How To Become a History Professor

Ginger Abbot

May 26, 2022
history cover

We are a reader-supported education publication. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission to help us keep providing content.

Teaching can be a meaningful career path. You can shape the minds of the future generation. So, if you enjoy discussing the past, here’s how to become a history professor. 

Primary Responsibilities 

A history professor teaches college students about past events and significant time periods. Their primary responsibilities include creating a syllabus and evaluating their students. They also act as advisors for undergraduates. Some professors may even conduct research or publish papers. 

Steps on How To Become a History Professor

Teachers help guide their students to academic success. So, if you want to play a role in a student’s education, follow these steps for how to become a history professor. 

1. Receive a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step for how to become a history professor is to complete an undergraduate program. You should major in history with a specific concentration, such as medieval history. Many degree programs offer specializations based on geographical location, period, or subject matter. 

When choosing a bachelor’s program, consider a few factors. First, you want to make sure the school offers the courses and concentration you’re interested in. You also want to ensure the classes align with your career goal. Next, you want to consider the cost outside of tuition. Research the price of textbooks and any technology. 

Also, learn more about the program’s format. For example, are the classes synchronous or asynchronous? Asynchronous courses don’t meet at a set time. So, these classes offer busier students a more flexible schedule. 

2.  Obtain a Master Degree

Once you earn a bachelor’s degree, you’ll want to get your master’s. It will take about two years to complete the program. You will study a broad range of topics, such as American, European, and Asian history. You might also focus on a specific region. Along with your studies, you will need to complete a master’s thesis. The thesis consists of extensive research guided by an advisor. 

The quality of the paper will help influence the type of doctoral program you get into. Start writing your first draft as early as possible and send it to your advisor. Giving yourself plenty of time will allow you to fix any initial mistakes. When conducting research, create a database of all your resources. Having your research all in one place can help you stay organized. 

You might also gain outside experience by working as a teaching assistant. Being an assistant provides you with firsthand knowledge and looks great on a resume. Internships are another excellent way to earn critical skills. 

3.  Get Your Doctorate Degree

Some community colleges will accept a master’s degree. However, many four-year institutions require a doctorate. So, this is one of the final steps for how to become a history professor. Earring a Ph.D. can take around four to six years. During this time, you will pick a specialization, such as 20th-century history. Keep in mind a doctorate is often required to earn tenure. 

As part of the program, you will also have to pass foreign language exams. The tests involve translating text from one language into English while being timed. You will also continue your teacher’s assistance experience. You can earn stipends and fellowships to help cover tuition expenses. 

The final project for the program will be a dissertation. A dissertation is similar to your master’s thesis but more extensive. The process involves researching a topic and presenting your theory. You might also have to defend your findings to a committee. 

4. Get Your Foot in the Door

When starting your career, you want to gain as much experience as possible. So, consider temporarily teaching middle school or high school. Most schools only require a bachelor’s. So, this oppurtunity can help you learn new skills and boost your resume. You could also use your teaching assistant experiences or become an adjunct professor. 

Another way to stand out to employers is to gain real-world experience. It can come from internships, research, or joining historical societies. Internships and clubs are also great networking opportunities. 

Here are some historical societies to look into:

  • American Historical Association
  • Organization of American Historians
  • World History Association
  • National Council for History Education
  • Specialty Historical Societies

5.  Write Scholarly Articles

Getting published is a critical step in how to become a history professor. Writing research papers can help you to get accepted into doctorate programs. They can even help you earn a higher job offer. When publishing your work, be sure to review the submission procedures carefully. 

Here are some more tips for getting your research into academic journals:

  • Write a story that progresses logically, not chronologically
  • Write and edit separately
  • Make sure your argument is clear
  • Have a classmate check your work
  • Keep in mind the international students 

6.  Apply for Tenure

Gaining tenure means you’re protected from being fired without a justifiable cause. Having tenure allows you stability and a higher paycheck. The average salary for a history professor is $101,936. Also, earning tenure is a prestigious honor that can help you advance in your career. 

7. Move up in Your Career

After you earn tenure, you can continue to progress in your career. You could become a department leader or the dean of the university. Advancing in your job can provide greater flexibility and salary increases. Keep in mind networking can help you achieve your goals. 

Tips for Becoming a History Teacher

Getting a job as a history teacher requires years of education and experience. However, it can be a rewarding career. So, if you’re ready to inspire students, follow these steps for how to become a history professor. 

Written By