Historians as Educators

The most obvious, and, in many ways, perhaps the most important career path is in teaching. Depending on the level of teaching, you may need to take additional courses in other subjects or specialize in a narrowly defined field of history. While most public schools will require additional study to acquire a teaching degree as well, independent schools often do not ask for special qualifications. Both public and independent schools expect history and social studies teachers to coach students in some extracurricular activity as well--therefore, proficiency in such areas will be helpful.

Elementary Schools

Apart from having a strong motivation to teach very young children, students of history interested in teaching in elementary schools (grades K--6) must take a wide range of courses, including anthropology, economics, geography, history, political science, and sociology in preparation for certification by the state to teach social studies. They also must take a general studies curriculum required of all teachers of grades K--6; this includes introductory courses in English, music and art, science, history, and geography, as well as specialized courses in math, physical education, and teaching techniques. Those interested in teaching at the elementary level should consult the education department of a local college or university or officials in the state in which they hope to teach for further guidance and to determine additional requirements.

Secondary Schools

There are more opportunities to teach history as a separate subject (rather than being a part of social studies) at the junior high and high school levels. Thus more history courses are required of a student majoring in secondary education. A broad background would be required to teach topics like world history, or Western Civilization.

Postsecondary Education

This includes community and junior colleges, four-year colleges, and universities. A history major will be good preparation for obtaining the advanced degrees (MA or PhD) required to teach at the postsecondary level.

Historic Sites and Museums

The United States has numerous historic sites and museums ranging from large national museums to the small, local historical society collections. The National Park Service is responsible for approximately 350 parks, battlefields, monuments, and sites around the country, almost all of which have some cultural resources to be interpreted. Educators are needed at such sites to interpret the past to visitors with a wide range of education and experience. Those who teach at museums and historic sites may need more than traditional history courses to qualify for their positions. Courses in art history, folklore, and archeology may prove useful training for work at a museum or historic site. In a small museum, the education specialist may also have some responsibilities for exhibit preparation and collections management. In this case, specialized museum courses are invaluable. In large museums, there is a distinct difference between curators, who are responsible for the collections, and exhibit specialists, who design the exhibits.