How Do I Become a History Professor?

Explore the career requirements for a history professor. Get the facts about education requirements, employment outlook and salary to see if this is the right career choice for you. Schools offering Teaching - Social Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a History Professor?

History professors teach students at colleges, universities and other postsecondary schools how to interpret and understand past eras and events through a variety of sources including books, private and official documents, photographs, film and other cultural artifacts. They may teach lecture-based courses or smaller seminars or tutorials, and they also serve as faculty advisors to graduate students. In addition to teaching and mentoring students, history professors typically continue to research their particular area of historical expertise and to publish scholarly articles and books.

The following chart outlines the general requirements for a career as a history professor.

Degree Required Doctoral degree, master's degree for many community colleges
Education Field of Study History with a concentration in a particular area such as medieval history, American history, European history
Training Experience as a teaching assistant not required but helpful
Key Skills Strong written and verbal communication, ability to facilitate original and critical thinking, organizational skills, adaptability to different learning styles
Job Growth (2014-2024) 10%*
Average Salary (2015) $76,670*

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

History Professors

A history professor is one of the leading experts in history at his or her postsecondary institution. As a professor, you'd likely spend much of your time teaching, along with doing research and publishing articles in scholarly journals. These days, professors also must be adept at emerging technologies, which are often used to keep in touch with students and share class schedules, homework assignments and required reading. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), comfort with online teaching formats will be useful as distance learning becomes increasingly popular (www.bls.gov).

Education Requirements

For professors in 4-year colleges and universities, the minimum required education is typically a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree, according to the BLS. The number of years it takes to earn a doctorate can vary, but a range of 3-5 years is typical.

Even after earning the Ph.D., the road to a professorship can be a long one. Individuals start out as assistant or associate professors before attaining full tenured professorship. The tenure process lasts from several years to as many as seven, and it involves an evaluation process based on a number of factors, including research work and student involvement. Some 4-year institutions will hire instructors with master's degrees or Ph.D. candidates for certain subjects, according to the BLS.

A master's degree is acceptable to start as a professor at most 2-year institutions. Smaller institutions may also use part-time professors, known as adjunct professors, to teach classes.

Course of Study

History degree programs are available at all levels. If you're interested in becoming a professor, you should start with a bachelor's degree program in history. Most programs include a broad look at all types of history, such as American, European and Asian. History programs at the master's degree level are also broad in terms of the types of history studied, but include research and scholarly writing coursework. At the Ph.D. level, students can often specialize in a particular region, such as Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe and America. A dissertation project is usually a requirement in Ph.D. programs.

Additional Requirements

Professors should communicate well with students and help motivate them to succeed, according to the BLS. A good way to gain that experience is to pursue opportunities to become a graduate teaching assistant who works with professors in delivering education. It is a way to see if you enjoy teaching at the college level, and you can get feedback on your methods while working on your graduate degree. Because you'll be working in academia, maintaining a good academic record is important.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Individuals who want to share their passion for history with students may find jobs as history teachers at middle or high schools. Like history professors, teachers plan history courses, deliver lectures and grade student assignments, but they are not expected to conduct research. Another option for history enthusiasts is a job as a museum archivist. These professionals appraise, preserve and maintain historical artifacts and museum records. They may also serve as supervisors for museum workers who set up exhibits. Although a Ph.D. is not required for this occupation, archivists usually need to hold a master's degree in history or a closely related field.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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