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Finding a Career as a History Teacher

Updated on November 4, 2014

A Decision is Required

So, you enjoy history and would like to teach that subject but don't know how to go about becoming a history teacher? The first thing to do is decide where you would like to teach history. High school? College?

Which do you choose?

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The High School Option

If you choose high school, you want to first check out where history fits into the curriculum in your state or locality.

In many places history has been merged into the social science curriculum so you will have to be prepared to teach other social studies courses intermixed with history.

In order to proceed, the next thing to check is the requirements for teaching in your state. You will need a bachelor's degree with a major or minor in history or some social science combination.

If you already have a bachelor's degree you will more than likely only have to take the additional history courses and teacher training courses in order to become certified.

If you do not have a degree you will have to enroll in a program that will lead to a degree in education with a major or minor in history. Be warned that the so called “teacher shortage” in most communities refers to a shortage of math and science teachers, not history teachers.

While math and science teachers just have to show up and get hired, teachers in subjects like history usually face a long job search.

The College Option

If you answered college rather than high school you will generally need a master's or, preferably a PhD degree in history before being considered.

Again, the field is very crowded, so be prepared to do a nation-wide search and move. One option is to work in another field and teach history part-time as an adjunct instructor.

Community Colleges are best for this as they tend to rely heavily on adjuncts for their faculty. Here, a master's degree is usually sufficient.

In the past working another job and teaching tended to limit your options as with most full time outside jobs you are only available to teach in the evenings or on weekends. However, with the rise of on line courses, there should be more jobs available because these jobs are not limited to specific times.

If you live in a city with one or more major universities, even adjunct jobs may be difficult to find as these jobs are popular with graduate students.

Here again, on line may be a way around this as you do not have to be physically present in the community where the college is located.

Many colleges are starting to expand on line programs and are looking for instructors. Check the Internet for schools offering on line courses and degrees, then start contacting those schools about teaching.

Also, you don't have to limit yourself to the U.S. as demand for education is growing abroad and, with English as a common second language, you may be able to land an on line job with a foreign school.

A Passion for History Helps

As I said at the beginning, this is a very crowded field which makes it difficult to find a job.

So, what do you do if you cannot find a job teaching history at a high school or college and still want to teach history?

You can always teach a non-credit course at a community college or some times at a local library, historical society, historical museum, etc. These are always part-time positions and you only get to teach if enough people register for the class.

Formal academic training is desirable but often not required. What is required is a thorough knowledge of what you will be teaching and a passion for the subject. People take these courses because they want to so there is an element of entertainment here as well as transfer of knowledge.

The college or other organization sponsoring the course usually cannot use tax dollars to subsidize the course and often see such courses as a way to help raise funds. However, you get to teach and get paid for your efforts.

Since your students take the course because they enjoy history, you have to make the class both enjoyable and rewarding for them. No dry academic lectures, but also no tests or term papers. Instead you share your knowledge and passion for the subject with them and get paid for doing what you enjoy. A win-win for both teacher and student.

Having read the Hub have you changed your mind?

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© 2006 Chuck Nugent


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