up to four years and is awarded to a high school senior.
- DAR: The Enid Hall Griswold Memorial Scholarship is a one-time scholarship of $1,000 awarded to a junior or senior in an undergraduate history, political science, government, or economics major.
The Federal TEACH Grant
Amount: Up to $4,000
Deadline: October 31
This grant is sponsored by a non-profit organization developed by Microsoft and the Department of Education, TEACH offers a wide range of grants for teacher education. The basic grant awards up to $4,000 per year; recipient must agree to work in a deprived school or high needs field for a period of time after graduation.
National High School Essay Contest
Amount: $2,500 (Winner), $1,250 (Runner-up)
The contest winner is awarded a $2,500 prize and an all expense trip to D.C. and full tuition to cover a “Semester at Sea” when they enroll in an accredited university. The runner-up receives a cash prize as well, and a scholarship to participate in the National Student Leadership Conference’s International Diplomacy Program.
Professional History Education Organizations
As soon as you enroll in your school of choice you should join one or more professional organizations that are dedicated to history education. Each association will offer invaluable tips, articles, and similar resources to help you succeed in your chosen field. Here are a few of the largest national organizations:
American Historical Association
Dedicated to those teaching history in grades K-12 the AHA will keep you informed on national developments in the field of history teaching, job openings, learning opportunities, and a broad range of benefits to future and current teachers of history.
National Council for History Education
They offer professional development, national and regional conventions, and access to archives in an effort to advance the education of history teachers and strengthen the historic literacy of students.
National Education Association
With over three million members the NEA will be your most valuable partner when you join the field of teaching. You'll find current legislation updates, conventions, continuing education, and anything and everything teachers need to find success in their career.
The Organization of American Historians
The OAH offers members a career center, publications, teaching tools, and many other discounts and benefits for all types of historians.
The National Coalition for History
A consortium of over 50 organizations that represent all fields of history, the NCH advocates for local, state, and federal legislation concerning all aspects from genealogy to teaching to preservation.
Choosing an Accredited College
Accreditation is vital to your degree and should be the first thing you verify before enrolling in your school of choice. Proper accreditation is required for federal aid, scholarships, grants, student loans, and most employee reimbursement programs, and is also required by state licensing boards. Your school will probably list their accreditation by acronym; if you don't recognize the accrediting organization do a web search and verify before you enroll. The most commonly accepted accreditation is regional.
There are six regional accrediting boards:
- Middle States Association of Colleges & Schools (MSA)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges & Universities (NASC)
- North Central Association of Colleges & Schools (NCA)
- New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEASC)
- Southern Association of Colleges & Schools (SACS)
- Western Association of Schools & Colleges (WASC)
In addition, there are three national accrediting agencies:
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
- Distance Education & Training Council (DETC)
- Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools (ACICS)
And there is at least one well-regarded Education-specific programmatic accreditation you should look for:
- Counsel for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
Check with the state board of education to make sure your school's accreditation is accepted for teacher certification.
Online vs. On-Campus vs. Hybrid
The type of education you choose can be the difference between graduating on time and adding a year or more to your education. Not everyone learns in the same way; some learn better in a group or traditional setting and others learn best when they're alone. Each type of education has its pros and cons and you need to decide what will work best for your personal situation.
Online school is convenient, especially if you're juggling work, family, and home responsibilities. You can work virtually anywhere and there is considerable leeway on class and homework times. You must have self-discipline to complete the work and be adept at learning long distance. On the downside, you won't have face-to-face interaction with your professor or classmates and may not be able to access study groups, libraries, and on- campus seminars and workshops.
On campus attendance gives you personal interaction with your instructors and classmates and the library and other resource centers are only a walk away. On the downside the class schedules are rigid and may not fit in with your personal schedule. You'll also need to add commute times and expenses to your college costs and may not be able to complete the courses you need due to work and family commitments.
A hybrid school combines online and on-campus courses and may be your best choice if you live within driving distance of the campus. You can take online courses as you please with the option of traditional classes if you have a subject or class that is difficult to absorb. You also have access to the library, labs, and any on-campus seminars and workshops for history education students.
Does the College Have Post-Graduate Job Placement Help & Assistance?
Your teaching degree should offer in-classroom training as well as a teaching internship and job placement assistance. Because experience is a requirement of your teaching certification you’ll need an internship or student teaching experience, and a quality school will have a program in place to help graduates find employment. If you don't see this on the school website, it may be a red flag that the school is more interested in enrolling new students than in helping current students succeed.
Why You Need to Consider the Overall National Rankings of the College and the Effects on Your Career or Salary
If your state has a shortage of teachers, you might not be too concerned about the national rating of your school of choice. Step back and take a look at the big picture to see if there is a big downside to a lower national ranking. Is the school and degree recognized by the state Board of Education? Is it transferable to the master's degree program you have in mind? Will you be able to move to a different state if you choose to do so in the future? Check with a few professional organizations to determine whether a low or middle ranking will have an effect on your career and salary before you commit to enrolling. If the school is not respected by teaching and historical organizations it may make it harder for you to find a job after graduation, or to earn a higher salary based on the quality of your education.