A Step-By-Step Guide on How to Become a History Teacher

Updated 1 May 2023

The path to becoming a history teacher can be straightforward and fulfilling if you know what steps to take. It usually involves higher education and teacher training, so many talented individuals find themselves teaching history after completing related degrees. The study and tuition of history is a constantly evolving field that is rewarding to enter due to its longevity as a discipline and broad scope for specialisation. In this article, we explain how to become a history teacher, describe the main requirements and skills of this position and provide you with salary information.

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How to become a history teacher

If you want to know how to become a history teacher, follow these steps to give yourself the best possible chance:

1. Develop relevant knowledge and interest

The first step to becoming a history teacher is developing an interest and knowledge base in history. Cultivating this independently and early on in your career may aid you greatly in interviews and the classroom and improve your ability to learn and teach prescribed curricula.

Learning only British history may seem a good idea in principle, but the British school history curriculum finds itself more concerned with contemporary world history with a focus on Britain. It's a good idea to build a broad knowledge base of world events.

Related: How to become a secondary school teacher

2. Gain qualifications related to history

To become a history teacher, the next step would be to acquire a set of appropriate qualifications, starting with a First or Upper Second Class Bachelor of Arts degree in a humanities subject, usually in history or a related discipline such as classics, or a degree in education specialising in history. While it is possible to apply for a position teaching history with an unrelated degree, choosing History or broader courses involving historiography is essential to becoming a competitive candidate in an interview.

At the very least, strong GCSE and A-Level results in history would be helpful. Additionally, GCSEs in English and maths at Grade C or above are a base requirement in the UK, although sometimes exceptions can be made with sufficient evidence of competency.

Related: 8 popular history degree jobs (salary, duties, requirements)

3. Train to be a history teacher

Training to become a history teacher involves a postgraduate PGCE or training arranged by a prospective employer. There are also undergraduate teacher training courses available if you are content teaching at entry-level. While this training is happening, there are usually both government schemes and private funding opportunities available to support you with fees and living costs while this training takes place, so it's worth investigating these thoroughly to take advantage of every resource you can access during this process.

Related: Qualifications to be a teacher (undergrad to leadership)

4. Get experience at different levels

Gaining experience on placement during an education degree, on an internship or in other opportunities such as events or tutoring can help to inform what level you would like to teach in, ranging from primary to sixth form. Once you've decided on what grade you would like to teach, you can begin applying for opportunities that are relevant to your qualifications. A degree and a PGCE or teacher training allow you to teach from primary to sixth form level.

Related: How to get teaching experience (plus benefits of doing so)

5. Apply for history teacher jobs

History teacher jobs are advertised online, most often on traditional job market sites like Indeed and similar opportunity databases. Opportunities are also commonly advertised on social media. In some cases, schools and colleges only promote their opportunities internally or on their institution's website, so it is good to go as directly as possible to either advertise opportunities or email contacts with appropriate departments to inquire about upcoming opportunities.

Your number of realistic opportunities to become a teacher is determined by your openness to relocation and commuting, so enquiring directly at the institutions most local to you or in areas you would be comfortable relocating to ensures that you don't miss convenient placements.

Related: Postgraduate teacher apprenticeships and how to apply

The application process for a history teacher

The application process for becoming a history teacher mirrors ordinary application procedures in terms of paperwork and contract signing, but you may find yourself subject to additional mandatory checks. Usually, your employers conduct an enhanced DBS check in the hiring process before you are allowed contact with minors. Several levels of safeguarding training and additional certification may then be required or provided depending on the type of institution you enter.

You may also find interviews challenging and rigorous in assessing your subject knowledge, as opposed to a simple assessment of character. Once your position is secured, the institution guides you through the appropriate steps to confirm your job and further required training. You may find yourself being hired at a reduced level while you complete further certification, becoming a fully-fledged history teacher after an agreed amount of time.

Related: How long do DBS checks take? (With types and stages)

What does a history teacher do?

Being a teacher involves many responsibilities, which can include:

  • educating people in the study of the past both in specific contexts and in broader world history

  • teaching fundamental concepts, biographies, timelines and events to students from a variety of periods and locations

  • being responsible for tracking student performance and liaising with parents

  • issuing and marking homework and exams

  • keeping accurate administration

  • organising extra-curricular activities such as relevant field trips, after-school activities or extra classes for struggling students

Popular topics throughout the British system which you could expect to require some knowledge of include:

  • the history of Britain

  • Nazi Germany

  • Cold War Russia and America

  • slavery and the civil rights movement

Related: What is the responsibility of teachers? (With skills info)

What is the average history teacher's salary?

The average salary of a history teacher is £16,436 per year. Later career positions in higher education and senior positions such as head of the department extend beyond this ceiling and can be accessed as you acquire experience and further qualifications. Teacher salaries also often depend on the affluence of the institution they work for, so you can see an increase in pay by moving to more prestigious fee-paying institutions rather than state schools and colleges.

What are some essential skills to become a history teacher?

Here are some examples of the skills you need to become a successful history teacher:

Enthusiastic presentation

No matter the environment, students usually respond well to an enthusiastic attitude and attempts to make the subject interesting. This does not guarantee pupil engagement, but continued passion for your subject and dynamic teaching methods can help make confusing subjects more memorable for struggling students and keep classes engaging. Consider curriculum-related topic diversions and focused courses on exciting and memorable events to engage students and lend them a broader context rather than simply following selective course specifications.

Ability to explain processes and systems

The study of history in the past often focused on single events and developments, but there is a trend in modern history tuition and scholarship for history to be explained in processes and systems of mutual influence, interaction and decline. Preparing yourself to teach in these terms may make lessons easier and help your lesson plans to synergise with modern thought and the curriculum.

Related: Teaching skills: definition and examples

Planning, paperwork and administration

After you successfully become a history teacher, you can be faced with a large amount of paperwork both for yourself and for students and dealing with the institution's administration. Efficient time management, bookkeeping and file management can help you keep on top of these tasks. Furthermore, learning to plan both individual lessons and the course of your lessons during a term is essential to make sure you cover the full specification required for exams.

Adaptability and communication skills

This is arguably the most essential aspect of teaching, which can be the difference between a satisfactory teacher and an excellent teacher. Adapting your style when students are struggling to understand is the key to ensuring their success and your continued good relationship with pupils. Learning to adjust and being open to different teaching styles can help you keep your teaching inclusive and fair and keep the experience rewarding both for the students and yourself.

Career prospects for history teachers

Becoming a history teacher can lead to a long career of internal promotion to senior teaching positions such as head of the department, the ability to relocate to other schools and, with relevant additional qualifications, the scope to move up to higher education. Teaching at degree level ordinarily requires a masters or a PhD qualification and often a portfolio of published research, so further study may be necessary to advance your career later. This study may raise the pay ceiling significantly.

Related: Teacher career progression: 8 potential roles (plus skills)

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How long does it take to become a history teacher?

It can take anywhere from three to six years to become a fully-fledged history teacher, depending on which qualification route you take. A history degree plus PGCE would ordinarily take four years. Meanwhile, undergraduate education degrees would take three or four years. Post-education, many history teachers can also start as teaching assistants, becoming full-time history teachers after a couple of years of experience in the school.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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