Teacher and Astronaut Christa McAuliffe once said, “I touch the future, I teach.”
History learning is at the center of how schools educate young people for the future. By exploring the past, teachers provide students with the skills and perspectives they need to take charge of their lives and to shape their futures. Every one of us is a history-making individual whose choices and decisions matter in our democratic society. By becoming a history/social studies teacher, you can participate directly in building a more fair, just and productive future for everyone in this country and world.
History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.Robert Penn Warren
How to prepare to be a History/Social Studies teacher
The History Teacher Education Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst prepares students to teach history, government, civics, geography and economics in middle and high schools, grades 5 - 12. Our graduates have become teachers, department chairs, school administrators, lawyers, museum educators, community organizers, activists and policymakers.
Our program combines academic study in history and related social science fields with field experiences and teaching internships in local schools. We stress the importance of not just covering, but uncovering and discovering curriculum standards. We foster social justice and multicultural learning in our courses. We utilize digital tools and interactive technologies to promote active learning and student-centered instruction.
What you need to know to be a History/Social Studies teacher
Schools are seeking teachers who can inspire and engage students in the study of academic content while building the skills and dispositions for being an active participant in our nation’s democratic system of government.
Frequently Asked Questions
Gaining experience working with younger students is an excellent way to prepare for a career in teaching. Most history/social studies candidates take Education 497I: Tutoring in Schools, a four-credit course where undergraduates go to local schools and tutor culturally and linguistically diverse learners. Working with youth in summer camps, after-school programs and community organizations is also strongly encouraged.
History/social studies teacher candidates are encouraged to develop wide-ranging undergraduate programs of study that can include a second major, one or more academic minors, or certificates of study in areas such as Latin American Studies or International Relations. Many candidates also pursue an Education Minor to gain background on teaching and learning in K-12 schools. Study Abroad programs are also ways for candidates to explore different cultures and languages while providing a background for history/social studies teaching in schools.
School enrollments in the United States are continuing to increase. In fall 2019, 50.8 million public school students attended prekindergarten through grade 12, and that figure is projected to surpass 52 million by 2027. American schools now enroll a majority of minority students. In 2019, there were 23.7 million White students and 27.1 million non-White students, distributed as followed: 7.7 million Black students, 13.9 million Hispanic students, 2.7 million Asian students, 0.2 Pacific Islander students, 0.5 million American Indian/Alaska Native students, and 2.1 million students of two or more races.
All of these students need teachers. There were 3.7 million teachers in fall 2019, and that number is projected to rise to 3.9 million by 2027 (Bustamante, 2019). But many observers believe there is a current and growing teacher shortage; the Economic Policy Institute forecast a shortage of some 200,000 teachers by 2025. These numbers suggest that teaching could be a fine career choice for you.
Subject Matter Requirements
Students who are becoming a history/social studies teacher must meet two sets of requirements:
- What the state of Massachusetts requires for history teachers
- What the National Council for Social Studies requires for social studies teachers
History teacher candidates typically major in history, African American history, political science, legal studies, or sociology. As part of their program of study, students need at least one course in each of the following subject fields:
- Science & Technology
- Global Connections
Resources for History and Social Studies Teachers
History and Social Science Curriculum Framework. Massachusetts Department of Education, 2018.
- Multicultural and multimodal learning activities linked to the learning standards Massachusetts History & Social Science Curriculum developed by the History Teacher Education Program here in the College of Education
- e-Book featuring learning activities for the Massachusetts 8th Grade Civics Curriculum that can also be used with high school and AP Government classes
The College of Education offers the following two pathways to history teacher licensure at the master’s degree level:
- a one-year intensive teacher residency pathway where candidates teach in a school for an entire school year while taking the courses they need for a master’s degree and teacher license. These are Bridges to the Future and 180 Days in Springfield.
- a two-year pathway where candidates take 12 credits of graduate coursework in history or a related field while completing the education courses needed for a master’s degree and teacher license. This is called University to Schools.